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.

picture of srt

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 7/13/2003)
(or tinkering with cameras, 101)

So far, I've been inside of 3 different SRT's, a couple of Canonets and a Rolleicord.

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 SLR.

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 problem.

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.

  1. Slow shutter at higher speeds
  2. Exposure problems
  3. Fungus on the included 50mm lens
  4. Focus problems (not specified as camera or lens issue)
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.

I haven't manage to remove the fungus from the lens, but I haven't given up, either.

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.
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, .

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