|March 4, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Cool Gear|
Tang may have been the drink that astronauts took to the moon, but the Minolta Dynax 8000i is the camera that a news reporter took to the Mir space station! Which one is cooler? Seriously!
The Minolta Dynax 8000i (also sold as the Minolta Maxxum 8000i on the North American market, and the Minolta α-8700i on Asian markets) was developed by Minolta as an upgraded and improved version of the previously released 7000i, which was first made available by Minolta only a year earlier in 1988. Minolta doubled the maximum shutter speed of the 7000i from 1/4000 to 1/8000, increased the camera’s flash sync speed from 1/125 to 1/200, improved the camera’s LCD screen, added a high-eyepoint viewfinder, and called it the 8000i.
In 1990, a Japanese T.V. journalist by the name of Toyohiro Akiyama boarded a Russian Soyuz TM-11 spacecraft and took a flight to the MIR space station, thus becoming the very first Japanese person to ever travel into space, and firmly securing the nickname “宇宙特派員” which would follow him throughout the rest of his life. (宇宙特派員 roughly translates into “Space Journalist”, by which Mr. Akiyama has come to be known in Japan.)
Not only was 宇宙特派員 the first Japanese person to ever travel into space, but on his flight, organized in a deal between TBS and the Soviet Union, he would become the very first commercial space-passenger in history. This guy, I’m telling you, was full of “firsts.” So, someone really NEEDED to build a camera to commemorate his achievements!
Just what does a journalist such as 宇宙特派員 really need when traveling into space? Why, he needs something to document his experiences in pictures, of course! So, in steps Minolta. Minolta provided Mr. Akiyama with a special kit they had put together, featuring, at its core, a specially produced Minolta 8000i with all-white body. The kit included the camera, a Minolta 3200i flash, Minolta 24-35mm f/4 wide angle zoom lens, a 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom, and a 100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 telephoto zoom, both also from Minolta.
So proud of the Minolta space-camera-kit that accompanied the first Japanese person into space, they were, that Minolta, of course, decided to release a limited edition “Mir” version of the 8000i, in kit form, to the public. The kit included a white-bodied 8000i, a white 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom, and a special, white 5200i flash. 宇宙特派員 himself didn’t even get to have a white lens and white flash on his space trip! He had to settle for the white bodied 8000i with an entirely unmatching and clashing regular black flash and lenses! What a space-fashion faux-pas! The limited edition 8000i camera kit also came in a special box, and contained a special leaflet which discussed Mr. Akiyama’s achievement. The limited edition was sold in the various markets using the respective names Minolta regularly used in each market – Dynax in the European market, Maxxum in the North American market, and “Alpha” in the Asian-Pacific market. (Yes, that’s why modern Sony dSLRs are known as “Alphas”)
The 8000i wasn’t the first Minolta camera to make it into space, however. The Minolta Hi-Matic camera, produced originally in 1962 also traveled into space aboard the Mercury Friendship 7 space capsule, due to NASA completely messing up and actually thinking they were using an American made “Ansco Autoset” camera, when they actually weren’t. But, that’s a different space-story for a different space-time.
So, a limited edition, white-bodied Minolta Dynax 8000i has come up for sale on Ebay. And, it’s a beautiful looking thing, in my humble opinion. (I’m an old Minolta shooter myself — Minolta being the first SLR I ever purchased, so there’s a special place in my heart for really cool Minolta stuff) The seller seems to suggest that the actual, specific camera that is up for grabs honestly and for true traveled into space itself. But, I believe the implication is due to poor writing practices on the seller’s part.
The specific unit being offered does come with the original white lens, but seems to be devoid of the original collector’s box, leaflet and flash unit. The seller is asking, what appears to be a firm, $799.99 USD. Unfortunately, I was entirely unable to locate any indication of what sort of a price that is for this particular camera — be it good, or bad. Regular 8000i models are not overly valuable — regularly selling on the used market for less than $100.00. However, due to the rarity factor of this limited edition 8000i, that doesn’t really tell us anything. Eight-hundred bones might be an exceptional price… it might also be a rip-off. I can’t tell. I suppose, as with most things, a “good price” is one where you get what you were willing to pay.
The sale can be viewed at this location. It is set to expire on March 14th.
UPDATE: With regards to price, I did find one of these cameras that sold at Christie’s in 2003 for a price equivalent to $526.oo US dollars. However, that was for the entire kit, with original box, lens and flash intact. It was ten years ago, though.