Olli Thomson

Category: Gear

Yashica MG-1

Last year while exploring the new to me world of 1970s rangefinders I regularly came across enthusiastic endorsements of the Yashica Electro 35 in its various iterations. That general enthusiasm was reflected in the prices of these cameras which sold for considerably more that I wanted to pay. While browsing Used Photo Pro one day I came across a Yashica MG-1. It looked like an Electro 35 and even had the distinctive Electro badge but it did not carry the Electro name. It was also in my price range at, as I recall, $22.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

My true love, and various other people, gave to me…

A TWELVE year old malt whisky. That’s a lie. It’s actually a 14 year old malt whisky but I didn’t have a fourteenth day available. To be specific, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14. I’ve never been a great fan of these experimental whiskies finished in all manner of casks but I once tried a 21 year old Glenfiddich finished in Cuban rum casks and it was excellent. Since then other whisky makers have joined the rum parade.

According to the Balvenie website they use traditional American oak casks and fill them with rum. This is different from the Glenfiddich approach where they bring in the casks directly from Caribbean rum producers. These days the Glenfiddich no longer identifies the specific origin of the casks. I wondered if the switch from the specifically Cuban provenance had anything to do with the American trade boycott, but one of the regional representatives for William Grant I met while in the Philippines told me the reason was that they were not able to guarantee supplies of a sufficient quality from Cuba alone so they had to look more widely. I haven’t opened this bottle yet but on the next cold wintry night I might have a taste.

Fixed It

My Konica Auto S3 had a little problem. The frame counter which should reset to ‘S’ when the back is opened would instead reset to ’18’. I say a little problem because the frame counter worked normally apart from this one issue. When it reached frame ’36’ I was still able to wind on and shoot to the end of the film even though the counter no longer counted. The one problem was that when I got into the second half of a loaded film I had no idea how many frames were left.

I couldn’t justify sending the camera away for such a minor problem since repairs on these old (around 1973) rangefinders are expensive. So I decided to try to do it myself. With some advice and guidance from a couple of classic camera repair groups and a few other sources I found online I took the top off the camera, worked out what the problem was and managed to fix it.

Testing Testing

I’m generally not inclined to test my cameras since I’m happy to go on the word of those who do this kind of thing for a living. A couple of days ago, though, taking a late night walk to get a little air I brought my X-T2 with me and took a few shots at various ISO settings to see how things looked. Generally speaking things looked very well. I didn’t go beyond ISO 6400 but the shots I took at that setting looked good to me and I would have no qualms about shooting at this sensitivity. Both of the images below were shot at ISO 6400 and are jpegs from lightly edited RAW files but no noise reduction has been applied. Click on the images for a larger version.

New Camera

I hadn’t planned to buy a new camera. Doesn’t stop me looking, obviously. Particularly around this time of year when Photokina, the world’s largest photography trade fair, takes place in Cologne. This is the time when the camera makers display their latest and greatest offerings.

I keep a particular eye on what Fujifilm is up to since I happen to have a Fujifilm camera, the X-E2, which has served me well for the last four years. (And will they ever change the brand name? The company is routinely referred to as just plain Fuji, and there’s every indication that Fuji’s commitment to film is less than wholehearted. So maybe it’s time to drop the ‘film’ bit. Perhaps they could go back to the old Fujica name.)

Minolta 35-70 Zoom

Many years ago in the early 90s when I was photographing with a Canon EOS film camera I  bought myself a Tamron 70-200 (or possibly 70-210) zoom. This was one of the cheap f4 – f5.6 models rather than the high end f2.8 version. It was rubbish. Even to my untrained eye I could see that the images were soft, the colours were washed out and contrast was almost non-existent. I concluded that cheap zooms were junk and never bought another one until many years later in the digital era when it seemed lens designers finally worked out how to make decent affordable zooms.

As a result of this experience I assumed that zooms of that era and certainly any that were even older were not worth having. Hence all of the manual focus Nikkors and Rokkors I have bought for my Nikon and Minolta SLRs, lenses which date from the 70s and 80s, have been primes. However, having read up as much as I could find on Minolta MD lenses online it seemed clear that there were a few exceptions and the 35-70 f3.5 was one of those. So when a decent copy turned up on Used Photo Pro for $75 it was too good to pass up.

The Minolta 24mm…

…or, to give it its full designation, the Minolta MD W.Rokkor-X 24mm 1:2.8.

This is an SR mount lens. The SR mount was introduced with Minolta’s first SLR, the SR-2, in 1958. (There was an SR-1, but it was released after the SR-2). All manual focus Minolta SLRs used the SR mount, but when Minolta switched to autofocus cameras the company developed a new mount. This mount, known as the Alpha mount, is still in use on Sony’s DSLRs. The MD designation identifies this as a lens specifically designed to work with the Minolta XD camera, introduced in 1977. The XD offered both aperture priority and shutter priority semi automatic exposure modes and required the use of XD lenses to make use of the shutter priority option. While earlier generations of SR lenses could be used on the XD in manual or aperture priority mode, they would not work properly on shutter speed mode.

The W indicates that this is a wide angle lens. With a handful of exceptions all Rokkor lenses between 17mm and 35mm had the W.Rokkor designation. Those over 100mm were known as Tele Rokkors, while zooms, obviously enough, were Zoom Rokkors.

Minolta XD

The Minolta XD-7 is another of those late 1970’s SLR’s that I was much taken with as a teenager, and another I could never afford. In my recent quest for an aperture priority SLR to complement my resolutely old school Nikon FM2n I hadn’t really considered the Minolta since they so rarely came up for sale. Then, a couple of weeks ago, shortly after having returned a non-functioning FE2, this camera popped up on Used Photo Pro in excellent condition for a little more than $100. Another $50 got me the Minolta 50mm f1.7 lens. After putting a roll of film through it I sent it off to Garry’s Camera Repair for a CLA. Since mine is an earlier version of the camera it was suffering from the common problem of shrinking leatherette, so I also had that replaced with the dark blue version shown in the image above.

A Collection of Two

I’m jealous of those folks who post pictures of their analogue camera collections on Facebook and Flickr. I would love to be in a position to assemble an array of these wonderful old machines. Sadly, that’s not possible since I move house, and country, every two or three years. The thought of trying to pack and then transport a collection of sometimes delicate, sometimes valuable cameras half way round the world every few years is all the disincentive I need.

So I have to be highly selective. Everything I own has to fit in a carry on alongside my two digital cameras. Earlier this week, my latest, and probably final, film camera arrived — a Minolta XD with a Rokkor MD 50/1.7 lens. That makes four film cameras in total (sort of) and that’s my limit, though obviously there will now be more Minolta lenses in my future.

Time, then, for a survey of my modest collection.

Konica C35

I was a frustrated teenage photographer, unable to afford the cameras that I saw in the window of Jessops in Belfast and in the pages of Amateur Photographer that I browsed — and occasionally bought — in Eason’s newsagents. This was the era of classic enthusiast film cameras — the Olympus OM system, the Pentax MX and ME, the Canon A series, the Minolta XD’s and my personal favourites, the Nikon FM and FE. Time passed and my enthusiasm passed with it, only rekindled much later in the era of the plastic, auto- everything camera.

Last year, though, I finally realised my teenage dream and acquired a very nice Nikon FM2n, rapidly followed by a set of Nikkor prime lenses. Tempted as I was to keep adding SLR’s (the OM-4 and XD-7 were particularly appealing) I decided that the next step was to add a smaller camera for those times when I wanted to carry something more discreet. This is when I discovered the world of compact rangefinders.


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