Up a level         
Minolta SR-1 - 1961
Email support   Main website

• Minolta's second SLR

• One of first perfected mnimalist SLRs

• $169.50 with f2 lens in 1960 ($1249 in 2010 dollars)

Minolta introduced its first SLR, the SR-2, at the same 1959 Philadelphia show where Nikon introduced its F and Canon introduced its Canonflex, but Minolta didn't quite bring off what its rivals did, because the SR-2 didn't have an instant-reopen diaphragm. Minolta advertised it (see below) as being automatic, which it was in the sense that it reopened by itself, but not until you wound the shutter and advanced the film.

The SR-2 was too expensive at $250, so just a few months later Minolta came out with the SR-1 at only $170, identical except for a slower fastest shutter speed and a slower standard lens. In the ad below, you can see that Minolta said it was "[f]or the professional who won't spend $250 or more for an automatic single lens reflex."

Considering the small differences, the real purpose of the inflated $250 price tag on the SR-2 was to sell more SR-1s--it made $170 for nearly the same camera seem like an incredible bargain. That their first SLR was called the SR-2 was a tip-off that the SR-1 was planned from the start. Minolta knew how to make cameras and lenses, and they knew how to market them, too. (Canon didn't.)

Buying an SR-2 on eBay cost more than I wanted to pay, so I settled for an SR-1 as a substitute. Close enough for the purposes of my collection.

Minolta made five models of the SR-1; mine is the third (sometimes called model C), by which time they had indeed made the diaphragm instantly reopening. (They added that to the SR-2 at the same time.) The next model included a bracket for an external meter to the right of the lens, requiring the move of the "SR-1" lettering to the other side.

I call the Minolta SR-1 one of the first perfected minimalist cameras because it had the essential features of a mechanical SLR and no others: focal-plane shutter, bayonet lens mount, instant return mirror, instant reopen diaphragm, self-timer (maybe not essential), and pentaprism. A wide assortment of lenses, too. But no mirror lock-up or removable finder or depth-of-field preview or motor drive or anything else non-essential (the Nikon F did have them, of course). A couple of years later I bought a Konica FP that was similarly minimalist. Until photographers decided they had to have meters and, later, auto-focusing, these mechanical cameras were both perfect and moderately priced.

Minolta SR-1Ad from Popular Photography, August 1960; note that they use the phrasing "completely automatic diaphragm" instead of the phrasing that Nikon used, "instant reopen" (which it wasn't).Ad from Popular Photography, Jan. 1961Ad from Popular Photography, April 1962

©2011-14 Marc Rochkind. All rights reserved.