Minolta SR-T 101: One year in

It’s been one year since I picked up my first SLR camera, film or digital. On a mild October Friday, I drove the Emeemobile into the depths of Clark County (Wash.) to meet a Craigslist seller in a suburban Fred Meyer parking lot. After a quick perusal, I handed the seller a Ulysses and had not only a Minolta SR-T 101 body, but also a PG-Rokkor 50mm f/1.4 lens, a Vivitar 28mm f/2.8mm, a leather Ever-Ready case, and manual. I spent the next month testing it out, and when I realized that there was something up with the mirror return, I dropped it off for repairs at Advance Camera and got back a better-than-new machine.

The whole SLR experience, where you compose a photo by actually looking through the lens vs a separate viewfinder, is definitely captivating and cool to me. The ability to use a plethora of different lenses is awesome. And there’s a certain feeling of being a “real photographer” when I use an SLR. When I was growing up, if you wanted to be serious about photography you got a 35mm SLR. These were the types of cameras you would need to purchase if you took any sort of photography class. I had wanted to get one in the 90s, but it took two decades for me to act on this.

The SR-T 101 set up for action. Sunset/Moonrise Ride at Cully Park, 24 June 2021. Taken with a Minolta Freedom Zoom 160 and Fuji Superia Xtra 400 film.

Of course, you don’t need an SLR to be a serious photographer, something I have learned over the past year or so. And I find that I don’t use my SR-T 101 as much as I thought. It’s just that other cameras suit my day-to-day needs better than a bulky SLR. I’d rather have compact cameras for biking.

I need to be in the right mindset for me to bring out the “big” camera. It’s usually when I either want a camera that can meter for film faster than ISO 800 (the SR-T can amazingly meter up to ISO 6400, but good luck trying to see the match needle with no light). Or I need shutter speeds slower than 1/4 second (the SR-T goes to one full second) or faster than 1/500 second (the SR-T goes to 1/1000 sect.) Or, I want to use lenses other than a 35-50mm prime and want a camera with more control than one of my compact super-zooms. I’ve been bringing along the SR-T 101 when I do my Sunset/Moonrise Rides since I usually bring my Rokkor 80-200 mm zoom in an attempt to get a good shot of the moon. (Note to self: Astrophotography is best achieved when I’m not leading a social ride.) I also pulled out the SR-T 101 when I needed to photograph Emee for work. It was going to be inside an office, so with my nice 50mm f/1.4 I was able to shoot without a flash, as that would be distracting.

Over the past year I’ve acquired a small stable of lenses. Besides the lenses mentioned above, I have a Celtic 135mm f/3.5 for when I want “telephoto” without the weight/length of that 80-200mm zoom lens. And on the recommendation of Jerome over at Earth, Sun, Film I just recently purchased a Rokkor MD 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom. At $50 this has been the most expensive lens I’ve bought. One good thing about the Minolta SR series of lenses is lower prices than say a comparable Nikon lens. This is because Minolta is a dead company (not as much of a cachet) and they switched mounts when they went to autofocus (now known as the Sony Alpha mount). So these SR series (also referred to as MC/MD series) lenses are not as desirable to modern digital shooters. Lucky for me! And despite the relative “cheapness” of Minolta/Rokkor lenses these days, they are great pieces of glass. Don’t let the low ticket prices fool you.

Self-Portrait with SR-T 101. Hillockburn Farm, Estacada OR, 28 Sept 2021. Fuji Superia Xtra 400 Film.

Yet the lens I use 95% of the time is that MC Rokkor-PG 50mm f/1.4. It’s a great lens and does well in low light. 50mm is not my optimal focal length (I’d prefer 40-45mm instead) but I can live with it, especially since I’m in love with the results.

Will I get another SLR? Perhaps. I’d definitely get another SR (MC/MD) mount Minolta, since I already have the lenses and don’t feel like investing in a new system. The Minolta XD-11/7, X-570, and XG-M are ones I’d consider. But I’m not in any hurry. If anything, I’d probably want to get a TLR that takes 120 film first. But who knows? Maybe one of those Minoltas will cross my path. In the meantime, I’ll keep on happily snapping with my SR-T 101.

For photos of/with my Minolta SR-T 101, see the dynamic flickr album below or click here.

Minolta SRT-101: A new acquisition
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