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The Minolta Dynax 404 si 35 mm plastic SLR Camera

The Minolta Dynax 404 si camera, discussed here, was one of a number of different models which Minolta produced towards the end of the 35 mm film era which were very similar in many of their features.

I picked up my version of the camera in a bulk Minolta purchase from eBay a couple of years ago. It was included in a set of about 5 Dynax cameras which, if I recall correctly, also included my Dynax 505 si super and a Minolta STsi Maxxum, which as far as I can see is the same camera as the 404 si.

My Minolta Dynax 404 si

The ST si MAXXUM version of the camera
The ST si MAXXUM version of the camera

So, as I implied in the opening paragraph, Minolta produced a range of cameras at the time which were very similar in spec, performance and look & feel and if it hadn't been included in the bundle I'm not sure if I had gone out of my way to locate and purchase this one.

That said, my copy seems to be in good order, and although the newer, plastic cameras produced in the early 2000s1 don't have the same aesthetic look of the earlier mechanical cameras, they do tend to be more reliable and keep working well. That's certainly true of the 404 si, which sprang to life as soon as I popped a couple of CR2 batteries into the compartment in the hand grip.

Minolta Dynax 404 si Images

The images below show the general layout of the controls on the Dynax 404 si and also an example of one of the other variants, the ST si MAXXUM.

Dynax 404 si Description

The Dynax 404 si is a basic, entry level, 35 mm single lens reflex with autofocus, auto exposure, 'scene modes', auto film load and wind and TTL metering. It was introduced by Minolta at the end of the 1990s and towards the end of the Minolta film camera era. This page on wikipedia shows the full range of Minolta film cameras and where they sit in the hierarchy and date range.

In my view, Minolta were very good at organising their cameras to make the operation easy for both snapshot users and more advanced photographers, and I think this camera demonstrates that as well as any in their range.

For example, there is a single button on the top of the camera marked 'P' which puts the camera into fully Auto mode. In this mode (quite obviously) the camera is set up for any snapshot users to just point at the subject and take pictures. It's quite simple at this point to then press a single button on the top plate to step through each of the 'scene' modes the camera is capable of, so the same user can quickly get the results they are after.

Top of the Dynax 404 si
Top of the Dynax 404 si

For more advanced photographers, it's pretty quick to select one of the more controllable options like Program mode or Aperture / Shutter priority by turning the dial on the left-hand side of the camera to the P ASM position, hold down the FUNC button and then the front dial selects the mode. When set up like this, the front dial controls the required parameter2 and the +/- button on the side of the lens housing will apply exposure compensation if required.

For photographers who want full control, the same dial and function button allows them to select the M or manual mode as well. In this mode, the front dial controls the shutter speed when operated by itself, or the aperture when the +/- exposure compensation button is pressed.

The mode dial is also used to set some of the more advanced functions the camera offers like continuous shooting, multiple exposures, and setting the film speed for non DX coded film (or for overriding the set speed of the film).

The viewfinder fitted to the camera has a large display - or at least it looks large to modern eyes, but not particularly bright, probably because of the slow kit lens. The display to the side of the viewfinder is functional rather than impressive for the amount of information it displays, but this is an entry level camera, so that's not really surprising.

I can see inside the film chamber that there are connections for a data back, so I guess versions were sold which imprinted the data on the photos.

Overall, the Dynax 404 si may have been produced as an entry level camera, but it offers the ability to do most of the things a more advanced photographer would want to do. With a popular and common lens mount like the Minolta A mount, and Minolta autofocus lenses in easy supply on sites like eBay, it would be a great buy for anyone wanting to start out or get back into, film photography.

Minolta Dynax 404 si Specifications

  • Dynax 404 si 35 mm film SLR camera
  • Also released as the ST si MAXXUM
  • Introduced by Minolta in 1999
  • Large range of shutter speeds from 30 sec to 1/2000 sec
  • Minolta Bayonet lens mount
  • Autofocus + Manual override available
  • 8 Segment, TTL metering
  • 6 to 6400 ISO film speed (25 to 5000 for DX coded film)
  • Fully automatic operation + allows manual selection
  • P, A, S & M exposure modes + individual 'scene' selection
  • Exposure compensation
  • Pop-up flash
  • Optional data back with date imprint
  • Spot metering override button
  • Supplied with 28 to 80 mm f/3.5-f/5.6 zoom kit lens
  • Front control dial controls most options
  • Handbook available online here.

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  1. Although actually this camera was first introduced in 1999 []
  2. Aperture in A mode, Shutter is S mode []

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