The Minolta Super A is fairly loud, it sounds more like an SLR with a reflex mirror than a rangefinder with a leaf shutter. It doesn’t leave you guessing though about whether it clicked or not. I find it to be an attractive though very heavy camera. You can read more about it at my post here Minolta Super-A . The lens is not very flare resistant and allowing the sun to hit the front element results in a huge drop in contrast and a lot of lens flare.
I suppose if it were just about the image and nothing else I would stop using these older film cameras and just shoot digital but there is something that’s hard to pin down in the experience of shooting a nice mechanical camera. If you think about it there is nothing in the experience that is technically superior to modern equipment and I don’t have waves of nostalgia sweeping over me. So what is it? I think it may just be the joy of well made things just like someone might enjoy having a nice watch or a good set of cooking pots I happen to like cameras. As well I like the look of film images and there may lay a little bit of nostalgia because every photographic image I saw for the first 2/3 of my life was made using film of some sort and that is what I am used to and like. That isn’t to say I don’t like digital imagery and that there isn’t great new work being done with digital of course there is but it isn’t from that formative time in my life, it doesn’t look like the images I saw in National Geographic or any other magazine of my childhood. It makes me wonder if someone who has grown up in a time when digital photography has always around will see any attraction to film images, but then this is also the same sort of transition that occurred when colour photography became more prevalent and was brought into the contemporary art world. It wasn’t that long ago really that serious photography was done with black and white film because that’s how it always had been.
I love when cameras exceed my expectations. You might, like me, think that a camera from 1960 with a programmed shutter and aperture would be questionable, not in this case though. The Minolta Uniomat has a selenium meter just bellow the shutter button that moves a galvanometer on the top plate. If you adjust the exposure ring around the lens it moves an arm also in the window with the galvanometer needle, when the arm and the needle match that is the suggested setting for the scene. When adjusting the camera like this you actually have no independent control over the shutter and aperture it follows a set program line. I’ve created this handy little chart which does actually give an indication of the aperture and shutter speed for any EV setting.
You can see in the pictures where I allowed direct sunlight to reach the lens that the images are quite washed out, I think quite a bit of this came from the original uncoated Minolta filter that I left on for the testing.
In response to the uproar over Hasselblads Lunar rebranding of the Sony Nex7 I thought i would point out that this sort of thing has been going on for a long time. Many cameras have been released under different names. It’s been mentioned on the Internet how many parts the Minolta Freedom Escort and the Leica Mini share but a visual comparison is always nice. (Update the Olympus AF Mini is part of this litter)
Update this post has been sitting written and ready to post for over six months it just got pushed to the back. I could have removed the no longer topical reference to the Hasselblad but that camera is still funny.
Wait it’s triplets! As Drewboom pointed out to me the Olympus Trip AF Mini was seperated from these two at birth and it definetely shares major parts with its siblings.
I didn’t want to crowd the previous post about the Minolta V2 with a lot of images so I’m presenting them here separately. If you want to see the camera itself here is the first part Minolta V2 Part 1
The lens of the Minolta V2 has a focal length of 45mm which matches up nicely with the 42mm diagonal of the image formed on the film. It has a maximum aperture of F2.0 created from what I understand to be 6 elements with the shutter sandwiched somewhere in the middle. The aperture is formed via 8 blades and while they form an octagon it is nicely symmetrical. It creates a nice soft bokeh that isn’t at all busy.
Looking over the camera again I have to marvel at the design, there are so many edges and elements that exude quality and work together to create the whole. This camera even looks good from the side. I definetly need to use this camera more often and maybe try some portraits with it.
Here is a 100% crop from one of the images. This shows that stopped down from about f4 this lens is an excellent performer but with quite low contrast. Wide open it does have some distortion but it is part of it’s look.
This is one of my all time favorite cameras, it has that certain look that defines the fixed lens rangefinder form.
Every aspect of this camera is nicely done right down to the black band on the shutter release and film rewind that match the film advance leaver.
The defining technical detail of this camera must be it’s shutter which is capable of 1/2000 of a second. This was quite an achievement in 1958 with a leaf shutter. To reach this speed though the aperture is limited to maximum opening of f8. Both shutter and aperture control are on the lens with a small window providing the EV number for that combination. The same EV can be maintained will changing shutter and aperture by turning both dials together.
The viewfinder framelines automatically adjust for close focusing and the focus patch is a nice contrasty rectangle. Unfortunately my viewfinder frame is slightly askew which results in crooked horizons if you adhere to it as i did with my last roll of film.
In the second part I’ll show some sample images and discuss the camera some more.
What can one really say about a camera that was a dead end and used a dead end film. Why even bother with this blip in the history of photographic equipment? What possible relevance could this have to today? Nope I can’t come up with a reason either but if I don’t who else is. The Minolta Vectis S-1 is an SLR with interchangeable lenses that used APS film. APS film was, yes I’m using past tense despite the fact that you can still buy it at this time, a smaller film than the more common 35mm. APS film became available in 1996 but never stood a chance as we stood on the verge of the digital photography revolution that would eventually take over from most film formats. It’s main claim was convenience and not quality as it had a film area that was only about 55% of a 35mm negative. That smaller size does live on in the form of most consumer DSLR’s and is referred to as APS-C which was also one of the aspect ratio’s available with the film.
What the Minolta Vectis S-1 offered was a small SLR with all the controls you would expect plus weather sealing. Despite it’s dead end status it does appear that some early DSLRs, such as the Olympus E-300, took design elements from it only a few years later.
You can see from this shot of the rear controls that the camera afforded such things as aperture and shutter priority as well as exposure compensation. The ergonomics are very good on this camera and it’s size allows for easy carrying something I value today with smaller digital cameras as apposed to some current DSLR’s that seem to equate physical size to capability. All this is irrelevant of course because it’s not really a camera you would want to use when so much better image quality is available so much cheaper through digital cameras.
All that said here are some images I shot using the Minolta Vectis S-1.
No not that the lenses were made with radioactive isotopes, it’s just that if you think you might want to capture something critical, and when don’t you? The question is can you really rely on them? I ran a roll of cheap film through this Minolta Himatic C and found that all the images had this faded spot in the lower right. No matter how much I look at the lens from either side I can’t see what caused this. It must be a separation of some lens elements because it’s too subtle to detect, particularly at 1/60 second (There is no bulb setting). The good news for me is that the pictures I took weren’t critical and are only reference material. I have several versions of the Himatic: E,F,G and this C and as far as design goes this is the best. I really like that the lens collapses into the body and that you have two shutter speeds 1/30 and 1/250 indicated by a cloud and a sun respectively. The aperture is automatic but it does show in the viewfinder along with the focus indication in the form of four symbols of distance. So did I learn my lesson about old cameras, no not really.
Eight months is not very long but it is enough time for us to modify the land and start building. I’m not against building places for people to live but I still feel a sense of loss for this little oasis of grass land that was home to owls and coyottes and many things in between. I don’t know of any other place nearby where wild flowers bloomed like this.
A few more Minolta X700 shots.
When you’re out photographing and you notice something interesting the first reaction may be to snap a picture, you wouldn’t be wrong. The next reaction should be how can I make that better. Questions such as camera settings and where should I stand and how will that look need to be thought through. It may come naturally to envision a scene from a different vantage point or it may come from practice. Practice should take the form of thinking about how something will look from somewhere else and then going there and seeing for yourself. Technically you don’t even need a camera it just requires actually thinking about what you are seeing around you. Using a zoom lens gives more options but may actually hinder this type of creativity as it tends to make you stand where you are and try to frame a scene, rather than actively searching.
Here is an example. I saw this scene and took an initial image. I then noticed the curve of the shore and how the fence could make an interesting foreground element. So I left the trail and headed for the beach.
And here is the image that resulted. I did have to wait for the man trying to fly the parachute to get it airborne again and luckily this seagull was the bravest of them all and didn’t fly off.