I have never used that camera, so I can’t comment about the quality of the lens and its sharpness, but if I read the camera’s feature-list correctly, the Minolta XL 401 seems quite good.
Here is what I think are its desirable features:
- Auto and manual exposure. Manual exposure is a huge positive. If the camera doesn’t correctly read the 64T notch, then you can just make a manual adjustment. If you find the internal meter is broken or inaccurate, you can just manually meter. Huge, huge positive.
- Runs on AA-batteries only. This is another huge positive. I know that many people report fine results using the Wein cells (and similar), but I think not needing a special light-meter battery to begin with is a big bonus. The only thing you have to carry is AA’s.
- Fast lens. f/1.2 is f-a-s-t!
That’s a nice collection of features!
The 18-fps only is a significant drawback, but I would not be totally put off by it. There really isn’t one Super-8 camera that does everything, and if as you say, you are looking for a camera to experiment and learn with, this looks like a fine one. If it’s in good operating condition and the price makes sense to you, I think it sounds like a winner. If in the future you decided you needed a camera that offered 24/25/30 fps, this one would still cover you for manual-metering, low-light, intervalometer and single-frame use. That's not such a bad investment.
The last thing I would point out to you is, Super-8 cameras are sometimes sold in rough shape. As you observe, since the cost of film, processing and telecine is significant, putting an extra EUR100 into a camera can be a reasonable investment IF
it gets you a camera that's more reliable/in better condition/does everything you need.
Im a complete novice with Super 8 although with some shooting experience in video, Im reading and learning and now looking for a simple film camera to get started and test some film stocks against various lighting scenarios.
I know its not the best, running at only 18frames and failing to properly recognise Ektachrome 64T but would the Minolta XL 401 do to gets started? Is the Lens any good? I know what the better camers are, but im not sure if Ill really need one in the begiining, with the cost of film and telecine so hi here in the UK, that would be something for the future.