Minolta Magic SR-1 at Paul Sokk’s Yashica TLR.com

My good friend Paul Sokk from Australia has complied a wonderful site dedicated primarily to the history (in great detail) of the Yashica TLR and its place in the overall history of this great Japanese company. Paul’s research has many branches and this is one of his latest.

Comparison of Yashica and Minolta SLRs

Yashica Pentamatic S
Minolta SR-1

(1961 Pentamatic S and 1962 Minolta SR-1, same body as 1958 SR-2 but with 1/500 top speed and by now, exposure meter mount like the Yashica plus fully automatic aperture.)

Why Minolta models? Similar specs, some parallels in market positions but an SLR success story at the time. Minoltas were made by Chiyoda Kōgaku (adopting its camera’s name in 1962) which was a much older photographic company than Yashica with it’s origins dating back to 1928. Yashica was Japan’s largest TLR maker, since 1958 looking to expand further into 35 mm. Chiyoda Kōgaku was probably Japan’s second largest TLR maker, a little more upmarket than Yashica but significantly lower volumes. On the the other hand, it was involved with other formats and had been making 35 mm rangefinder cameras since 1947. Neither were top tier makers at Nikon/Canon level but both had aspirations in that direction.

In 1958, Chiyoda Kōgaku released its first SLR, the Minolta SR-2. It offered no firsts but was noteworthy because it brought together all the advances in basic SLR camera design so far, except for the fully automatic aperture introduced by Zunow in the same year. In several ways, it was a more modern camera than the well-received Pentaxes from the period. Apart from including automatic film counter reset and a self-timer, the specifications were very similar to Yashica’s Pentamatic released in 1960 including a proprietary bayonet lens mount and the need to wind on the film to open the aperture again after it had automatically stopped down. In the late 1950s, even accomplishing the first half automatically was a major step so Minolta can perhaps be forgiven for initially calling their camera “automatic” but by 1960-61, it was marketing hyperbole for both makers.

Although well regarded and advanced for the time, it was expensive and competitors were challenging so Chiyoda Kōgaku followed up in 1959 with a budget version, the SR-1, which replaced the standard f/1.8 lens with an f/2 version (reverting to f/1.8 in 1962 as in the example above) and dropped the 1/1000 top speed to 1/500. Whilst the other specs and appearance remained the same, the lens line-up, particularly the auto lenses, was steadily increasing. The price of the SR-1 was much closer to the coming Pentamatic and whilst the sales of the flagship model were not earth shattering, the SR-1 sold truck loads. In 1961, the slightly updated SR-2 replacement, the SR-3, and the budget SR-1 both adopted fully automatic aperture diaphragms.

The table below compares features and price. In some respects the features are not all that different at first release. However, the Minolta SLR models had two years head start to establish themselves, as did other worthy competitors. In comparing the final 1961 cameras, the Minolta SR-3 with f/1.8 lens was the same price as the Pentamatic S. Both now had a self-timer and a mount for an external shutter coupled exposure meter (as did the SR-1 and Minolta even offered to upgrade earlier versions of the SR-1). The Minolta still had the advantage of the auto counter reset and later in the same year came the fully automatic diaphragm. It had 4 auto aperture accessory lenses and 7 preset lenses available, the Yashica just 5 preset lenses (the actual number of lenses is slightly rubbery depending on when they became available). The Yashica simply did not seem to offer enough at its price point to be a compelling newcomer.

Semi, auto
in 1961
Semi, auto
in 1961
Lensf/1.8f/2, f/1.8
from 1962
NoFrom 1962YesNoNoYes
No. of
Lenses at
3 preset4 auto,
2 preset
4 auto,
7 preset
2 preset5 preset5 preset
Price USA$249.50$169.50$199.50

* guess, advertised at “under $200 plus case”

Paul’s entire site features this kind of detail with little known facts about some familiar and not so familiar cameras. Please give Paul a shout out by visiting his site at http://www.yashicatlr.com

Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful day!

Comments are always welcomed as I’ve learned quite a bit from reader feedback. As always, thanks for stopping by and while you’re at it, feel free to visit my camera shop at http://www.ccstudio2380.com (CC Design Studios hosted by Etsy). – Chris Whelan

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