After settling on a Pentax 645 system, I had little interest in buying more gear. However, a few items have found their way to my door. There are three lenses, two cameras, and a book, and all charmed me with their reputations and unexpected affordability. Clearly, I had no choice.
Among camera folk, lens sharpness is right up there with film advance smoothness and shutter sound as a topic of discussion. I rarely join such conversations, but I must admit they catch my attention–at least some do. The only camera shutter that sounds really different to me is that on the XD11, so I have little to say about shutter sounds. As far as film advances are concerned, the only one I can distinctly recall is that of the Minolta ER. It turned so far that I thought it was broken the first time I tried it. Even now, the throw seems abnormally far, but I could not begin to characterize its smoothness. Mention sharpness, though, and my ears perk up.
Among Minolta lens fans, a few lenses are always spoken of in reverent tones: the 58mm f1.2 and 85mm 1.7 are typical examples. These lenses are widely discussed and reviewed on blogs and YouTube. They are known for their character–bokeh, color rendition, contrast, and even physical beauty–but, though highly regarded, I have never heard them praised for sharpness at their maximum apertures.
While rummaging through old forum posts, I kept reading about three lenses that were sharp wide-open, none of which I knew much about: the 100mm f2.5, 24mm 2.8, and 200mm f4. I found the 24mm at a reasonable price a few months ago. The 100mm 2.5 and 200mm f4 are recent rewards for off-hours eBay visits. I’ll tell the story of their acquisition in a future post. For now, I’ll say their sharpness has not been exaggerated!
Black cameras are a thing, at least among Minolta fans—particularly the early SR and SR-T models. Searching for black Minoltas can be frustrating because they rarely go on sale, especially not in good condition. Due to cost and rarity, I never expected to own any. All of my black cameras have been accidental discoveries that I stumbled upon while looking for something else.
Here are my new SR-1 and SR-7 cameras. Both are in decent condition (the SR-1 is flat-out nice) and work. I bought the SR-1 because I had no idea they came in black (and it was inexpensive). At first, I thought it was a fake, but collectors assured me it was authentic. I knew the SR-7 came in black, but I bought it because the seller said in the listing that the meter worked. A working meter on an SR-7 (produced from 1962-66) makes this black camera even more rare.
The SR-7 is significant historically because it was the first SLR with a coupled CdS meter. This SR-7 came with a lens and another working camera, so when averaged, it cost no more (and maybe slightly less) than a typical SR-7. I could not let it go. There are two SR models that I don’t have in black—the SR-2 and SR-3. I have never seen a black SR-3 for sale. Even regular SR-3s rarely show up. The last time I checked, a black SR-2 in working condition cost well over 2000.00—I’ll pass.
I have searched for photography books regularly since 2019, and I have quite a few. Some are great, and others I’m glad only cost a few dollars. Somehow, in all that searching, I never came across listings for the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. While finding a major reference work with everything I wanted is a big deal, the bigger deal is that my copy looks like it was never used, AND the CD-ROM is still attached, unopened, inside the back cover! All for 13.50!!!
With the last two lens additions, I now have a complete set of vintage Minolta primes with one example of each major focal length. As with the 58mm f1.2 and 85mm f1.7, I never imagined owning them. And now that I do, they will be included in the VMLP. After unexpected delays this spring and summer, I’m hoping to pick up the pace and produce more frequent reports.
Who knows what the future brings, but for now, at least, it looks bright!
Those are beautiful cameras and lenses. Looking forward to reading more about your experiences with them!
Glad you found Earth,Sun, Film! I’ve just finished a preliminary round of testing, and so far, everything is wonderful! I hope to have a few user reports up over the next few weeks!