A Basic Overview of Minolta pre-AF 35mm SLR's
Well, we've all heard of the Rokkor Files. I thought that APUG should have its own abbreviated version. And as I have suffered through innumerable GAS attacks in the past by taking Minolta for relief I thought I would take the initiative.
This article is an outline of the Minolta pre-AF 35mm SLR cameras, from the sr-2 through the X-570. This will not be nearly as in-depth as Miniman's offering but this should whet the appetite. So, without any further ado . . .
The Roster/ Cameras and Production
sr-2 in production 1958-1960
sr-1 in production 1959-1971
sr-3 in production 1960-1962
sr-7 in production 1962-1966
sr-T101 in production 1966-1981
sr-M in production 1970-1975
sr-T100 in production 1971-1975
x-1/ xm/ xk in production 1973-1981
sr-T102 / Super 303 in production 1973-1975
SC/ MC in production 1973-1975
sr-T200 in production 1976-1981
sr-T201/101b in production 1976-1981
sr-T202/303b in production 1976-1980
sr-T100b in production 1976-1977
SR101 in production 1976-1977
SR505 in production 1976-1977
xk motor in production 1976-1985
XD-11/ XD-7/ XD in production 1977-1984
XG-7/ XG-E/ XG2 in production 1977-???
SC II/MC II in production 1977-1980
sr-T100x in production 1978-1981
SR101s in production 1978-1981
SR505s in production 1978-1980
XG-1 in production 1978-1981
XG-SE in production 1978-???
XG-9/ XG-S in production 1979-???
X-7 in production 1980-1982
XG-A in production 1981-???
X700 in production 1981-1999
XG-M/ X-70 in production 1982-???
XG-1(n) in production 1982-1984
X-570/ X-500 in production 1983-???
OK. Everybody is at least familiar with the classics manual focus SLR setup. Or should be. Most have owned a couple over the years. So we won't delve too deeply into each and every model as the Rokkor Files (http://www.rokkorfiles.com)has done this extensively and is a highly recommended alternate (or primary if you're not the one writing this article) resource for info on the Minolta/Rokkor gear. But we will go over the basics and a bit more for certain models.
Minolta crashed onto the SLR (single lens reflex) scene with their 'sr' series cameras in 1958. One thing about post-war Japan and Germany. Once they stopped making tanks they focused (no pun intended) their energies into providing the world with quality photographic equipment through the following decades. And the Minolta line from Japan is certainly no exception. The 'sr' series came about in 1958 as the sr-2 was born. As in the instance of the Model T predating the Model A, the sr-2 led the sr-1 into the world by a year.
This early SLR featured such innovations as an instant diaphragm for viewing the subject in the fullest light available, the instant return mirror for near constant viewing of the subject, Minolta's own glass under the designation Rokkor that featured a line of lenses including a 55mm f/1.8, a 35mm f/2.8, a 100mm f/3.5, a 135mm f/2.8, a 250mm f/4 and a 600mm f/5.6.
Then, in 1966, Minolta released the first in a long series of cameras that featured TTL or through-the-lens metering of the subject thus negating the need to lug around a handheld light meter if that was the wish of the photographer. Thus, the sr-T series of 35mm SLR's was born. This series of cameras employed a needle light meter that received its information from a photocell located in the pentaprism foreword of the viewfinder opening. The new Rokkor lenses made for this purpose were coined MC or meter coupled lenses to facilitate this feature. They were three lug bayonet mount lenses (three lug for the three protrusions around the base of the lens that retained the lens to the camera body when twisted and locked and bayonet for the need to insert the lens into the camera body rather than to thread it into the camera body). Along with this ship of the line an entire fleet of smaller craft in the form of dedicated accessories was introduced as well. From teleconverters to winders to flashes to hip lookin' straps, The Minolta was an affordable and (in this author's humble opinion) an equally functional option to the flagship Nikon's and Canon's of the age.
Then, in 1977, the year of Grease and Star Wars, Minolta revolutionized the photography world on a grand scale. They introduced the XD-11. This camera was the first to feature an aperture priority function and a shutter priority function on the same body. And I do not mean the first Minolta to do so. I mean the first camera ever. Period. Coupled with exquisite Rokkor glass and an array of accessories such as the D winder, this new XD-11 (or XD-7 in Europe and XD in Japan) turned the 35mm SLR film world on its proverbial ear. Never before had so much versatility been placed into the hands of a photographer. And no greater leap would be made until the advent of automatic focusing, which comes after this article's subject matter.
The final stop on this short trip leads us to the year 1981. The last high-end MF SLR offering by Minolta was the X-700. This camera still had manual metering mode and aperture priority. But it came with an automatic exposure mode. Finally, we come full circle back to the bells and whistles version of the point and shoot. This was a major draw for snapshootists who wanted an expensive camera but lacked even the basic knowledge required to operate some of its progenitors or the professional for whom speed was of the essence. It also had a direct auto flash metering system so that guide numbers and calculations need not be employed in order to arrive with adequate results from the use of flash lighting. It would even beep at you in the Program mode when the shutter speed would drop below 1/30 of a second.
Personally, I have shot with Minolta SLR's since my photographic beginning (not including the disk camera I got when I was 15 and din't care what a candle was, let alone one per square foot). Twenty three years ago I was handed my mother's X-370 and was told the basics in exposure settings. She did not know that it was the Law of Reciprocity that enabled those settings to exist but she more than got me started down the right path. In 1996, I was given a Minolta XG-M, a camera bag, a Vivitar 2800 Auto Thyristor flash, a Vivitar 50mm f/2 MD mount and a Quantaray 70-210 MD mount lens and a spongy green strap. And that is how my love affair with Minolta came to be. Only for a short time during 2008 was I ever out of possession of a Minolta SLR. And it felt so wrong that I went right out and had to rectify the situation. In the past two decades plus, I have owned or shot the following:
XG-M (owned 3/own 1)
XG-E (owned 1/own 0)
XD-7 (owned 1/own 0/know where it is/didn't know what it was at the time/dummy me/ I digress)
XG-A (owned 1/own 0)
XG-1 (owned 4/ own 2)
sr-T101 (owned 3/own 2)
X-370 (never owned/ used often)
God knows how many lenses and such have come in and out of my possession over the years. If I had kept it all I would have upwards of 15 camera bodies and about 40 lenses. Even so, I have six friends whom, over the last ten years or so, are now film photographers and own and use Minolta systems, compliments of yours truly. I now currently have two XG-1's (one in perfect working order, one missing the rewind lever but works fine) a Rokkor 45mm pancake lens, a Vivitar 28mm, a Makinon 135mm and a Quantaray 70-210 zoom: all MD mount. And I have two sr-T101's and an XG-M on the way to see if I can't resurrect them from the dead. I haven't even picked up my Minoltas since November as I had acquired a 4x5 press camera in exchange for an RB67 and have been shooting LF ever since. But I know that my Minoltas will always be there for me. They're just like Linus' security blanket. As long as they are in my closet, all will be right with the world.
From Milton, Delaware. Where the introverts stare through their own viewfinders and the extroverts stare through yours. I'm Christopher Walrath.
(.pdf manuals available for most. PM author for details)
Some Sources used here:
Extensive personal experience and accumulated files
THE ROKKOR FILES
MINOLTA PAGE ON PBASE.COM