Good price/source for a Minolta Autocord
Suddenly got an urge to try medium format, baited by some playing around with a Nettar folder but irritated by the inaccuracy of scale focussing with a 105mm lens that offers little DoF and the general slowness of manual everything. I also do not have resources to print 6x9, only 6x6, so the folder is wasteful on film. Having a limited budget I decided to go for a TLR. The Internet seems to agree that the Minolta Autocord is a good choice, though I haven't given up on a Yashica-Mat 124(G) either.
I live in the UK and Autocords seem really scarce. Even evilBay only had about 3, going rate seems to be about 60-70 pounds (100-115 dollars) for an OK one (OK by eBay standards that is).
I found one in a camera shop for £150 (242 USD). It is in beautiful condition cosmetically and mechanically (I am told), everything fully functioning, return policy and a 3 month warranty to boot. Is this a decent price? I called the guy to try and negotiate a lower price because I'm REALLY stretched on budget but he absolutely wouldn't budge a penny lower from 150 and seemed adamant that it was the lowest price for that camera in that condition.
Is he right? Any other places to look for an autocord in the UK? I've searched all the usual suspects with no luck.
Thanks in advance
It's the law of supply and demand in action! You've said yourself that you've looked around and can't find many. I don't think there's any secret stash of Autocords in the UK (which is where I live too) so unless you can find another camera shop with a better priced model, this is probably quite a good deal, especially the guarantee, which you're unlikely to get on ebay. The autocords are well thought of, but they were discontinued a good many years earlier than the Yashica TLR's, so there were far less imported into the UK to start with. Also the focussing lever is the weak spot, with spares apparently unobtainable (apart from removing one from another Autocord), so that would in itself reduce the number around. Presumably the camera shop is in the UK not the US, as if you imported one at that price from the US, the customs duties & Royal Mail handling fee could easily take the price nearer two hundred pounds. Myself I would go for it, but it's worth looking in Amateur Photographer magazine to see if any are advertised there. Best of luck!
Try MWClassic they have some TLR's at good prices, a Yashica 635 for about £70. I saw a few excellent TLR's at Wolverhampton Camera Fair yesterday, you'd have got what you were after
Autocords are now more than your stated amount here. Your price seems a really good deal. Maybe if you don't want it, get me an internet url or email address and I'll buy it and have it shipped to the US.
About the frailties of the Autocord: While it is subject to the problems of any TLR, it has a peculiar focusing helix that is operated by the above mentioned lever. After some number of years, the grease gets really gooey and sticks fast, eventually. If one then tries to force the focusing lever, it frequently breaks and is nearly impossible to replace: either to find a new one or a used one and the metal is not such that the lever can be soldered or brazed.
My two Autocords are going in for reworking very soon. They'll get new leather, regreased, and cleaned. One of them has crud in the lens between the shutter and the front elements and I'm hoping that the crud comes out and leaves a clean lens.
You are correct in wanting an Autocord, because their image quality is right up there with Rolleicord/flex. However, the Autocord's viewfinder is a tad dim, by my eyes, and my Rolleiflex 3.5E has an after-market screen that makes viewing a real pleasure. What that means is, to be sure you can live with the viewfinder image before you buy.
You probably could find a Rolleicord f/3.5 somewhere for about the same money. Although the later Tessars are a little "soft" wide-open, at f/8 and above, they will hold their own with a Planar--and that is very good, indeed. Your proposed Autocord will not disappoint.
I think it's worth paying some extra for a camera you can try in person and verify proper operation, especially as it comes with some sort of warranty! You take your chances on Ebay and that's why the $ is sometimes less.
That $242 range will also get you some nice Yashicas and Rolleis. The yashicas with 4 element lenses are very well regarded tessar-like. I have a yashica-C with a a 3element lens and it does a great job too. Some of the f3.5 rolleis are available in this price range too such as the automat mx with a tessar lens. Stick with something tessarlike for similar optical qualities of the Minolta.
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First, there are 6x6 and 6x4.5 folders out there. Including rangefinder models.
I don't understand what happened in the last few months, but TLR prices have gone up. Right now there is an Autocord on Ebay with a bent lens panel, which is a serious problem on an Autocord. It is at $91 with 4 days to go. There are at least two people out there who don't know their cameras and with too much money.
I consider the Autocord a solid step up form the Yashica-Mat. Its build quality is higher all around. Now a well-aligned Yashica-Mat will do very well, but the Autocord's Rokkor lens is better. The focus helix, once the grease is cleaned out and replaced, is much more solid and stable than the Yashica-Mat's rails. Here's a set showing the hellix system, with a couple of shots of a Yashica's rails.
I know which one I'd want in a bag on my bicycle. I'd consider a Yashica at 2/3 the cost of an Autocord to be comparable.
That shop's price is very reasonable for this point in time. With a warranty, etc., they are being fair. Not generous, not a great deal, but fair. As to whether you want to pay, that's a whole other conversation.
Oh, Autocords were made for 10 years or more with many small variations. I have a thing for 10-bladed apertures so I prefer the older models (Optiper and Seikosha shutters, although there is an Optiper model after the Seikosha where I do not know the number of aperture blades). But the later Citizen shutter models, with Minolta Rokkor rather than Chiyoko Rokkor (same lens), get higher prices.
Avoid the 'L' model with the selenium meter unless everything else is perfect and the price is right. The meter will be dead, is a custom system that is annoying to use, and mainly just makes the camera bulkier.
Do the typical checks- shutter speeds, etc. The focus lever should be smooth. Depending on the grease used, it will have varying drag, but it should be smooth and able to be moved with one finger (I love the focus system on the Autocord, smooth and fast in the field). Winding lever should be smooth and relaxed. There is usually a small 'hitch' in the winding motion as the cam finishes the shutter cocking swing, but this should be simply felt, not need much increase of pressure to overcome.
Last edited by Dan Daniel; 06-20-2011 at 01:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Thanks for the data guys. That lever issue on the Autocord is worrying, I would like to avoid spending $$$ on repairs/services in the future if I can.
Meanwhile on the MW cameras site that was linked there is a very lovely looking Rolleicord Va at 129 pounds (209 USD), slightly cheaper than the Minolta. I appreciate the glass might not quite match the Rokkor (?) but the difference at smaller print sizes is probably academic. Meanwhile the added reliability is a definite bonus. Just when I thought making my mind up couldn't get harder...
Once the grease is changed out, the Autocord lever will be fine.
A Rolleicord Va is a nice camera. Agreed, the lens difference is minimal or nonexistent for practical purposes. And yes, I can say this or that about the Rokkor, or the Xenotar, or the Planar or the Yashinon etc. etc. blah blah blah. If the one thing people notice in your photos is the quality of the lens, you should find a new hobby.
Sometimes I think the Yashica Yashinon lens suffers much more from poor alignment due to a combination of mass manufacturing and somewhat fragile focus rails, rather than it being somehow 'lesser' than the Rokkor. The Rokkor's alignment is defined by some serious machined blocks so it's hard to muck it up.
The Rolleicord's description reads 'Has 35mm frame counter & 6x4.5 finder & film chambre masks + ER case' - I understand this means it has been refitted to shoot 6x4.5 format. Can I change it back easily, by myself, to 6x6?
Looked in the classifieds and found a Xenar-lensed Rolleicord V for £75. Owner assures me everything works and tested it 3 months ago (not long in camera time). Now a CLA at Newton Ellis is roughly £80, which would take me to the same price as the Minolta including postage. So, CLA'd Rolleicord or excellent condition Autocord?
Last edited by Alex1994; 06-21-2011 at 10:29 AM. Click to view previous post history.