We’re back with another ridiculous explosion of camera parts, and this time we’ve completely disassembled an old, broken down Minolta SRT-201. This all-mechanical marvel of Japanese ingenuity comes from one of the best line-ups of SLRs ever, Minolta’s SRT range.
Well-known for their incredible durability, all-metal construction, and fully-mechanical operation, these machines were long-lived workhorses of photo-journalists and pro photographers back in the day, and their excellent DNA ensures they’re still clanking away today.
We reviewed the Minolta SRT-202 last year, and found it to be a fantastic machine with very few drawbacks. We found its outstanding CLC metering system to be particularly noteworthy, and getting a peak at how it’s actually built is pretty damn interesting.
We’re also quite impressed by the watch-like construction of the camera’s self-timer assembly. So impressed were we that we made a video, so you too can see it ticking away like a fine timepiece.
For amazing camera porn, our video, and insights, read on.
Dissimilar to our first “exploded” camera, Canon’s AE-1, this Minolta relies very little on electronics and circuitry. In the lower right of the above photo, you’ll see a wound bundle of wires. These make up the entirety of the wiring found in this camera, and they delicately span between the battery, metering cells, flash connectors, and hot-shoe – that’s it.
You’d think such a technologically limited machine would offer only rudimentary exposure metering, but as we touched on earlier, Minolta’s CLC system is one of the best and most accurate systems found on any vintage camera we’ve tested.
An abbreviation of Contrast Light Compensation, this metering system uses two cells to detect light values in two separate locations of the pentaprism. This was the first system in the world to do so, and it gave Minolta’s machines a decided advantage over their more commonly lauded competition.
Above, we can see the CLC badging modestly placed on the lens surround. To the right we can also see the strap lugs, their mounting points, and plastic strap holds (some of the only plastic found on this machine). Further right we can see a super-fine, reactive lever which operates in conjunction with the light meter. This lever floats within the viewfinder, rising and falling to indicate a light value in real time using through-the-lens metering.
Below, we can see the photo cells mounted to the pentaprism. The main cell is mounted below and we can see it through the prism, while the smaller one has been pulled away to show the mounting mechanism.
Below is an assortment of dials, discs, gears, and springs, all of which fit beneath the top plate and offer information and control over settings such as ISO, and shutter speed. Note that there are quite literally zero plastic components, a far cry from the machines produced by Minolta’s more cost-conscious competition. Nothing here but brass, steel, aluminum, etc. Beautiful.
Continuing the theme of high-quality materials, the use of brass pervades every mechanism of the SRT. Minolta was originally founded as a German-Japanese cooperative, and the internals of this camera seem more akin to the Leicas of the world, rather than reflecting the construction typically offered by machines from the Land of the Rising Sun.
Don’t think we’re besmirching Japanese cameras. After all, some of the best machines in the history of photography have come from Japan (including this Minolta). But certainly the copious use of higher specification material for the SRT’s gears, springs, and levers is a far cry from the previously explored Canon AE-1, which used plastic components almost exclusively.
Below we can see more of the precision brasswork, super-fine gears, and minuscule mechanisms. In the center of the frame is an assembly that we touched on earlier; it’s the self-timer lever, and it’s one of the most impressive bits of machinery we’ve encountered in our time tinkering with cameras.
Looking as if it belongs within a fine, mechanical wristwatch, this ultra-compact packet of springs, gears, and armatures helped create 1970s style selfies.
Removed from the camera we can actuate the lever with a pair of pliers, press the release button, and watch as the formerly inert chunk of metal springs magically to life.
But why stop at just a photo. We’ve made a quick video. While we admit this may be appealing only to simpletons such as ourselves, we can’t help love tiny machines. Sorry.
We won’t divulge how many times we’ve watched that mechanism do its thing. What can we say? We’re nerds.
And here’s one last shot of the whole package. Isn’t it beautiful?
As always, we hope you’ve enjoyed this unique perspective on one of the best classic cameras around. If there’s a camera you’d love to see from the inside out, let us know in the comments.
The shots from this feature will be joining our other Exploded View prints in our print shop shortly, so take a look if you fancy hanging a bit of visually interesting photographic history on your wall.
Want an SRT of your own?
Buy it on eBay
Buy it on Amazon
Buy it from our own F-Stop Cameras