Collecting Cameras

You win some and you lose some when you shoot with old cameras

I’ve had a lot of fun shooting my new old cameras this year, but I also got out a couple old cameras I’ve had for a while and loaded some film into them, too.

Kodak Tourist

When I first wrote about my Kodak Tourist several years ago, I said I’d probably never run film through it because its lens was so unremarkable. But I had a roll of Plus-X sitting here doing nothing, and I thought maybe if I used my tripod and my GE PR-1 exposure meter I might get some okay results.

Not so much. I had a dreadful time with this camera. I kept setting up shots only to have the exposure meter tell me there wasn’t enough light. Because the lens’s maximum aperture is a tiny f/12.5, this camera needs gobs of direct, blazing sunlight to make an image. Ghosting ruined a few images, and then I managed not to advance the film on a few frames leading to double exposures. This double-exposed shot is the best one on the roll, sad to say. I uploaded three other shots from the roll to Flickr; see them here.

Anonymous office building double exposure

I was so unimpressed with the Tourist that I demoted it. It had been displayed on a shelf in my living room, but now it’s in the box of unloved cameras that I keep under my bed.

Minolta Hi-Matic 7

I had a much, much better time recently with my Minolta Hi-Matic 7. It was one of the first cameras I bought when I started collecting again, but I had only ever put one roll of film through it. It felt like high time to try it again. This time, I had a battery for it and would be able to see whether its autoexposure system worked. In went a roll of Fujicolor 200 and out went I.

I got great results with my Hi-Matic. It’s not surprising – its f/1.8 lens lets in more than 32 times as much light as my Tourist’s lens. And the autoexposure system worked fine.

I just noodled around, shooting whatever felt good. As I drove to work one morning, the just-risen sun was casting long shadows. I stopped by Second Presbyterian Church for a snap.

Second Pres

A few days later as I stopped at Costco to drop off a roll of film, I spotted a 1941 Buick in the parking lot. I moved in close to shoot its grille.

Buick Eight

I uploaded several other shots from this roll to Flickr; see them here. There you’ll also find the photos from the first roll I put through this camera four years ago. When I compare those shots to these, I’m delighted to see how much I’ve learned and how much my work has improved.

Camera Reviews

Minolta Hi-Matic 7

When I started collecting cameras again I thought I might build a rangefinder collection. This Minolta Hi-Matic 7 was the first one I bought. When I picked it up, the first thing I thought was “brick outhouse.” If I were to put a neck strap on it and hide it under my bed, if someone broke in I could swing this sucker around and knock them out cold.

Minolta Hi-Matic 7

The Hi-Matic 7 started rolling off Minolta’s assembly lines in 1963, offering not just the aforementioned robust construction but also a six-element 45mm f/1.8 Rokkor-PF lens set in a Seikosha leaf shutter with a top speed of 1/500 second. It takes film from ISO 25 to 800. It also offers manual exposure and shutter-priority autoexposure. All that makes this a mighty useful camera even today. The cold accessory shoe is the only throwback, but the Hi-Matic 7 offers an X-sync flash contact; just connect your flash via cable.

Minolta Hi-Matic 7

This is a mechanical camera, but the meter needs a dreaded, banned 625 mercury cell. I use a PX625 alkaline cell, different voltage be hanged, and always get fine exposures on negative film.

By the way, if you like fixed-lens rangefinder cameras, also check out my reviews of the Konica Auto S2, the Yashica Electro 35 GSN, the Yashica MG-1, the Canonet QL17 G-III, and the Canonet 28. If you’re a Minolta fan you might like my reviews of the Minolta X-700, the SR-T 101, the SR-T 202, or the XG 1. Or just have a look at all of my camera reviews, listed here.

The first time I shot this camera I didn’t have a battery, so I taped a Sunny 16 chart to the back, loaded some Fujicolor 200, and headed to the park.

Holliday Park is on Indianapolis’s Northside. John Holliday founded The Indianapolis News in 1869 and, with the fortune the newspaper brought, built his estate on this land along the White River. After he and his wife died, the estate donated all 80 acres to the city to be used as a park and a place to study nature. Today, the park has expanded to 94 acres and includes a large playground, hiking trails, picnic shelters, a nature center, and these ruins.


The Western Electric Company owned one of New York City’s first skyscrapers, the St. Paul Building, built at 220 Browaday in 1898 to 26 stories. It came down in 1958 to make way for an even taller building. Its entrance facade, with its statues of Indiana limestone, was moved here.


All sorts of fun details await at The Ruins, like this column topper that now serves as a bench.

A place to sit

Four statues of Greek goddesses that once stood above the facade of the old Marion County Courthouse were moved here, as well. Only two have survived vandalism and the elements.


The next time I shot the Hi-Matic 7 I had a battery, so I installed it and relied on the meter. It seemed accurate. I got wonderful exposures, again on Fujicolor 200.

Buick Eight

It was my time to find some old parked cars while I had this roll in the camera.

Delta Royale

Second Presbyterian Church is always a willing and lovely subject.

Second Pres

To see everything I’ve shot with this camera, check out my Minolta Hi-Matic 7 gallery.

Normally when I show you photos I took with an old camera I tell you all about the camera’s quirks and failures. Not this time — the Hi-Matic 7 was a pleasure to use. The shutter fired smoothly, the film advance worked easily, and the focus and aperture controls moved with precision. This camera yielded photos limited only by my skill and ability. My Sunny 16 shots were uniformly underexposed, but I helped them look better in Photoshop. When I relied on the meter I got perfect exposures. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Post script: While at Holliday Park, a fellow shooting with a vintage Leica camera approached me, interested in my old Minolta. An immigrant, he barely spoke English, but our wide smiles were all the communication necessary as we looked each others’ cameras over.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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