Minolta-35 – some camera history

It appears that I am forming a trend by introducing the next camera that I am going to post a restoration/repair … so here’s the next one.

Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko Kabushiki Kaisha … otherwise known as Minolta, started its first 35mm camera with the Minolta-35 rangefinder camera. The first model of this camera was released in 1947. Some say this camera was modelled against the Leica rangefinders … I don’t think so, I would say that they looked at the Barnack design and did something else with it. When you look at the Leica IIIC or the Canon S-II, both came out in 1947, they have very similar physical appearances. If you take the Minolta-35 and compare it … it immediately stands out as being a different camera.

One thing that I like about this camera is that it is NOT a bottom loader, and that is one big thing that distinguishes it from the Leica and Canon … though not the only thing, as it is quite taller. Other differences are the appearance of a flash shoe, viewfinder diopter adjustment, and a self-timer … very un-Leica.

You would think that with all these things the camera would become popular, especially with the non-Leica people … or even develop a cult following … but sadly it didn’t end up that way.

Possibly it was due to using the Nihon size format … possibly it was due to the lack of lenses (where have we heard that before) … possibly it was just too ugly for rangefinder shooters to consider?

There were many variations of the Minolta-35 with slight changes to try to improve, but I think it wasn’t enough to capture enough of the pie.

Here is a fine example of a Minolta-35 model II version B (not to be confused with the model IIb) with the Super Rokkor 50mm f/2. This particular camera required very little restoration, some exterior cleaning and new leather (I think it looks better brown than the original black).

The Super Rokkor lenses that were made for these cameras are highly regarded today. Most purchases of this camera is due to the lens being included.

I have the Super Rokkor 45mm f/2.8 and the 50mm f/2, and both exhibit great IQ. The 50mm f/2 was a 7 element lens !!! The 45mm f/2.8 was an interesting stubby lens that was commonly found with the older models.

Today the camera is considered an oddity in the LTM world, some have never heard of them even though the Minolta-35’s were made up to 1958. Many of these cameras have not survived very well due to the bad shutter material. The material gets stiff and brittle over time so if the camera has been sitting around it conforms to the shape of the rollers … many Minolta-35’s are on the market that are noted with requiring shutter replacement.


9 thoughts on “Minolta-35 – some camera history”

  1. I just ran across a model 35 E that is missing it’s frame around the rangefinder window, any idea for a source of replacement parts?

    Did you ever tackle the curtain replacement?

    1. Not really. I typically get parts from broken cameras off of eBay.

      Yes. Shutter curtain replacement is not easy. Rick Oleson has info on his CD.
      I hate replacing/servicing focal plane shutter curtains.

  2. I know this is an older post from this year; but I just lucked into getting my grandfathers 35 Model F and had a question. Do you happen to know the dimensions of the shutter or the length of the shutter strap?

    Somebody else in the family got to it before I did and appears to have allowed the camera to chew up the shutter. May be able to get the dimension of the shutter myself once I extract it, but really need the strap length so I can get the timing bang on.

    Willing to do a write up and take photos of the process of replacing the shutter in exchange for the much needed info btw. That way you and Andy up there don’t have to be the first out the foxhole without intel. 😀

    Any help is much appreciated, thanks.

    1. Sorry for the late reply.
      It appears to be about 60mm for right(front?) curtain and 80mm for left(back?) curtain.
      The shutter straps are 85mm long for both.

  3. Your camera looks very minty … great of you to show that you were able to replace the shutter curtains. I was thinking of trying this.
    … and now I know what the metal edge pieces are called.

    1. First comment but regular visitor to your site! I’ve learned a lot from your posts. I have a nice Retina, Autocord, Yashica EM…all in full working order thanks in part to your generous contributions.

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