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You are hereHome > History > Minolta

Brief History of Minolta Cameras

 

When I was still in my teen years, my older cousin visited one day and showed my brother and I his brand new 110mm camera: a Minolta Pocket Autopak 50. What impressed me the most about this compact camera was its clear, big and bright viewfinder. Other cameras I was familiar with at that time had small viewfinders you had to squint into. With its drop-in film cartridge and automatic operation, the Minolta Pocket Autopak 50 was so easy--and a pleasure--to use. Its compact size also meant that it could be carried everywhere to all the family get-togethers.

The positive first impression that this simple point-and-shoot camera had upon me has stayed with me all these years, and isn't it this the reason we stay with the brands we do today? Camera manufacturers should never underestimate their customers, be they advanced amateurs who want flexibility and top-notch quality features or the point-and-shoot crowd who just want a simple, easy to use camera. Many point-and-shoot beginners are just young customers getting their first cameras and who will grow up to be the future advanced amateurs and professional photographers.

Minolta is one camera manufacturer that seems to have kept this in mind as it moved into the digital photography age. Here is a brief history of Minolta cameras:

1929. The Nifcalette is Minolta's first camera. Minolta, then known as the Nichi-Doku Shashinki Shoten (Japan-Germany Camera Company), was established a year earlier, in 1928, by Kazuo Tashima.

 

In 1937, the Minolta Flex is the first double-lens reflex camera manufactured in Japan.

1958. The Minolta SR-2 is Minolta's first SLR camera.

1962. John Glenn blasts into space on board the Friendship 7, America's first manned spacecraft to orbit the earth, with the 'Right Stuff' -- a specially modified Minolta Hi-Matic camera. Note how the camera is used upside down with a folding viewfinder mounted to the base of the camera.

Minolta Hi-Matic

July 1962. Company officially changes its name to Minolta Camera Co., Ltd.

1966. The Minolta SR-T101 SLR camera features through-the-lens (TTL) light metering.

1972. A technological cooperation agreement is signed with Ernst Leitz Wetzlar, the manufacturer of Leica cameras.

1973. The Minolta CL is Minolta's first camera produced in collaboration with Leica.

1976. Leica and Minolta introduce the Leica R3.

Minolta produces the Leica R3, R4 and R5 models.

 

1981. The Minolta CLE is the world's first 35mm range meter linked TTL-AE camera.

1981. Introduction of the Minolta X-700 SLR.

1985. The introduction of the Minolta MAXXUM-7000, the world's first autofocus SLR, shakes up the camera industry and becomes an instant hit. Nikon and Canon race to catch up.

To understand a little bit the impact that Minolta's introduction of the first autofocus SLR camera had at that time, here's an anecdote one of our readers, David Yan, sent us: "In my memory, minolta was the first camera manufacturer which brought auto focus into cameras in their 7000 and 9000 series. Because of this, I traded my Nikon F2 for both of them at their release (I wear glasses and auto focus does help a lot in focusing)."

[Editor's note: Some people may object and will name the Pentax ME-F with its one motorized AF lens as the first ever AF SLR. Indeed Pentax claims the ME-F as "the world's first TTL autofocus camera (1981)." That's 4 years before the Minolta Maxxum-7000! So why does History seem to give the credit to Minolta and not Pentax? Probably because the design of the AF in the Pentax ME-F was not quite successful and was later abandoned. So, the industry as a whole seems to agree that, though there were various attempts at making and marketing an AF SLR (and in this strict sense, the Pentax ME-F was the first), it is however Minolta that should get the credit for succeeding in making a "true AF" SLR. We leave it up to our readers to make up their own mind.]

1988. The Minolta Weathermatic Dual 35 is the world's first water and dust resistant dual focal point compact camera.

1988. The Minolta MAXXUM 7000i is the world's first auto-focus SLR camera with an intelligent card system.

1992. The Minolta MAXXUM 9xi is the world's first auto-focus SLR camera with a shutter speed of 1/12,000 sec.

1994. Company changes name to Minolta Co., Ltd. to reflect the fact that it sells much more than cameras.

1995. The Minolta RD-175 is a SLR style 1.75 megapixels digital camera.

1996. Introduction of the Minolta VECTIS series that uses Advanced Photo System (APS).

1997. The Minolta DiMAGE V is a digital camera that features a removable lens unit that can be rotated.

1998. The Minolta MAXXUM 9 autofocus SLR targets professional photographers.

2001. The Minolta DiMAGE 7 features 5 megapixels resolution and 7x optical zoom.

Minolta cameras have their ardent fans around the world, and for good reasons. Never satisfied to follow, Minolta designers and engineers have not been afraid to strike out with innovative solutions that have been warmly welcomed by amateur and professional photographers alike, and that have quickly been copied by competitors. This propensity for innovation can be seen in its current line-up of digital cameras.


Friday, January 19, 2006

Minolta Digital Cameras

Konica Minolta Withdraws From Camera and Photo Business

It's a crowded market and it was bound to happen sooner or later. But when it comes, it's still a surprise. The big news today is that of Konica Minolta being the first of the major camera manufacturers to withdraw from the camera and photo business altogether. Blaming the difficulty "to timely provide competitive products even with our top optical, mechanical and electronics technologies," they have announced the following decisions:
- Transfer camera assets to Sony effective March 2006.
- Phase withdrawal from the photo business by the end of March 2006 (Minilab), March 2007 (color film and color paper) and September 2007 (all photo sales activities).
- Reduce worldwide Konica Minolta Group employees by 3,700 from the current 33,000 including early retirement offering by September 30, 2007.

[ Read the whole story... ]


If you have any anecdote about any of the above cameras that you think might be interesting to share with other readers, please send them to us.

Source: Minolta History
   
And now to the present: Minolta Digital Cameras
   

Readers' Anecdotes:

In 1934 Minolta introduced the first folding camera that used a type of plastic instead of leather for the bellows. There were 3 models: the Best, the Vest and the Marble. These were 127 roll film cameras. I personally have a Marble that was my Grandfather's and it still takes great pictures. Thank you internet and Freestyle Photographic Supplies for making 127 and other odd film sizes available to us who refuse to give up on great older cameras!

References: AOL, Camerapedia

-- Clay James (September 4, 2006)

The Maxxum-7000 was not the first auto-focus 35mm SLR; it was just the first commercially successful one. The first auto-focus 35mm SLR was the Pentax "ME F", in 1981. Only one AF lens was ever made for it, the AF 35-70/2.8. When Pentax reintroduced auto-focus in 1987 with the SF1, it was with a new auto-focus format that was incompatible with the ME F and its 35-70/2.8.

-- Greg Lovern (June 30, 2005)

In your Minolta history, you might mention the XD7 which came out
around 1978 (?) and was, I believe, the world's first SLR with both aperture and shutter priority modes. I still have mine and it is beautiful, made near the pinnacle of camera engineering before they all became plastic boxes full of electronics!

-- Paul Goss (July 4, 2003)

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