Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Minolta SR-T 101

9

For a guy who set out to collect 35 mm rangefinder cameras, I sure have ended up with plenty of 35 mm SLRs – ten so far. Most of them have been given to me, usually in a big bag with plenty of lenses and accessories. I love free cameras!

And I’ve loved shooting with these SLRs. There’s just something about knowing that what you see in the viewfinder is what you’re going to get in the resulting image, especially when the SLR offers depth-of-field preview.

Minolta SR-T-101So I’ve been buying classic mechanical SLRs when I get a good deal on them, such as was the case with this Minolta SR-T 101. Produced from 1966 to 1975, it was among the first SLRs to offer full-aperture through-the-lens light metering, in which the camera compensates for the set aperture as it measures light. We take this for granted today.

The SR-T 101 also offers a cloth focal plane shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/1000 second, with support for film speeds from 6 to a whopping 6,400 ASA. It also offers mirror lockup, a mechanical self timer, and a depth-of-field preview button. A throwback feature is the cold accessory shoe, which means that hooking up a flash requires a cable.

Minolta SR-T-101

It’s also a throwback that the battery – the infernal banned mercury PX625 – powers only the meter. No battery? No problem – set your own exposure (for example, using the Sunny 16 rule) and just shoot. If you are eager to rely on the meter, however, drop in a zinc-air Wein cell or, as I did, use an alkaline 625 cell. Both have voltages different from the mercury cells, which theoretically can affect accurate exposure. As you’ll see, my photos turned out fine.

The SR-T 101 uses a classic match-needle system for setting exposure. With a battery installed, you turn the camera on using a switch on the bottom. Then you peer through he viewfinder. At right there are two needles, one that shows the light reading and another (the one with the loop end) that shows the current exposure setting. To get proper exposure, you adjust aperture (on the lens barrel) and shutter speed (using a dial on top of the camera) until the two needles line up.

Minolta SR-T-101

My SR-T 101 came with a 50 mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF lens, which is not original to the camera. I lucked into an early SR-T 101, from 1966 or 1967. This article charts the changes over the SR-T 101’s run, but in short, because my camera has a black film-speed knob on top, and because two top-plate screws on the back of the camera are equidistant from the viewfinder, my SR-T is from the first year or so of production. Anyway, early cameras shipped with either 58 mm f/1.4 or 55 mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF lenses. The 50 mm lens on my camera wasn’t made until the mid 1970s.

No matter; the lens did a fine job. This is the barn on my buddy Kurt’s farm. It was built in 1865 on Michigan Road lands.

The barn on Sycamore Hill

Together, the lens and camera weigh about two pounds. Holding this heavy camera in both hands, I nearly tipped over as I squatted to photograph the recently baled hay.

Sycamore Hill

My mother has had this little black vase for as long as I can remember. It was on her hutch when I visited last, so I arranged it with the bowl of peanut butter cups and shot with available light. The image came back from the processor’s a little too warm, so I cooled it down in Photoshop Elements.

Black vase with peanut butter cups

An obligatory flower shot. I like how this lens and film (Fujicolor 200) rendered purple. I am seldom impressed with the purples I get; often they end up being more blue than in real life.

Flowers

They’ve started tearing up my neighborhood’s streets to lay sewer line. This mammoth machine sat in front of my house for an entire weekend.

Heavy equipment

You can see more photos from this camera in my Minolta SR-T 101 gallery.

Because of the SR-T 101’s size and heft, there are better choices to carry around casually. But I was impressed with how well made the SR-T 101 is and how smoothly and precisely everything on this camera worked. I wouldn’t mind getting to know this camera even better by putting more film through it.


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9 thoughts on “Minolta SR-T 101

  1. Ted Kappes

    A great classic mechanical slr. Hope the construction work isn’t in you area too long. The bridge people just left here last week.

  2. Bernie Kasper

    Yes I love street destruction lol !! I was going to say the camera takes great pics, but it drives me crazy when someone says that to me, it’s like saying that hammer sure builds a great house argh !!!!

    But a cool camera though !!

  3. Mike

    That’s a really nice slide show that shows off the nice qualities the camera is capable of capturing. Its worthwhile to put some effort into the way in which photos are displayed on line.

    If you’re making pictures with all those slr cameras, you’ve got a lot more stamina than I.

    1. Jim Post author

      Flickr made the slideshow effortless, of course. Props to Ted Kappes, who commented above and shares photos he takes with his vintage cameras at beacon225.blogspot.com, for giving me the idea for using those slideshows by example on his blog.

      I haven’t shot with a few of the SLRs I own — one’s a broken Minolta X-700 (and my second X-700), another is a second Pentax K1000, and the third is a modern Nikon N65, all given to me. I am curious about the N65 with its auto-everything. I’m unlikely to shoot the other two.

  4. Richard

    Love my Minolta SRT 100 and Learning from Your Blog

    Yes, I own 3 Minolta SLRs. One write-up is at http://whatisafilmcamera.com/minolta-srt-100-review/ for my Minolta SRT 100. Even today, if I needed just one camera, my Minolta would do just fine. My photos aren’t as nice as yours, I just shot a busy Chicago street in my neighborhood on a rainy afternoon. It’s gritty, it’s Chicago.

    Thanks for your Flickr tip for your website. You link to Flickr so everyone can see your photos. Perhaps I’ll try that.

    At Flickr I’ve started embedding links to my website so people can read about my cameras and that technique is working. People are finding me on Flickr and finding their way to my website. But I suspect me telling you how to generate website traffic is like the student telling the teacher.

    I am enjoying your blog. Everyone does there camera blog a bit differently. Hopefully all of us can keep film cameras alive and well until this younger generation starts carrying an old film camera in their bag along with their digital. Shooting with film and digital at the same time makes you think differently about your photos.

    Best Wishes.

    1. Jim Post author

      I have two X-700s and this SR-T 101 — I think I like the SR-T a little better.

      I used to link from my Flickr photos back to my blog, and it does drive some traffic. But it can be weeks between photo upload on Flickr and a blog post appearing, and I forgot to go back and update Flickr so often that I finally just threw in the towel!

      You’re very right that switching back & forth between analog and digital does open new channels in the brain about how to take good pictures.

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