Minolta SR-T 202

The top of the line. That’s where Minolta’s SR-T 202 sat upon its 1975 debut: atop Minolta’s hierarchy of SR-T 35mm SLRs. It might be hard to tell, because Minolta offered a dizzying array of SR-T cameras worldwide, some with model numbers higher than this. Here’s a secret decoder ring. If you have any SR-T with a higher model number — say, 303b, 505, or 505s — you actually have a 202. Those were just the model numbers given this camera elsewhere in the world.

Minolta SR-T 202

This heavy brick won’t win any beauty contests. The photographers who shot them didn’t care — they wanted a precise, versatile, and durable machine, and they got it. The 202 features a cloth shutter that operates from 1 to 1/1000 sec. at 6 to 6,400 ISO. It also features classic match-needle metering, but no autoexposure modes. That meter, Minolta’s “Contrast Light Compensator” (that’s what the CLC on the camera’s face means), is the world’s first matrix metering system. It uses two metering cells to assess contrast, making sure bright areas don’t turn out too bright and dark areas don’t turn out too dark. The 202 also features a hot shoe and a focusing screen with a split-image spot surrounded by a microprism ring. This is almost everything you’d expect of a camera in this class — curiously, mirror lock up is missing. That feature allegedly reduces camera shake on longer exposures, and allows mounting of ultra-wide-angle lenses, which often have deeply protruding rear elements that the mirror would block.

Minolta SR-T 202

You’ll find this camera in two versions. The earlier 1975-77 version offered both FP and X flash sync and a locking depth-of-field preview button; the 1978-80 version offered only X flash sync and a depth-of-field preview button that doesn’t lock. Every other difference is cosmetic, such as the film-plane indicator (the red o with the line through it) moving from right of the prism housing to left of it. My 202 is the later version.

Minolta SR-T 202

I found my 202 in an antique store. Blue corrosion goo was crusted around the battery cover, which is never a good sign. But even if the camera were a basket case, the attached 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor-X lens was worth owning if I could get it for a good price. As I fired off a few frames at various shutter speeds, this 202 felt and sounded right. So I offered 20 bucks. The store owner countered with an additional ten bucks. Sold! 30 bucks for an f/1.4 prime!

If you like Minolta SLRs, by the way, I’ve reviewed several: the SR-T 101 (here), the X-700 (here), the XG 1 (here), the Maxxum 7000 (here) and the Maxxum 9xi (here). Or just check out all of my camera reviews here.

I cleaned up the battery compartment and dropped in an alkaline 625 cell (as the mercury 625 cells for which the camera is designed are banned), but the meter wouldn’t budge. Persistent Googling turned up several reasons a 202’s meter would die. All of them are repairable — but require way more camera disassembly than I’m willing to do. I loaded some Kodak Gold 200 and figured exposure using either Sunny 16 or my iPhone’s Pocket Light Meter app.

I shot the entire roll near home. This was the scene on my desk, right under a window.

Pens and Mophie and TLb

This summer I stripped all the paint off my front door (what an ugly job!) and repainted it. The copper hue I bought turned out bright orange.

Entry system

I got good reds when I shot the hedgerow next to my driveway. This hedge not only provides some privacy for me and my next-door neighbor, it looks fabulous for a couple weeks in the autumn when its leaves turn.

Red study 3

The SR-T 202 is heavy, but such is the way of all-mechanical 35mm SLRs. Otherwise, everything about this camera feels good. The controls are where you’d expect them to be, and they all work smoothly. A nice touch: both aperture and shutter speed appear in the viewfinder, so you can adjust both with the camera at your eye. The shutter fires (and mirror slaps) with a sound that some call loud but that I call satisfying and solid.

This is the only shot I didn’t take on my property. But these two trees are just a block or so away. They’re among the most spectacular in the neighborhood every autumn.

Autumn leaves

It’s not a test roll unless I’ve shot these three trees that stand on the golf course right behind my house. This time, I shot ’em twice, first under cloud cover…

Golf course trees in overcast

…and then in full sun. The subject isn’t that interesting, but these two photos do give a useful comparison of this lens’s performance in different lighting conditions. But notice in both shots, a bright spot on the left about 1/3 of the way down. This showed up in many of these photos. Photoshop fixed it on several of them. I’m not sure what caused it.

Golf course trees in sunlight

And just for fun, here’s my favorite possession: my lawn tractor, all cleaned up at the end of its 18th season, ready to be put away until Spring.

Craftsman tractor

The Minolta SR-T 202 is a wonderful camera. It’s too bad that the meter in mine is dead. If it worked, I’m sure I’d put this camera into rotation for occasional use. I might even lend it out, as I do with other cameras sometimes, to people who are interested in film photography but are afraid to make their first camera investment. It’s a great camera for that early experience.

My bikes

But hey, at least I got that 50mm f/1.4 lens out of the deal. I can use it on my SR-T 101 and my XG 1; with some ISO 800 film, I can easily shoot indoors without flash, which I need to do sometimes.

While this lens is a fine performer, I’m surprised to find that I prefer the 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF lens that came with my SR-T 101. It has character. Check out the gallery of photos I’ve taken with that lens; compare to my Minolta SR-T 202 gallery. You’ll see.

But no regrets: this was a great bargain on a fine lens. Maybe someday I’ll find a similarly great bargain on a fully working 202 body.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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48 responses to “Minolta SR-T 202”

  1. Richard Armstrong Avatar
    Richard Armstrong

    Hi Jim
    As fine as a camera the SRT 202 is it sure wasn’t Minolta’s flagship model I would say the professional Minolta XK was Minolta’s flagship in 1975 and the fully automatic XE-7 was also released in 1975 which would also be regarded as further up the chain than the SRT 202 IMHO.

    Regards Richard

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re right. I amended the text.

  2. janikaberridge Avatar

    I’ve got this camera, as well. When I got the light meter fixed, the shutter curtain had some issues – it did not completely go up, leaving a dark space at the bottom of my photos (seen here — https://janikaberridge.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/img_0002.jpg?w=584&h=392). I haven’t used it in a while, and I wonder if the problem still persists.

    1. vicvl Avatar

      I have the same issue with my 101


      However, arent these horizontal travel curtains? I believe these are some sort of cloth flaps between the mirror and the actual shutter, I’m guessing to eliminate reflections?

      Something that I noticed is that one of my test rolls showed this on almost every frame, but the second one did not, on any. I am chewing trough the third test roll, I understand sometimes “exercising” the camera a bit after a long downtime, helps solve some issues, maybe my third roll will turn out okai.

      1. janikaberridge Avatar

        I know very little of the mechanics of that camera, so I could not tell whether it is the actual shutter or just cloth flaps. I did open the camera and slowed done the shutter speed to see how it moved, and it seemed okay, sometimes. I suppose with time, it will fix itself. I just know that the problem did not exist before I took the light meter to get fixed. In any case, I haven’t used this camera in over 3 years, so who knows?

        1. janikaberridge Avatar

          slowed down*

          I also hope that the problem fixes itself for you, too!

      2. dehk Avatar

        Id look for something hanging down on the top part of the mirror housing.

        1. vicvl Avatar

          Thanks dehk, I’ve checked that, all I can see is some folds of black fabric sort of between the mirror. Can those become dislodged during the mirror’s travel? Any idea on how to trigger that?

          I’ve tried leaving the shutter open with bulb mode or 1 sec exposures, every time I see a clean rectangle, I am looking forward to getting this new roll developed, maybe was a problem initially and by the second roll it went away?

          1. dehk Avatar

            Put it on B open the shutter. Use a tweezers or be creative, check that piece of cloth at the back on top of mirror, and check that cloth on top of the shutter track see if any of them are loose and can flop around randomly. If so glue it very lightly with some light duty glue.

        2. vicvl Avatar

          Those cloth flaps are supposed to be glued to the mirror? I moved them and they wiggled a little, but couldnd get myself to pull or push them too much.

          1. dehk Avatar

            Well the one on the mirror does . If it’s the one in the tracks you gotta tuck and glue them back up. If the only wiggle you are probably fine, I was wondering if any of these will come loose at high speed . Send me your email via my contact form .

        3. vicvl Avatar

          Thanks Derek! I think that with your help, I’ve figured out the problem and fix, here is a link to a post describing it, in case it helps anyone.


          1. dehk Avatar

            Fabulous !

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve seen behavior like this on other cameras, and I believe you’re right that it’s a shutter problem. The shutter’s speed isn’t consistent, and the shutter slows way down at the end of its travel, which creates this shadow.

      I hear that some people have had some luck resolving this by just using the camera a lot, but I think the more common remedy is a repair. Given that most repair shops are going to charge a minimum of around $100 for any work, you have to decide whether it’s worth it. For a camera like this, bodies are plentiful and less expensive than $100, so I’d just buy a new body and move on.

      1. janikaberridge Avatar

        Hey Jim, thanks for that information. Since I hardly use the camera, and photo is only a hobby, it’s not worth it for me to get it repaired. And as you said, those repairs can be pricey – more than the cost of the camera. I will just use my canon rebel :]

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Nothing wrong with using a Rebel! Enjoy!

          1. janikaberridge Avatar

            Thanks, and same to you

  3. vicvl Avatar

    Jim, I purchased my SRT 101… pretty much for the 58mm f1.4 Lens, great for portraits on a 1.5 crop digital, but got caught on using it on its original camera, these fully mechanical SLR’s are a thing to behold and use, I agree on your assessment of the shutter sound, quite satisfactory !

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love fully mechanical SLRs. They’re my favorite thing to shoot.

      Well, there are situations where my auto-everything digital camera is called for. And from time to time I like the easy, breezy shooting with an autoexposure, autofocus film SLR. But if you told me I had to shoot for the rest of my life with an all-mechanical SLR I’d just shrug and get on with it.

  4. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I knew a lot of young and beginning pros that used the Minolta SR-T 101 in the very early 70’s, the lenses were considered very good, the bodies, OK in some aspects, not so hot in others, hence the development of the 202. The “romanticist” photographer David Hamilton was one of the brands pro “stars”, and they used him a lot in the press. By the time the XK came along, pros who depended on 35mm system cameras for what they were doing, had already lined up behind either Canon or Nikon, so it was just a little too late to be included in. It was “catch-up” for them after that, but for a lot of other camera makers as well. Many can say that the Minoltas gave good service, but if you compare them for build along the Canon or Nikon offerings at the time, you could tell. Still, when I was in college, it was one of the brands people picked to do work, along with the “big two”, plus Pentax, Miranda, Mamiya-Sekor, Topcon. There was a time before auto-exposure and motor drives, when there were a lot of good cameras in the running!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My Minolta lenses are all at least competent performers and some of them are outright gems. But now that you mention it, I’ve had more trouble with Minolta bodies than with bodies from any other manufacturer. For example, I have two X-700 bodies that are essentially bricks.

      1. Andy Umbo Avatar
        Andy Umbo

        Interestingly enough, I have a pal that uses Minolta mechanical lenses (from this era) with an adapter on his Micro 4/3rds stuff, he says people haven’t caught on to how good they are yet, so they’re still cheap on eBay.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          There are adapters for everything these days!

  5. Wes C Avatar
    Wes C

    Jim, The bright spot on the left in some of your photos is likely due to a pinhole in one of the shutter curtains. One of my cameras had a small hole on the first curtain on the edge where the metal piece crimps to the cloth curtain. Several of my frames had a bright spot just like you are seeing. If the hole is in the first curtain, the problem can be lessened by waiting to advance your film until just before taking the exposure. I was able to find the tiny hole by removing the lens, opening the camera back, holding up to bright light and watching the curtains as they are advanced. Thanks, I enjoyed reading about your Minolta!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Wes, thanks for the tip about the probable pinhole in my shutter! I love it when I learn something new through a comment on this blog.

  6. dehk Avatar

    “The shutter fires (and mirror slaps) with a sound that some call loud but that I call satisfying and solid. ” – One of the best sounding shutters in my opinion are the SRTs.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve grown pretty partial to the shutter sound on my Nikon F2, but yeah, the SR-T sounds mighty fine!

  7. dehk Avatar

    That bright spot indicate a hole on your shutter cloth. Look for the hole under the light and get a drop of nail polish. Or automotive under carriage rubber (paint), or be creative.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Derek for the tip! I’ll test it and find out. Good camera to learn how to fix this on, since the meter’s dead anyway.

      1. dehk Avatar

        If the meter appear to be dead . Most likely is the switch under the bottom covers . Just gotta ply the contacts back up.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          The stuff I found online suggested I’d have to disassemble half the camera to fix the meter but if it’s just a contact thing I can probably do that myself easy enough.

          1. dehk Avatar

            9 out of 10 times are those contacts in my experience, and literally, definitely should try that first. You can even check for corroded wires under the same cover.

  8. Bob Dungan Avatar
    Bob Dungan

    Nice post and pics. Thanks

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      My pleasure Bob.

  9. Sam Avatar

    Excellent post as always. I love the color and tones in these images! You’re right Jim, they won’t win no beauty contests, but they are well built and have a charm all their own. I have two SRT’s, I know one is the SRT-201, but I’ll have the check which model the other one is.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      They’re fine cameras, to be sure. Glad I stumbled upon this one despite its challenges.

      1. Sam Avatar

        It’s the best when you “stumble” upon such cameras! :-)

  10. pesoto74 Avatar

    I also had the experience of liking the 1.7 lens better than the 1.4. I read an article the other day that said Sears is in real trouble. So maybe it is time to stock up some spare parts for your mower. It is amazing how far Sears has fallen. When I was a kid Sears was the undisputed king of retail

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Nice to know I’m not alone on that 1.7!

      It’s funny. The only things I like about Sears is their Lands End selection and anything with the Craftsman name on it. Fortunately, my tractor has a Briggs and Stratton engine, and most of the non-engine wear parts are standard things like belts. Woe betide me, however, if something like the steering gear breaks. That happened during this tractor’s first year and that’s a part specific to this tractor. I’m hoping this tractor can get along for another 2-3 seasons, as I’m thinking by then my kids will all be in college and I’d like to move to someplace with little or no yard to care for.

  11. Kevin Yue Avatar

    I recently unearthed my father’s old SRT-Super (moniker for the SRT-102 for Asian market) and shooting it has been a real pleasure — the 50mm 1.4 is a joy to work with, and it handles super well. Loved reading your post on it!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      These are simply enormously enjoyable cameras! How nice that you have your father’s.

  12. Mike Gillard Avatar

    I had meter problems with one of my SRT101s two screws to remove the bottom plate and clean the switch contacts real easy job but it fixed mine

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well, good to know!

  13. […] 7000i: ReviewMaxxum 9xi: Review, PhotosMaxxum HTsi: Review, PhotosSR-T 101: Review, PhotosSR-T 202: ReviewX-700: ReviewXG 1: Review, […]

  14. Kent Teffeteller Avatar
    Kent Teffeteller

    I love the Minolta SR-T cameras. having had experience with the X series afterward. An X-370 was my introduction to them. While having had Canon FTb, various Nikons and more, I recently got re-introduced to the Minolta family. $40 at a thrift, got me a SR-T 201 with a dent on the side, a 50/1.7 Rokkor-X, a Sigma 28/2.8 Macro lens, and a Minolta flash unit. Feels like I never left using a Minolta. Can”t wait to finish the second roll of maiden voyage film. I sure enjoy taking pictures with my SR-T 201, and a SR-T 202 would sure be nice.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You can’t go wrong with an SR-T!

  15. gil aegerter Avatar

    Just ran across your blog. Excellent stuff.

    I must quuibble with your description of the aesthetics of the SR-T 202, however. I think the prism housing is the most beautiful of all SLRs. There is something sleek and purposeful in it that I find wonderful. (The fact that I was a W. Eugene Smith fan back in the day, and my first SLR was an SR-T 100 may have something to do with that.)

    These days I shoot mostly Nikons for film but still occasionally drag out my X-700 and 202. What a wonderful machine!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I guess!

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