Topic – Minolta AL

When I started my excursions in field of old cameras I was immediately attracted to real antiquities, Agfa’s from the 1920’s and 1930’s, Zeisses from the 1950’s. They were easy to understand and disassemble and occasionally even used as cameras!

The entry into medium format film made me look into newer ones, where the best exponents are the Fujifilm GA645Zi, the Mamiya 7 and the GW690II with those superb lenses. They all stem from the 1990’s give or take a decade.

Only much later did I even consider what happened during the 1960’s or thereabout. was The ubiquitous Olympus Trip 35 started it. I have several and a good one does not work on arrival but only after a few hours of fun and pleasing heart surgery. As has been shown here the image quality is astonishing, specially as we today are fed with the notion that quality equals digital.

But there is more. It turns out that the 1960’s were very productive years in the japanese camera factories. More and more cameras, and more and more complex cameras were produced. One of my lastest discoveries is the Minolta AL from 1961. A 135-film rangefinder camera with a surprisingly wide range of settings both in aperture and shutter speeds. It also has a working (sort of) light meter!

MinoltaAL 6

The Minolta AF is an all metal construction! Quite heavy in the hands but also a solid performer it turned out. The 1:2 Rokkor lens is sharp, really sharp. The 45 mm is a bit too narrow for my taste.

The camera looks like cameras “should” doesn’t it? When in use remember not to cover the  light meter to the far left in the picture below:

MinoltaAL 1

The Minolta is quite discreet in the streets but needs a strap – or a half case – for easy carrying.

The f/2 lens may need short times, and… the Minolta sports them: 1/1000th of a second! Apart from a Bulb setting it is as slow as 1 sec. Ok, realistically perhaps the 1/1000 setting may not have been just 1 millisecond , must it must have been quick! The lens also has apertures from f/2 to f/22 quite a wide range there to0.

This comes at the price of complexity of the mechanism. Thankfully it has not been necessary to take apart more than the front lens for cleaning. I have another camera of the same vintage where the lens’ mechanism is currently stuck and it was he*l to take apart and put together again (and no, it didn’t work reliably afterwards either).

MinoltaAL 4Shutter speed and aperture are easily set with the two from rings of the lens. Just align them with the large white arrow. Closest to the camera body is the rangefinder’s distance ring.

One neat feature which seemed to be in vogue back then was the Exposure Value (E.V.) setting, given that you had an exposure meter it is easy to set the camera with the value in red:MinoltaAL 5

By turning both upper rings, i.e. both shutter speed and aperture, together the E.V.-value is kept constant and one can easily set the preferred aperture without having to re-set the shutter speed. Very nifty! Somehow the E.V. scales disappeared after a few years.

From above the layout is clean and the thin exposure needle in green is visible in a little window from above. In this sample it reacts to light but the film sensitivity has to be set to a low ASA for it to make reliable readings. Nevertheless with today’s film’s exposure latitude I got find negatives in ALL frames! That surprised me.

MinoltaAL 2

The Minolta from above. A clean layout with no surprises. The covered round hole is for adjusting the rangefinder mechanism.

The frame counter can be seen from below as here:

MinoltaAL 3

A bit of a strange place for the frame counter but I have seen worse. 

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