Cameras

Minolta SR-2 vs SR-1 comparison

Ever wondered what the real internal differences are between Minolta‘s first SLRs? First pic is of an SR-2 stripped of the ‘leather’, top and bottom plates off and my high-tech protection for the mirror box internals. The front plate with the mount and self-timer has not yet been removed.

SR-1 partially dismantled, but with the front mount section already off and the self-timer no longer fitted. Notice the difference between the castings and the ‘SRC’ in relief on the front next the mount: on the SR-2 there is not any such marking.

Here I’ll give a short look inside to still your curiosity (and mine!). So the SR-2 was the first in late 1958 and is put next to an SR-1 from around 1961, the ‘c’-version; the last one before the change was made to the aperture automatic. Two quite different mechanicals altogether, despite looking very similar, especially the bottom end, where the aperture and shutter actuation takes place.

Optically, the early and later models are relatively easy to tell apart if you know what to look for.. all the 1959 models have a much smaller eyepiece on the back, which is not so easy to spot at a glance. Easier to notice is the shutter-speed knob on the really early ones (the SR-1, too) that needed to be lifted to change the shutter-speed. On the top the scale is not quite evenly distributed, the 250, 500 and 1000 look evenly spaced, but they do have a little white line engraved to show the actual position needed to dial in those three speeds. From the front, the early dial is more conical in shape, wider at the bottom and smaller in diameter on the top than the later model (there is about a 2mm gap to the winder-lever). The later one, as you can see, is more straight from the side, and is as a result larger on top and has evenly spaced engravings up to 500, without the extra lines. The earliest SR-1 shutter-speed dial was similar in shape and size to the SE-2, missing the top speed, of course. There follows a series of photos showing some of the the external and the internal differences. Later I will show the internals of the first SR-1 model, but the differences between these two models are more obvious 🙂 The picture below shows the SRC on the casting rather more plainly.

There are, of course, lots of detail differences, that are too many to mention here, but worth mentioning and visible in this shot, is the mirror-fixing with screws, rather than the riveted-on mirror in the SR-2 🙂 There are also subtle differences between the self-timers, not only the front casting which they are mounted to: The one on the bottom or the right in this picture is off the SR-2 and fits behind the oblong brass plate. It also has an extra large flat screw (taken off on this picture below, but visible later once mounted) on the front side and the teeth on the spring-gear (the largest one) look like they have been ground or worn down… look closely at the pictures and you will see what I mean! The difference in the gear is plain to see.

SR-2 with the sellotape and here the differences in the gear-teeth are more obvious on this one. Note also that the backing plates are not the same, though the mechanisms are largely interchangeable:

Here the SR-2 self-timer is fitted and the large screw which is no longer on the later models at the front is rather obvious. The screw behind it on later ones is also significantly thicker (see pictures above).


Below shows the shutter-release mechanism in the base which is distributed half-half between topside and bottom. Most jamming can/must be sorted down here, the shutter speeds are controlled on topside. The lead-wires are for the flash synch and every camera seems to have them differently routed, depending on the wishes of the assembler! Here the difference in the size and shape of the tripod-mount is also visible, along with the completely different mechanical layout… few interchangeable parts here!

A look at the base plates shows that both are also different, as the mechanism on the SR-1 needs a cut-out at front (behind the lens-mount) to accommodate it – in preparation for the following model. At this stage, they both still have the long-travel aperture lever. the hole for the tripod-thread is also larger on the baseplate of the later body.

Well, that wraps it up for today. I will sort out the orientation of the pictures when I get home… I wrote this on my phone and it won’t let me do everything I want to!

Early Minolta Auto Rokkor-QE 1:3.5 f=100mm comparison

How interesting it is to get two lenses like this next to one another to compare, made only a few years apart. The two in question are probably the most underestimated in Minolta’s lineup for very many years and still perform very well even against modern lenses at 43MP… These are just as sharp, if not better, certainly in the edge resolution than the 2.5 and the 100mm 2.0 that is in high demand (only because it is rare, not for its performance).  I might  go into that in more detail later, around when I release a test of the 24mm VFC 2.8, how to use it to do what it does, what VFC is actually useful for and some ideas about lens-testing methods in general, including inherent non-flat focus field (curvature) in lenses in general – which is always taken as given.

So, to start off with, looking at the fronts, I have two 100mm, 3.5 lenses from Minolta, built only a few years apart. The early one, an ARI, ser 1201946. Looking at many lenses, I might conclude that this is a lens of series code 12, number 01946 produced? There are many theories about the Minolta serial numbers and any of them could be right or wrong in the absence of any proof 🙂 Made somewhere in 1959-60. Whatever, the front engraving is as expected. The second one, an ARII with the serial 1213805  is missing the expected ‘Lens made in Japan’ engraving on the front, so is one of the earlier ones of this series produced.

If you look closely, you will also see that the front lens is more deeply recessed into the front on the later model.

Now turning to the back, we can see more differences: ARI-typical closed ring and screwed-on aperture link, ARII-typical linkage poking out of a slot in the back and, of course the stop-down lever now necessary after the automatic diaphragm was introduced on the SR-1 (4th model) and the second run of the SR-3, meaning that after the exposure, the aperture opened immediately. Yes, the knurled ring is missing on the stop-down lever, but will be added when I get one in 🙂

Also note the relative position of the rear lens elements, both focussed at infinity in this picture.

Here shown at an angle to emphasise the differences between the two, the ARI sits considerably deeper, which makes me wonder about them being the same formula for lenses and groupings…

Now both are focussed as close as can be done, 1.2m and 4ft, ARI Stil much deeper.

Interesting how both are so different internally, obvious from the back. Look how the shrouding goes right in to cover the full depth of the travel of the rear element here on the ARII…

… Whereby here the thread of the focus ring is exposed when wound to close-focus!

Now take a look at the difference in size between them: First the length is obvious. The added length of the later one (here on the left) seems to have mostly been added on to the front of the focus-ring :). Just also take note of the difference in the thickness of the focus-ring (which is why there is a bigger step in the front of the barrel of the earlier lens).

Here the nice even engravings are obvious (except for the ‘4’ on the ARI, missing on the later one altogether) as are the absence of engraved dots indicating half-stop clicks. Nice unblemished ‘Minolta green’ on the ft. engravings!

Same again at infinity, same difference in length (3mm)

Now the other side and here the white ‘Lens made in Japan’ on the ARII  and the simple ‘Japan’ in black on the early lens.

The big change for the ARII was not only the rear actuation of the aperture but in the iris itself, which had to be lighter and better balanced to react quickly to shut down and reopen adequately for the new shutter action on the now modernised cameras. Take a look down the barrel and the differences are obvious in the different shape of the iris itself. Still 8 blades, but very differently arranged, ‘back to front’, so to speak.

At f8 both look pretty much the same, though the earlier one is just a tad ’rounder’, but not enough to make any difference to the bokeh.

One surprise yet, is that the earlier, shorter by 3mm and narrower by 2mm in diameter lens, is heavier (402g against 382g) than the later one! Remember the difference in the thickness of the focussing-ring-casting?

The extra overall diameter of the later lens does have one potentially slightly annoying drawback… The DK57KD lenshood designed for it no longer fits on the lens backwards as it did on the early lens, so extra storage has to be found for it. Not really anything in the least important, but nonetheless worth mentioning.

Next up? Not sure yet, as I go into hospital on Tuesday to operate on my right shoulder again 🙁 I also have to make sure that the car is back on its wheels by then…

Minolta AES Viewfinder repair

A Minolta AES viewfinder, rather desirable if not so dented! If it were only the dent, that would not be so bad, but usually other things have also suffered as a result of the bash that caused the dent in the first place. Let’s have a closer look ‘under the bonnet’…

OK, this kind of space is all you need, so there is no excuse for not having a go yourself! Yes, I could have cleaned up before the photo, but it just goes to show the general arrangement. There are tools and materials for all sorts of tinkering and yes, while I’m actually working, there is more space around the working area as such.

So, having taken the top off (easily enough done on this) it can be seen that the dent wasn’t all that was wrong: the mirror and lens which allow the numbers on the aperture-ring to show in the finder are gone! The thin red outline shows the aperture-link in the ‘normal’ position without a lens in place – more of that in a minute.

Here a clearer view from the top and at the back, the long mirror for the shutter-speed display is also missing, but thankfully had dropped inside and could be reduced in its proper place 🙂

Here even more obvious, the REASON for what it missing and how it lines up with the lens ring. All I needed was to find a mirror and lens in my goodies-box and the case was solved. If I’m honest, a piece of 1mm thick polished Stainless would replace any missing mirror if you don’t have an original handy (the mirroring on these is on the FRONT surface, not on the back like a household mirror). For the lens, any one cut out of another Minolta SLR will do, even if you do have to trim it to size, it will do the same job since the distances of all finders from the lens-ring are very similar.

Below is a very different problem which afflicts almost every Minolta AES and AE viewfinder (not the others, since they don’t have metering). When the finder is removed, before replacing it the aperture ring follower has to be ‘cocked’, so that it snaps into the right place, should a lens be on the camera (in use that would be the norm). However, these cameras are a few years old now and have gone through the hands of many people, some salespersons, some of them photographers, some of them collectors and some of them without any knowledge of the workings of such things, from any of the above. This design was intended to save the camera being damaged by replacing the viewfinder with force and perhaps bending the linkages in the process. If you try to replace it ‘just like that’, you will notice that it doesn’t sit quite right at the front. Unfortunately, the uninitiated will just press harder until it clicks in place – the result of which can be seen below! The arrow on the right shows the follower correctly cocked on the right hand side and in the middle the release lever to reset it.

See the flat on the release lever? That comes from pushing the viewfinder down at the front until it clicks into place, as this lever, when the follower is not cocked, protrudes a bit as a reminder… of cocked properly, it retracts out of the way, of course.

So, who cares if it has a flat on it? Well, the user, actually, because having read the handbook and having cocked the lever properly, when the viewfinder goes back on, the follower doesn’t return to it’s proper place again and the metering is all haywire as a result!

The cure is to build up the front of the camera-frame, where the lever ‘lands’ with a strip of tape or whatever you have handy that it just thick enough to ‘trip’ the lever and something that does not permanently fix to the camera or damage it. Here I took a strip of cardboard and some insulating tape to fix it. It’s cheap and easy, works fine and doesn’t do any damage. Win-win! Don’t worry about light-leaks up here, the well is deep enough to shield any light that might come in – don’t forget, the eyepiece lets a lot more light into the prism.

Just a reminder of how the top looked like before. Suffice to say, I did a bit of persuasion with an appropriate piece of wood and repaired the dent without needing any touching up of the paint, which sticks like shit to an army blanket (ask anyone who has ever been a soldier).

You can’t see it here, but once the mirrors etc. have been replaced, the next step is re-assembly, which is pretty straightforward. Working from right to left in reverse order of disassembly.

 

 

 

 

Finally assembled with ISO 160 showing here and ready to go! All adjustments and cross-checks of the mechanics and metering were also done while the lid was off, of course.

The repair to the top is acceptable, I think.

Next up for discussion? The comparison of two very early 100mm F3.5 lenses an AR1 and an AR2 (by the way, one of Minoltas best-kept secrets, an inexplicably underrated razor-sharp lens). Construction, mount, iris, size and weight are different… Though they look very similar, until you have them up close 🙂

 

Minolta SR lenses NOT the same as MC/MD

OK, So everywhere we see the ads, mostly on eBay, where Minolta SR lenses (the ones called Auto Rokkor, with ‘W’ for wide or ‘Tele’ added on) are broadly equated to MD-Fit or something similar. Beware! This is not necessarily so!  The very early lenses do FIT ON the Minolta Bayonet, but DO NOT STOP DOWN to their minimum aperture. This has physical reasons, which I shall explain.

This means that the first series of these lenses attach correctly (the Minolta bayonet stayed the same until Auto-Focus came along) BUT the lenses only stop down on the later cameras to an aperture of around f8, no matter what you pre-set on the lens. This is due to the placement of the lever inside the cameras and lenses, that are, to put it simply, in different places! From f8 upwards in the direction of ‘more open’ I have found no limits and the restriction does NOT apply to fitting to Digital cameras with adapters that anyway don’t stop down, which is great news.

Take a look why: I have taken shots of an early SR1 (‘b’ series) from 1960 and compared it to the mount on the SRT* (in this case a 303) when the ‘MC’ notation was introduced. Note the placement of the lever at the bottom of the mount, that closes the lens down at exposure.

Firstly here, the back of an SRT/MC/MD Mount lens on the left compared with the early SR (Auto Rokkor without the MC/MD) mount lens on the right. You will note the difference in the placement of the Iris-Lever, although both are stopped down to f22. What you can’t see, is the range of travel of the lever for the lens on the right, which is almost the whole arc as drawn in. compared to the tiddly bit which is obvious in comparison on the left lens (physically limited by the slot it can move in axially – less than half of the arc); on the later Auto Rokkor lenses, from about 1960, the stop-down lever for the iris is the same as for the MC lenses operating from inside a ‘window’ and will work perfectly on later cameras – definitely any camera made after 1961.

Below the positions of the actuating levers inside the back of the mount on the cameras themselves can be seen. The SRT 303 is representative in its proportions of ALL manual Minolta mounts from then up until the introduction of the Auto Focus mount.

In this picture, the lens would be STOPPED DOWN, on the SRT using the button on the side of the mount and on this early SR (1959) by simply not cocking the shutter – fully automatic diaphragm came in 1961 when both the SR3 and SR1 got the modification. The difference in the position at maximum deflection is pretty obvious.

The same two cameras when the aperture is held open: Actually identical.

Here we have both cameras with the lens mounted and stopped down to f22. I think the difference speaks for itself. The picture speaks a thousand words?

The SRT manages just smaller than f8. This will happen to ALL early Auto Rokkor lenses if mounted on SRT and later cameras (actually any Minolta after at the latest 1961, when the automatic diaphragm was introduced). The other way around, ANY Manual lens will work correctly on the earlier, pre-SRT cameras and of course with any of the Digitals, too – with an adapter.

So, it’s up to you, but buying the earlier lenses, with very few exceptions, is not better than a comparable MC or MD, despite being cheaper (mostly). Quite apart from the mentioned deficit in the usability on later cameras, for the most part the performance and definitely the coatings just doesn’t make it worthwhile – unless you have the very much earlier cameras! The thing to look out for to positively identify the first series of lenses is the flat ring on the back of the lens without the ‘window’ for the iris-coupling, as clearly shown in the pictures above. Another indicator, if not definitive, is the aperture-ring with the engraved yellow ‘LV’ values below the f-numbers. Some, however, even with these engravings also had the later mechanism 🙂 The thing to look for is the evenness of the aperture engravings (if they look ‘wonky’ then they probably have the long travel) and the back of the lens, of course. If the pin sticks out of a narrow window, then you are fine. Watch out for lenses over 100mm, they might be long-travel AND have a window for the pin: the length of the window will give it away.

The SR-2 and both ‘a’ (first series with ‘lift-up’ shutter-speed dial) and ‘b’ versions of the SR-1 without the meter block all have the long-travel lever, but in 1960 alongside the introduction of the SR-3, there was also a ‘plain’ SR-1 (‘c’) without the block, but with the automatic diaphragm…

Minolta SRT 101, 1975, black

This is one of the last 101 and relatively rare in black without the mirror lock-up. By then Minolta had embraced cross-head screws. SR-T101 incorporated for the first time through the lens metering at full aperture, using their patented CLC system (Contrast Light Compensator)

Minolta SR-1, 1959, black

Introduced in 1959, this is a ‘b’ model of one year later. One of the earliest Minolta SLRs and one that is still in regular use (I have three of them, one black, two chrome). A slightly cheaper version of the 1/0000/sec SR-2, which was their first SLR, the SR-1 had a top speed of 1/500/sec and had an f2 55mm lens as standard, as opposed to the f1.8 55mm which was standard with the SR-2. The lens fitted here is one of the very early f1.8, 55mm offerings with the LV engravings and is very well kept. The black ones are extremely rare, I am told.

Both models had the (for the time) very desirable mirror-return, but the iris remained stopped down until the shutter was cocked again. No information in the surprisingly bright viewfinder apart from the circular focusing aid and no meter, of course. Completely mechanical, no batteries, built like a tank.

Very interesting is the way that exposure is calculated, very simple, actually. Based on the ‘light value’ standard of the day, displayed on most Light Meters, including those from Minolta. A separate scale in yellow is engraved around the aperture ring and the shutter-speed dial. LV is engraved on the top of the body width a dot next to the shutter-speed dial for reference. Given a particular light value – say 13, for an overcast but bright day – you  simply ‘dial in’ a combination on the yellow scales that adds up to that value! So, for this example, 7 (1/125) and 6 (f8) gives a good general combination both for depth of field and motion freeze. Any other combination adding up to 13 would give the same exposure! I have a few lenses with the engravings, including a 135mm f2.8, apparrently less than 2,000 were made with the engravings! More of that one later in a ‘repair’ blog.

Don’t forget, the settings are, of course, for the ‘standard’ 100 ASA film and any other film-speed will have to be compensated for.

Nonetheless, once you have tried it, you would probably be astounded as to how easy, quick and intuitive it is.

 

Here are a few more pictures of the same camera (yes, the sunshade is incorrect – I do have the right one, but it is on another camera at the moment). In a following blog, I will be showing inside the cover to explain some common faults that are easily remedied 🙂