Mike's Photography Background
These days, my primary SLR camera system is the Minolta SRT
camera system originally marketed in the 60's and 70's. Here is a
very short story on how that came to be.
About 10 years ago, I pretty much stopped
using my old Minolta SRT system for a couple of reasons. The
primary one was that it was a pain to haul around. Also, the
old electronic flash unit (dating from the early 60s) was destroyed
when the batteries leaked. The camera was stored in a closet
and left to gather dust.
When I recently decided I wanted to try photography
again, I started to explore options. Getting into high end digital
seemed very expensive, especially considering that my SRT was available
for free. Being a frugal person, I thought it best to try that
old SRT before investing loads of cash on a new system. I made the
mistake of making my first attempt with this old camera in an available
light indoor setting. The results were very bad. I thought that the
camera might be broken. Fortunately, I gave it another try in daylight
and the results were improved enough, that I decided that maybe the camera
wasn't broken and that I should continue to work with it. I bought a
new Vivitar 283 flash. After several more rolls of film, I could see
that I was getting more and more pictures that were acceptable, at least
to me. I picked up a modern camera bag which made toting it around much
less of a hassle. In fact, I could even change lenses without putting
everything down on the ground. Surprisingly, compatible Minolta lenses
and accessories are still available on the new and especially the used
market. Before I knew it, I was essentially back into photography
with the same camera I first learned with, 25 years ago. My interest
in digital has pretty much disappeared. Well not quite, I did get a
decent film scanner, software and printer to replace the black and
white dark room I had, so many years ago.
This was the first picture I took with a SRT101 I bought it
off off ebay $21.50 plus shipping. It had focus, shutter and meter
problems when I got it. After a quite a few hours of experimentation
and repairs, it is fully functional. The blown up window on the left
shows that the picture is quite sharp. My son is now learning a bit
about photography with it.
Mike's Camera Repair Experiences (updated
So far, I've been inside of 3 different SRT's, a couple of Canonets and
(or tinkering with cameras, 101)
Fifteen or more years ago my father game his old Tower (Olympus) S-35. After
a couple of years it locked up on me. I tried to get is open, but failed
and eventually threw it away. Boy I would love to have another shot
at that old camera, knowing what I know now. Working examples are
now going for around fifty bucks on ebay.
The first successfull exploration was just a couple of years ago in my original,
one owner SRT101. The primary reason was to calibrate the meter
using Dick Sullivan's excellent instructions. I had pretty good success
with his basic instructions. The second exploration in that camera
was after a camera repair person in a show gave a free checkup, which showed
the high shutter speeds were slow. At that point, I bought a service
manual, built a primative shutter tester and spent a considerable amount
of time learning to tune the shutter speeds on that camera. The end
result was pretty successful and the camera now works very well.
After buying a second SRT, I immediately went through the tuneup procedure,
like I did on the first. This camera works well and is now my primary
Some time later I went back into my first SRT, this time removing the
mirror box and attempting to lubricate the shutter bearings, since I had
heard I could avoid tightening the shutter springs by doing this.
The results were mixed, since the bearings can't be reached through the mirror
box, but at least I had managed to disassemble the camera to a much greater
exent than before. I even managed to put it back together again
without any fatal damage.
Meanwhile, I discovered that carrying around a relatively heavy SLR wasn't
something I wanted to do every day. I decided to find an inexpensive,
small camera with manual control and a fast lens for everyday use. The
answer was the Canon Canonet QL-17 GIII. I found one on ebay for around
$30. Minolta makes similar cameras, but the Canonet is far more plentiful
(cheaper). This camera, though it worked, had a problem inside the
lens that made changing shutter speeds or ASA very difficult. While
trying to fix it, I managed to completely destroy the shutter speed control
mechanism. These cameras are much harder to work on than SRT's, especially
if you need to do something inside the shutter area.
The camera came with a Canonlite flash. The flash was very flakey
at first, but polishing the contacts in the battery compartment solved that
Anyway, I liked the first Canonet, even though it had problems, so I went
in search of another one. I bought another on ebay, for a similar price.
This one had very ugly engraving on the back and bottom. It
worked fine, except for a problem with the battery compartment. I
was able to change the out the battery compartment and engraved pieces with
the parts from the broken camera. It's looking good and has been going
strong, ever since.
Along the way, I heard that the way to lubricate the SRT's shutter, was
by drilling holes in the shaft and use a syringe to get the oil to where
it needed to go. This led me to buy on ebay a sacrificial camera to
experiment on. This camera cost me less than $30.00, including shipping.
It was complete but had a number of problems, all of which were listed
by the seller.
So I once again went into a Minolta SRT camera. This time I took
many notes and some pictures, much of which is basis for the repair section
on this web site. After several weeks, I got the camera back together
and fully working. This is more a testament to the rugged construction
of these cameras than any abilities I have as a camera repairman. The
most significant problem I had, was somehow fogging the nice split screen
viewfinder that came installed on this camera. See my repair page
for the gory details on how I sort of rescued it.
- Slow shutter at higher speeds
- Exposure problems
- Fungus on the included 50mm lens
- Focus problems (not specified as camera or lens issue)
I haven't manage to remove the fungus from the lens, but I haven't given
Most recently I've done a couple of minor repairs on a Rolleicord V. First
I adjusted the viewing lens focus, which was out of whack with the taking
lens for some reason when I bought it. This was really not too hard
to do. The second repair was to fix a problem with the film advance
not stopping at the correct frame. Once I figured out how to access
the side of the camera, this wasn't all that difficult either.
SRT User Hints
Learn how to read negatives and prints for proper exposure.
Most labs automatically adjust exposure when making prints from negatives,
so really pay close attention to the results. Note that underexposure
shows up as prints that seem a bit washed out. Pay attention to your
results and adjust the next time around. This is one area where manual
cameras really shine - if you learn how your equipment behaves you can
correct the mistake the next time around.
Favorite MD and MC Rokkor lenses
I only have a few lenses, but so far anything with Rokkor on it has been
first rate. Here are a couple I find very useful.
- 135mm F2.8 - This lens is fantastic for candid outdoor portraits.
Take it along to a picnic or other outdoor function and you are sure
to get some great people pictures. The other good thing about these
lenses is that they are plentiful (inexpensive).
- 100mm F3.5 macro - This lens will turn you into an avid macro photographer
in no time. Other lenses, such as the 135mm are better for general
photography because they are lighter and the focus system is better oriented
for that sort of use (not so much turning required to find proper focus).
You might want a good tripod, as well, in order to have better control
of depth of field, which is a huge factor in macro photography.
Off brand lenses
I have a couple of Kamero brand lenses. I bought these when I was
a youngster because I couldn't afford Rokkor lenses, .
- 2x teleconverer - This actually works quite well with a 50mm Rokkor.
When combined with a 50mm Rokkor, the system becomes a somewhat
macro 100mm , since minimum focus distance doesn't change with this telecoverter.
This is worth considering, if you can't afford a real 100mm macro.
It isn't very good, when combined with longer lenses.
- 35mm F2.8 - Believe it or not, I can't see any quality difference
between the pictures taken with this lens and my 50mm Rokkor (other than
focal length). Perhaps I just don't have very good eyesight.
Downside is that the f stop numbers don't line up with the viewfinder mirror.
This is a factor only if you have a camera that allows viewing
f-stop through viewfinder.
- 90-210 ZoomF4 - This lens has poor contrast and over time, the lens
elements have become hazy where they were glued together. I did get
one great picture from this lens, but that was because the low contrast
made the picture better.