Camerapedia
Advertisement

Minolta (ミノルタ, minoruta) was a Japanese company that, under one name or another, manufactured cameras from 1929 to 2003. It produced cameras for many film formats, from 16mm film to medium format. In the 1950s Chiyoda, as it was then called, ventured beyond production of cameras and binoculars into business services, especially photocopiers. Most branches of the company were related to optics: the copier branch, the exposure meter branch, etc. Minolta was succeeded by Konica Minolta after the merger with Konica in 2003.

History

Prewar period

The company was founded in Osaka on November 11, 1928 by Kazuo Tashima, under the name Nichidoku Shashinki Shōten (日独写真機商店, meaning Japan-German Camera Store).[1] Tashima got support from the German camera technicians Billy Neumann and Willy Heilemann, and the first cameras used lenses and shutters imported from Germany. A plant was built in Mukogawa (武庫川), in the prefecture of Hyōgo (兵庫県).[2] The first camera produced by the company was the Nifcarette released in 1929.

In 1931 the company was transformed into a stock corporation named Molta Gōshi-gaisha (モルタ合資会社), where Molta is an abbreviation of the German "Mechanismus Optik und Linsen von Tashima" ("Mechanism, Optics and Lenses by Tashima").[3] The name Minolta was applied for and registered in 1933,[4] and it was first used for a camera plainly called Minolta, a copy of the Plaubel Makina I. Many sources say that the name was crafted from "Mechanismus, Instrumente, Optik und Linsen von Tashima" ("Mechanism, Instruments, Optics and Lenses by Tashima") but it is more likely a backronym, inspired by (i) minoru ta (稔る田), "ripening rice-fields" (a strong image of health and fruitfulness in Japan, and in Japanese pronounced identically to "Minolta"), and (ii) "Molta" itself.[5] The company name and brand name would differ until 1962.

In 1934, the company released the Minolta Vest, originally designed by Ehira Nobujirō, with an innovative system of collapsible boxes replacing the bellows. The Semi Minolta was announced at the very end of 1934 and sold from 1935. It was the second or third 4.5×6cm camera made in Japan.[6] In 1936, the company created the subsidiary Nippon Kōgaku Kikai Kenkyūjo (日本光学機械研究所, meaning Japanese Opto-mechanical Research Institute) in the city of Amagasaki (尼崎市), in the Hyōgo prefecture, to manufacture the bakelite cameras such as the Minolta Vest, Minolta Six and Baby Minolta.[7] This subsidiary was soon merged into the main company, and became the Amagasaki plant.[8] In February 1937, the company opened a third plant in the city of Sakai (堺市), in the Osaka prefecture.[9]

In September 1937, the company became Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō K.K. (千代田光学精工㈱, meaning Chiyoda Optics and Precision Industry Co., Ltd.), abbreviated "Chiyoko" (千代光) on some logos and publications.[10] The same year, it introduced a couple of expensive advanced cameras. The Auto Semi Minolta was the first serial produced Japanese camera with a combined range- and viewfinder, the Auto Press Minolta, an evolution of the Makina copy, was the first Japanese camera synchronized for flash and the Minolta Flex was the second Japanese 6×6 TLR.[11] In 1939, a fourth plant opened in Komatsu (小松), specialized in machine tools.[12]

Chiyoda began manufacturing its own Rokkor lenses in 1940, but they were only for military use.[13] It also produced military ordnance, including hand-held cameras for aerial reconnaissance. The Japanese Navy asked the company to open a glass melting facility in 1942; the plant was built in Itami and only operational in 1944.[14] All the plants ended up participating to the war effort: Mukogawa, Amagasaki, Sakai, Komatsu and Itami.[15] The civilian camera production was stopped around 1943.[16] The same year 1943, the company also took over Fujimoto's plant in the city of Nishinomiya (the former Neumann & Heilemann factory), which became Chiyoda's Nishinomiya (西宮) plant.[17]

The Mukogawa, Amagasaki and Komatsu (小松) plants were destroyed by aerial bombing.[18] The Sakai, Itami and Nishinomiya plants survived the war, as well as a dispersal plant in Honsha (本社).[19]

Early postwar period

The company resumed camera production shortly after the war with the Semi Minolta III. This camera was equipped with a Rokkor 75/3.5 that was the first Japanese coated lens commercially available, and also the first lens made by the company for civilian use.[20] The company also absorbed the optical section of the Toyokawa Navy Arsenal (Aichi prefecture), which became the Toyokawa (豊川) plant in November 1946.[21]

In 1950, Chiyoda released the Konan-16 Automat, a subminiature camera that used its own 16mm film format. Throughout the 1950s, the range consisted of TLR cameras, 4.5×6 folders, 35mm viewfinder and rangefinder cameras and 16mm subminiature cameras.

Introduction of the SLR

In 1958 Chiyoda produced its first planetarium projection apparatus[22] and in the same year it introduced the SR-2, its first 35mm SLR camera and one of the first to combine several features of the modern SLR like pentaprism viewfinder, instant-return mirror, bayonet mount lenses, lever advance and auto-resetting frame counter. In 1959 Chiyoda started to produce photocomposing machines, copiers, and special projectors. Some of these products are still (2007) produced by its successor Konica Minolta. In 1962 the company name became Minolta Camera K.K. (ミノルタカメラ㈱, meaning Minolta Camera Co.), unified with the brand name. In 1964 Minolta began the production of versatile and sensitive light meters. The Minolta SR-T series of SLR cameras introduced in 1966 was a big success and the Minolta SR-T 101 was the world's best selling camera of its type in its time.source needed

Cooperation with Leitz

Minolta signed a cooperation agreement with Leitz in June 1972, entering a new phase of cooperation with German experts.[23] The first products resulting from this appeared in 1974: the Minolta XE SLR and the Leica CL rangefinder camera (sold in Japan as the Leitz Minolta CL). The XE was the basis for the 1977 Leica R3. The final result of the association with Leitz was the Minolta XD-11 (the same as XD-7, and the basis of the Leica R4). It was the first 35mm SLR camera combining both aperture priority and shutter priority automatic exposure modes. Many Rokkor lenses of the new MD series, usable in both automatic modes, were produced for this exciting camera.

In 1981, Minolta launched the CLE, a rangefinder camera with M-mount, the first one to have (aperture-priority) automatic exposure. The metering system was of the "TTL OTF" type (through the lens, reflected off the film), first introduced by Olympus in 1975 on the OM-2 SLR camera. The CLE was also the first Minolta camera to have TTL flash automation, together with the X-700 SLR introduced the same year. After the heady days of the XD/XE series, the X-700 marked a definite return to the amateur-level market. While the new camera had TTL flash, it was equipped with only a 1/60s maximum flash synch and an ordinary cloth horizontal-travel shutter, and the interior mechanisms utilized more cost-saving plastics. With a large investment in a new autofocus SLR design, Minolta decided to withdraw from building professional-level manual-focus SLR cameras.

In 1982 the company's founder Kazuo Tashima stepped down as president of the company, and his son Hideo Tashima became his successor. Kazuo Tashima stayed in the company as chairman of the board until his death in 1985, at the age of 85.

The Nishinomiya plant, which hosted research and development activities as well as a service center, was closed in April 1985.[24]

Automation

The Minolta 7000 AF SLR camera was introduced in 1985. It was the world's first "in-body" autofocus SLR. Before this time manufacturers had dabbled with lenses that focused themselves but that fitted their existing, manual-focus SLR cameras. Unlike other manufacturers, Minolta invested much of its resources in the new autofocus cameras, at the expense of its manual focus SLRs, which were repositioned as amateur level cameras. It was the first manufacturer to put the mechanism and electronics for the autofocus system into its SLR camera bodies and so the modern SLR was born.[25] The rest of the camera had an advanced design, with liquid crystal screen display, built-in film winder, and a body built largely of plastics.

For five years beginning in 1985, Minolta was the biggest seller of SLR cameras in the worldsource needed, because of the 7000 and the later Alpha/Dynax/Maxxum system. However Minolta did not hang on to its technological lead for long as Canon and Nikon both introduced new autofocus designs of their own, with a wide array of new lenses and professional bodies. Minolta in turn tended to concentrate on the affordable end of the SLR market, and sought revolutionary rather than evolutionary changes. Among camera aficionados, Minolta was known both for its very high performance-to-price ratio and its constantly changing array of new models.

After popularizing the plastic-bodied, push-button-controlled SLR with the 7000, and a relatively unsuccessful line of complex 35mm SLRs with a electronic 'expansion card' feature, the company moved towards a more traditional user interface in the mid-90s with the 600si Classic. This interface was carried forward into its popular pro-level Minolta Alpha/Dynax/Maxxum 9 and later, the Maxxum 7. Unfortunately for Minolta, its autofocus design was found to infringe on the patents of Honeywell, a U.S. corporation. After protracted litigation, Minolta in 1991 was ordered to pay Honeywell damages, penalties, trial costs and other expenses in a final amount of 127.6 million dollars.

Like other camera manufacturers, Minolta faced difficulties in building low-priced, consumer level cameras, though its emphasis on this sector of the market may have affected the company more than some other brands. The company was one of the first to offshore production of its cameras from Japan to Malaysia, China, and other countries offering less expensive labor costs. Minolta occasionally redesigned parts in existing models with less expensive materials, or introduced new, less expensive designs, all in an effort to cut costs.

The company began offering consumer-level digital cameras in the late 1990s. With the DiMage X, Minolta solved the problem of the protruding optical zoom lens on pocket digicams. Its folded lens design allows an optical zoom lens to be totally contained within the body of the camera. This makes the cameras that use this design truly pocketable, faster to turn on and better protected from knocks and damage.

Minolta has been criticized for its slowness to bring out a digital SLR camera compatible with the Dynax/Alpha-mount lenses. In late November 2004, the new Konica Minolta company finally released the much anticipated Konica Minolta Alpha/Dynax/Maxxum 7D Digital SLR and the innovation continued. What sets the 7D DSLR apart from the competition is the built-in image stabilization which works with any electronic autofocus lens attached to the camera body.

Konica Minolta: too little, too late...

In October 2003 Minolta merged with Konica to form Konica Minolta. All new cameras after that time were badged as Konica Minolta, although, with reference to camera designs, Minolta remained the dominant partner.

As of spring 2006, Konica Minolta has withdrawn from the camera business entirely. The digital camera manufacturing assets have been acquired by Sony, but film camera production is ceasing, and the film and mini-lab divisions are set to close within a year.

Konica Minolta now is solely a business servicer with no photo division.

Notes

  1. Date: Tashima, Watakushi no rirekisho, quoted in Tanimura, p.96 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12. The address of the company in the early 1930s was Ōsaka-shi Higashi-ku Kita-kyūtarō-machi 3-chōme 15-banchi Mishina Building (大阪市東区北久太郎町三丁目十五番地三品ビルヂング内). Sources: advertisements dated 1930 to 1932 reproduced in Hagiya, p.9 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, trademark publication no.S08-004434 for the name "MINOLTA" (ミノルタ), dated 1933, available in the IPDL trademark database, and patent for the Crown E shutter dated 1934, reproduced in Tanimura, pp.5–7 of Camera Collectors' News no.131, and on p.19 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  2. Awano, p.6 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  3. Taniguchi, p.276 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116), Francesch, p.19.
  4. Trademark publication (商標広告) no.S08-004434, for the name "MINOLTA" (ミノルタ), available in the IPDL trademark database, and trademark registration no.0246579 available in the English-language IPDL trademark database.
  5. The etymology minoru ta (稔る田) is mentioned in Taniguchi, p.276 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (article also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116). this Japanese page wonders if minoru ta was adapter from moru ta written 盛る田.
  6. The Semi Prince came first and the Semi Proud and Semi Minolta closely followed.
  7. Sakai, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, Francesch, p.23.
  8. Sakai, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, Francesch, p.23. The address is given as Amagasaki-shi Nanba (尼ヶ崎市難波) by the "Kokusan shashinki no genjōchōsa" ("Inquiry into Japanese cameras") dated April 1943.
  9. Awano, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, Francesch, p.25.
  10. Date: Awano, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, Francesch, p.25.
  11. The first Japanese 6×6 TLR was the Prince Flex.
  12. Francesch, p.26.
  13. Date: Ema, p.90 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  14. Francesch, p.27, says July 1942 and January 1944; Ema, p.93 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12, says January 1942 and June 1944.
  15. List of plants: Awano, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  16. Tanimura, p.21 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12 (about the Semi Minolta).
  17. Tanimura, p.99 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  18. Francesch, p.27, Awano, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  19. Sakai, Itami, Honsha: Awano, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12. Sakai, Itami, Nishinomiya: Francesch, p.27. This is confirmed for Nishinomiya by Tanimura, p.99 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  20. According to this page of the Konica Minolta official website.
  21. Optical section of the Toyokawa Navy Arsenal: Awano, p.7 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12. Date: Francesch, p.29.
  22. Corporate profile of Konica Minolta Planetarium Co., Ltd. The first planetarium apparatus made in Japan was made by Gotō Kōgaku: see the history page of Goto Inc.
  23. Date: Francesch, p.179.
  24. Tanimura, p.99 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  25. Konica had been the first to put autofocus into a 35mm camera, but it was a fixed lens "compact" camera; and Polaroid had been the first to put autofocus into an SLR camera, but it neither was 35mm nor was an interchangeable lens design.

Digital

DSLR

  • RD-175 using standard Minolta A-mount autofocus lenses
  • RD-3000 using the Minolta V-mount lenses of the Vectis APS SLR

newer cameras, see Konica Minolta (Dynax/Maxxum 5D and Dynax/Maxxum 7D)

Fixed Lens

Minolta and Konica Minolta use the DiMage nameplate on all the fixed lens digital cameras. All have an auto-focus zoom lens. (Please create page information to fill red links.)


  • Minolta DiMage V - separate lens/sensor from body/electronics


  • Minolta DiMage 2300-Series:
    • Minolta DiMage 2300
    • Minolta DiMage 2330 Zoom


  • Minolta DiMage 5/7/A-Series: TTL EVF ~7x ZLR PASM RAW/JPG/TIF


  • Minolta DiMage E-Series:
    • Minolta DiMage E203
    • Minolta DiMage E223
    • Minolta DiMage E323


  • Minolta DiMage F-Series:
    • Minolta DiMage F100
    • Minolta DiMage F200
    • Minolta DiMage F300


  • Minolta DiMage G-Series:
    • Minolta DiMage G400
    • Minolta DiMage G500
    • Minolta DiMage G600


  • Minolta DiMage S-Series:
    • Minolta DiMage S304
    • Minolta DiMage S404


  • Minolta DiMage X-Series:
    • Minolta DiMage X
    • Minolta DiMage X1
    • Minolta DiMage X20
    • Minolta DiMage X21
    • Minolta DiMage X31
    • Minolta DiMage X50
    • Minolta DiMage X60
    • Minolta DiMage Xg
    • Minolta DiMage Xi
    • Minolta DiMage Xt
    • Minolta DiMage Xt Biz


  • Minolta DiMage Z-Series: TTL EVF ZLR PASM JPG
    • Minolta DiMage Z1 - 10x zoom, 3.2mp
    • Minolta DiMage Z2 - 10x zoom, 4mp, GT APO Lens
    • Minolta DiMage Z3 - 12x zoom, 4mp, GT APO Lens, Anti-Shake
    • Minolta DiMage Z5 - 12x zoom, 5mp, GT APO Lens, Anti-Shake
    • Minolta DiMage Z6 - 12x zoom, 6mp, GT APO Lens, Anti-Shake
    • Minolta DiMage Z10 - 8x zoom, 3.2mp, no accessory flash
    • Minolta DiMage Z20 - 8x zoom, 5mp, no accessory flash


newer cameras, see also Konica Minolta

35mm film

Autofocus SLR

The Minolta Alpha/Dynax/Maxxum (Alpha in Japan and China, Maxxum in the Americas, Dynax in Europe, Africa and Asia) is a line of 35mm film SLR cameras built from 1985 to 2000 - some "new old stock" may still be available. The lenses and flash accessories for these are not compatible with the previous Minolta SR, SR T, and X-series of manual focus 35mm film SLR cameras, lenses and flashes.

Many of these models are alternatively labeled Alpha, Dynax or Maxxum and only a few model numbers are location-specific where an equivalent model number in another area of distribution uses another model number:

Minolta or
 
Minolta Dynax
(Europe,Africa,Asia)
Minolta Maxxum
(America)
Minolta Alpha
(Japan,China)
launch date
5000 AF 5000 5000 1986
7000 AF 7000 7000 1985
9000 AF 9000 9000 1985
3000i 3000i 3700i 1989
5000i 5000i 5700i 1989
7000i 7000i 7700i 1988
8000i 8000i 8700i 1990
2xi 2xi 90s
3xi 3xi 3xi 1991
5xi 5xi 5xi 1992
7xi 7xi 7xi 1991
9xi 9xi 9xi 1992
300si 300si/350si/RZ 300si/RZ 330si 101si 90s
303si QTsi 360si 90s
404si STsi Sweet S 90s
500si 400si/450si/RZ 400si/RZ 430si 303si 90s
500si Super 500si/RZ 530si 303si Super 90s
505si HTsi 90s
505si Super XTsi Sweet 90s
600si 600si 507si 90s
650si 90s
700si 700si 707si 1993
800si 800si 807si 90s
SPxi SPsi 90s
STsi 90s
3L 3 200.
3/4 4 200.
30/40 50 200.
5 5 200.
60 70 200.
7 7 200.
9 9 9 90s
9Ti 90s

If anyone knows of additional models and or knows which of these are equivalent across the Alpha/Dynax/Maxxum divide, please pitch in! Note that early models were also named "AF".

Manual focus SLR


Japan USA & Canada Europe & 3rd area1) Year2)
SR-2 1958
SR-1 1959
SR-3 1960
SR-7 1962
n/a ER3) ER3) 1963
SR-T 101 1966
SR-1s 1967
SR-M 1970
n/a SR-T 100 SR-T 100 1971
SR-T Super SR-T 102 SR-T 303 1973
X-1 XK XM 1973
n/a SR-T SC n/a 1973
n/a SR-T MC SR-T MC 1973
XE XE-7 XE-1 1974
n/a SR-T 200 SR-T 100b 1975
SR 101 SR-T 201 SR-T 101b 1975
SR 505 SR-T 202 SR-T 303b 1975
n/a XE-5 XE-5 1975
X-1 Motor XK Motor XM Motor 1976
XEb n/a 1976
n/a SR-T 200 SRT 100X 1977
n/a SR-T MC-II SR-T MC-II 1977
n/a SRT SC-II n/a 1977
XD XD-11 XD-7 1977
XG-E XG 7 XG 2 1977
XD-s n/a 1979
n/a XG 1 XG 1 1979
n/a XG-SE XG-SE 1979
XG-S XG 9 XG 9 1979
n/a XD-5 XD-5 1979
X-7 n/a n/a 1980
n/a XG-M XG-M 1981
X-700 X-700 X-700 1981
X-70 (XG-M) (XG-M) 1982
n/a XG-A n/a 1982
X-7 X-7 X-7 1982
X-500 X-570 X-500 1983
X-600 n/a 1983
n/a X-370 X-300 1984
n/a X-7A n/a 1985
n/a X-9 n/a 1990
? X-370N X-300s 1990
X-370s X-370s X-370s 1995

1) 3rd area: Minolta used this expression to indicate all other export markets than north America and Europe.
2) Taken from Minolta Fifty Years Chronicle (Minolta, November 1978) and "70 Jahre Minolta Kameratechnik" (Scheibel, 1999, ISBN 3-89506-191-3).
3) The Minolta ER was a fixed lens SLR and thus not part of the Minolta SR system.

Rangefinder, interchangeable lens

Rangefinder, fixed lens

Viewfinder

  • Minolta Autowide
  • Minolta f12
  • Minolta F35 Big Finder
  • Minolta Freedom I
  • Minolta FS-E II
  • Minolta Hi-Matic 5
  • Minolta Hi-Matic C
  • Minolta Hi-Matic CSII
  • Minolta Hi-Matic G
  • Minolta Hi-Matic G2
  • Minolta Hi-Matic GF
  • Minolta Hi-Matic S
  • Minolta Hi-Matic S2
  • Minolta Hi-Matic SD
  • Minolta Hi-Matic SD2
  • Minolta Memo
  • Minolta Minoltina-P
  • Minolta Repo (half-frame)
  • Minolta Repo-S (half-frame)

Compact

  • Hi-Matic AF
  • Hi-Matic AF-2
  • AF-DL / Freedom DL
  • Weathermatic 35 DL
  • Zoom 60
  • Riva Zoom 75 w / Freedom Zoom 75w
  • Riva Zoom 90 EX / Freedom Zoom 90 EX
  • Riva Zoom 105i / Freedom Zoom 105i
  • Riva Zoom 110 / Freedom Zoom 110
  • Riva Zoom 115 EX / Freedom Zoom 115 EX
  • Riva Zoom 130 / Freedom Zoom 130
  • Riva Zoom 140 EX / Freedom Zoom 140 EX
  • Riva Zoom 150 / Freedom Zoom 150

newer Minolta zoom cameras, see Konica Minolta

126 film

Rapid film

Smaller film formats

16mm film SLR

  • Minolta Auto-Zoom-X

16mm film subminiature

110 film SLR

110 film pocket/compact

Disc film

APS film SLR

APS film compact

120 film

4.5×6 folding

6×6 collapsible

6×6 TLR

6×6 SLR

127 film

4×6.5 folding

4×6.5 collapsible

4×4 TLR

Plate film

6.5×9 folding bed

6.5×9 strut folding

Instant film


Shutters

Notable patents

  • Patent no.S8-3457 for a metal focal-plane shutter, filed in November 1932 and granted in 1933, drawn by Ehira Nobujirō (founder of Ehira)[1]

Bibliography

Links

Lists, overviews, product details collections

In English:

In German:

In Japanese:

In French :

In Finnish :

Newsgroups, Blogs, Discussions

User manuals

  1. Nakagawa, p.120.
Advertisement