VMLP 26: Minolta SR-T SC-II—I never saw it coming

About two years ago, I spied what looked to be a nearly mint black SR-T 101 in a large eBay lot of four lenses, three books, an SR-T SC-II, and a pack of SR-T spare parts. Hoping to fulfill my dream of owning a black 101, I wrote to the seller asking if the 101 worked. He replied that the shutter worked, but he had no idea whether the meter did. Eager to have my dream SR-T, I made an offer for the lot.

When the lot arrived, I inspected the items, then put them away. I set the 101 aside, expecting to test the meter within a few days. Days stretched into weeks, then months, until I put the Black Beauty away before I scratched it. It was almost a year before I got it out again. At no point was I concerned about the meter because there was no way I was returning the camera.

From the outset, I planned to keep the lenses—an MC Rokkor 58mm 1.4, MD Rokkor 45mm f2, MD Rokkor 50mm 1.7, and an Auto Rokkor 55mm 1.8–and sell the SC-II and the parts. The books fit perfectly in my Minolta library.

I did not revisit the lot until it was time to test my recently acquired 58mm 1.2. And who else would I give the honor to except the Black Beauty? Having returned to the lot, I decided it was time to prepare the SC-II and other items for sale. I popped a Wein cell into the SC-II, lifted it to my eye, and was, to my absolute astonishment, shocked to see a split-image focusing screen! The lack of a split-image focus screen is the only gripe I have against the SR-T 101.

The SC-II had a small dent but was otherwise in good condition—almost as nice as the 101. All shutter speeds seemed accurate, the film advance was smooth, and the meter was within 1/2 stop compared to my metering app. A perfectly functional SC-II had sat for a year, forgotten because I was so taken by the 101. Through three rolls of film, the SC-II has performed well.

Historical Background
Minolta introduced the first of the SR-T series, the SR-T 101, in 1966. With the SR-T 101, Minolta introduced through-the-lens metering (TTL). Two CdS cells were used to perform contrast light compensation (CLC), which helped to prevent the meter from being biased by bright light sources within the metering field. I have a warm spot for the 101 because it was my first Minolta  bought with college work-study earnings many years ago. The first iteration of the SC line was released in 1973, six years after the 101.

The SC-II was sold exclusively by Sears and is described by the Rokkor Files as a slight downgrade from the SR-T 201. These department store models had slightly fewer features than the regular SR-T line and could be sold at a lower price. The SC-II was released in 1977, and I have one of the later models because the earlier SC-II models had micro-prism screens without the split-screen focusing aid. Also, my copy clearly has “CLC” on the front, even though the Rokkor Files mentions that feature being removed for the SC-II. It seems that the most significant missing feature is the self-timer, which I would not dare touch if it were present. I’ve seen too many jammed shutters due to stuck self-timers.

I ignored the SC-II because I had assigned it to the “department store brand” group of cameras, cameras that I never accorded the same status as those sold through camera stores. Has anyone ever bragged about owning a department store camera? But they are Minoltas, and this SC-II has the focus screen I longed for, and it works great. My apologies to all.

Inspection and Appearance
This SC-II has a small ding but otherwise looks very good for its age. The mirror foam could use an update, and the light seals are old, but both have held up well. SR-Ts have simple controls–a rewind crank, shutter speed dial, and film advance—nice and simple. Sometimes I crave simple, and sometimes I want to sit in the captain’s chair on the bridge of the Enterprise. Fortunately, there is no reason to choose one to the exclusion of the other. The luster of the metal still comes through after all these years, and even the leatherette looks good. The film compartment and shutter look fine as well. All controls work well.

The viewfinder on SR-Ts somehow seems larger than on other Minoltas. Perhaps they seem brighter because they are uncluttered. (I think I like the Maxxum 7000 viewfinder for the same reason.) Nothing is asking for attention except the shutter speed setting and the match needle meter indicator.

Function and Handling
Weight-wise, SR-Ts are heavy compared to later Minoltas. Attaching a large lens, like the MC Rokkor-X 80-200mm, as I did, makes that weight difference noticeable quickly. In particular, I noticed my arm shaking a little while trying to focus on a hanging tree branch. I’m pretty sure that never happened with another lens/camera combo.

Although there is no aperture info in the display, after a bit of shooting, one gets a sense of aperture by looking at the match needle display. The lower the matching circle, the larger the set aperture. That relationship on my MC Rokkor-X 55mm f1.7 means that f8 is about halfway between the highest and lowest positions.

The battery compartment and metering “On-Off” switch are on the camera’s bottom. Unlike the original 101, the SC-II battery compartment can be opened with a coin. I used Wein cells without any problems. The metering switch is a pain because it is easy to forget, and Wein cells are not cheap. Besides this minor gripe, the SC-II is a clean, simple tool that quickly fades into the background, letting one’s imagination take over. It only takes a short while to get into the rhythm of shooting with the SR-T SC-II—pick a subject, adjust speed/aperture, focus, and fire.

Shooting
The SR-T SC-II was my companion for three outings. The first was with the MC-Rokkor-X 80-200mm and Lomo 100CN. Next, I went with Kentmere 400, the 80-200mm, and a new-to-me MC Rokkor 55mm f1.7. The final outing was with Kentmere 100 and the MD Zoom 28-85mm.

The first outing with the Lomo 400 was on a bright, sunny day. The last two, unfortunately, were on rare dark, rainy July days. I found myself shooting scenes with very dark foregrounds compared to the cloudy skies. These situations seemed to trick the metering system because many of those frames were underexposed, while those taken with the lightbox or on sunny days were fine.  Also, I had to shoot the MC Rokkor 80-200mm, wide-open in low light, so the B&W images are darker than I prefer.

All shooting was done to prepare the camera for sale, as I wanted to be sure there were no light leaks or metering issues. In the process, I began to envy that split-image focusing aid. Neither my SR-T 101 nor 201 have that feature.

Impression
The SC-II sat unused and unexamined for more than a year. Had I never intended to sell it, it would likely still be tucked away in a bin. While it lacks some features of SR-T 201, it has everything I need. Nothing I shoot requires either a self-timer or mirror lockup, so it works for me.

With old cameras, one never knows what to expect, but this silver box works fine. Yes, it is on the heavy side, but I must say, after carrying it around a few days, the weight is not nearly as much of an issue as I had imagined. All controls work well, and metering is fine—what more could anyone ask for?

While buying eBay lots for the lenses they contained, I amassed a collection of camera bodies that take up space I could use for other things. The SC-II was one of those bodies, along with two additional working silver SR-T 101s. I had planned to sell the SC-II and keep one of the silver 101 bodies for sentimental reasons. Well, sentiment lost to common sense, and the SR-T SC-II is staying. Fortunately, math offers a way to keep the SR-T SC-II and say goodbye to the two silver SR-T 101 with a clear conscience. Sears sold the Minolta SR-T SC-II—I worked at Sears the summer after freshman year— I bought my first SR-T 101 while in college. Therefore, by the transitive property of owning cameras, I can keep the SR-T SC-II guilt-free. (Feel free to check my math.) Algebra can be very handy!

10 Comments

  1. Here’s a million dollar question. Have you posted a list of all the Minolta’s you own on your site?

      1. Now the two million dollar question: Do you have a photo of them all together at the same time?

        1. Author

          I tried to once—-to much trouble.

  2. Nice. I’ve seen the department-store SR-Ts here and there and always assumed they’d be as great at the regular SR-Ts, but I’ve never bought one to know for sure!

    1. Author

      Yeah, I’ve always just assumed the department store models were missing critical features. But this SC-II has all the features I need.

  3. Cool! I’ve thought about getting the SR-T-MC, as that was the Kmart model. I worked at Kmart, but a good decade plus after the MC was being sold there!

    There’s another “only at Kmart” Minolta that interests me, and that’s the Minolta Hi-Matic ES, a fixed-lens rangefinder that was a stripped-down version of the Hi-Matic E. I’ve only seen one specimen on eBay, and it was perpetually the same one since the seller wanted WAY too much for it. (They also included a light meter in the sale, which is funny, since the ES is auto-exposure with no possible exposure override!)

    1. Author

      Sounds like the math is on your side too! It is so easy to ignore the department store models, but thinking about it, most of the features missing are minor. The MC does not show the shutter speed or have a split-image focus aid, so that might affect buying decisions. I wonder if my SC-II is a hybrid/put together. It has a memo holder, which SC-II models are not supposed to have.

      1. Yeah, some of the features they delete for the department store models are not always needed. Though I do like and use the mirror lock-up on my SR-T 101.

        I’ve been happy with my XD5, which lacks the safe-load indicator, viewfinder blind, and aperture info in viewfinder of the XD.

        1. Author

          You just reminded me that I bought an XD5 last year, and aside from testing the meter, I have never used it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.