Thoughts on the Minolta Freedom Zoom 140EX Panorama Date.

The Minolta Freedom Zoom 140EX Panorama Date compact camera, There’s a mouthful!

The name might accurately describe this camera but was it really necessary to include all its functions in the name? I guess that those entrusted with the marketing of this interesting compact camera felt the need to differentiate it from the ‘bog-standard’ Minolta Freedom Zoom 140EX.

It hit the streets during the late 1990s and is a compact 35mm ‘Point and Shoot’ film camera released by Minolta. It has a 38-140mm zoom lens and is powered by two CR123A batteries. It is essentially a Minolta Zoom 140EX but with extra features: a date-imprint function and a switch for taking ‘panoramic’ pictures. More about the ‘panorama’ feature later. A working model will set you back anything from £20 on Ebay and probably a lot less in a charity or thrift shop. If you have a friend who has progressed to more sophisticated camera gear, they will probably give it to you! Indeed the two CR123A Lithium-ion batteries may cost more than the camera!

Lens: 38-140mm f/3.5-9.4 power zoom lens; 8 elements in 7 groups (including 2 double-sided aspheric elements); max. magnification: approx.1/4X (Macro mode, f = 105mm)
Focusing Range: 38mm: 0.8m (2.6 ft.) – ∞;140mm: 0.65 (2.1 ft.) – ∞; Macro: 0.5m (1.6 ft.) – ∞
Metering Range (ISO 100): 38mm: EV 2.4-17(f3.5, 2.4 sec. – f16, 1/500 sec.); 140mm: EV 4.5-17 (f9.4, 4 sec. – f20, 1/315 sec.)
Flash Range (ISO 100): 38mm: 0.8 – 5.5m (2.6 – 18 ft.); 140mm: 0.65 – 3.1m (2.1 – 10.2 ft.);Macro: 0.5 – 3.8m (1.6 ~ 12.5 ft.)
Batteries: 2 3V lithium batteries (CR123A)
Battery Performance: Approximately 23 rolls (based on Minolta’s standard test method using 24 exposure film with flash 50% of exposures).
Magnification: 38mm: 0.40X; 140mm: 1.32X (subject at 4m)
Field of view: 85% (for subject at 3m)
Standard model: 132.5 x 70.5 x 59mm (5¼ x 2¾ x 2-5/16 in.)
DATE model: 132.5 x 70.5 x 63mm (5¼ x 2¾ x 2½ in.)
Weight (without batteries):
Standard model: 315g (11⅛oz.)
DATE model: 320g (11-5/16 oz.)

Using the Camera
I have found this camera comfortable to use whereas I have heard others complain that it is heavy. It may be heavier than some compact cameras but as I regularly use much larger cameras, I did not find this an issue. All of the controls are clearly marked and the data panel on the top provides all the information needed. A lever on the top controls the zoom function and the focal lengths of the zoom are marked on the lens.

The viewfinder is clear and has a rectangular area in the middle (1) that indicates the focusing area. That is surrounded by a circle (2) that indicates the metering area. A line on the left and bottom of the frame (5) are the close-framing guides. When your subject is closer than 1.8m (5.9 ft.) at 50-140mm, the picture should be composed within this frame. To the right of the viewfinder are two lights. The top green light (3) shines constantly when focus is obtained and blinks if it cannot focus or the contrast is too low. If the lower orange light (4) glows steadily the flash will fire when the shutter is released. If it blinks quickly, the flash is charging an if it blinks slowly it indicates a camera-shake warning.

Film Loading
DX-coded, 35mm film with ISO ratings from 25 to 3200 should be used . ISO 400 or higher is recommended for telephoto photographs or pictures taken in low light. The camera must be switched on to lad film. Once the film back is opened, the film cartridge is simply inserted and the film leader is pulled across fiat between the guide rails and extended to the “FILM TIP’ mark. The back should then be closed. The film automatically advances to the first frame and 1 appears in the data panel. You are then ready to shoot.

Shooting Modes
There are six ‘modes’ that are indicated by symbols on the data panel:
Full-Auto: Camera’s standard point and shoot mode which is suited for general photography. Full-Auto is automatically set when you turn the camera on and after you take a picture in one of the subject programs.
Macro: Optimizes camera settings for close-up photography.
Portrait: Provides suitable framing, size, and camera settings for portrait situations.
Night Portrait: Synchronizes flash with a slow-shutter speed to provide a balanced exposure between the Subject and the background.
‘Thank You/Take Me’: Sets the camera so you can ask someone to photograph you and your family or friends.
Spot Metering: Sets exposure based on the area in the spot metering circle.

Other Capabilities
The camera is capable of continuous shooting by pressing the drive/operating-mode button until the continuous drive symbol appears in the data panel. The shutter will continue to fire as long as the shutter is depressed.
Double exposures are achieved by pressing the drive/operating-mode button until the double-exposure indicator appears in the data panel. Once the shutter-release button is pressed all-the-way down, the first picture is taken. The double-exposure indicator and the film transport mark will blink to show that one of the double exposure has been taken. If the camera is turned off after the first picture is taken, these will continue blinking when it the camera turned on again. After recomposing the picture and the shutter-release is again pressed, the second picture is taken and the double-exposure mode is cancelled.
My model features a data-back which, when activated, will imprint the date and time of the exposure on the image regardless of the film speed. However, this is superfluous as the quartz clock was only ever designed to go up to 2019!

Panorama Mode
As the camera name suggests, this camera is capable of shooting panorama ‘style’ images. Actually, it is stretching the truth but provides an interesting format to the standard 24x36mm image. By switching a button on the back of the camera, two blinds mask the top and bottom of the frame which provides an image that looks like a panorama. In reality it is no wider than the standard 35mm image.

Okay, so this is a cheat that could easily be achieved in post-processing by judicious cropping. However, lets not forget who the intended target of this camera was. It was meant for the average person that simply wanted to record their photos with the minimum of effort and probably did not have the facilities, or dare I suggest, the knowledge, to post process their photos. (I hope that doesn’t sound patronising.)

I actually think that this facility was a worthwhile option, even if it is not unique. Here’s a couple of images taken that demonstrate the panorama effect as opposed to the standard format.

Panorama Format
Standard Format

I actually liked this camera and found it easy to use. The lens is a bit soft, particularly at maximum zoom. I did find the intrusion of the lens into the viewfinder, especially when zoomed, a little disconcerting but I guess that is because I am so used to SLRs and twin lens reflex cameras.
All-in-all, I was not disappointed and it will remain amongst my collection of Minolta cameras. I guess that you might call it ‘a sophisticated introduction to Lomography on a budget‘! (I might copyright that phrase!)

It will get used. I do have to recoup the cost of the batteries somehow, don’t I?

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