Minolta SRT-201

I'm writing this review not as testament of my prowess as a reviewer or as a photographer as I'm nothing special in either of those departments. This is mostly because there seems to be quite a dearth of information about older Minolta cameras on the Web. There are some resources like the Minolta User's Group and associated links, but to find information and reviews on older MD cameras and equipment it can be rather difficult.

The first SLR that I ever owned was given to me by my sister. A late-seventies SRT-201. The film advance failed to work and after having it repaired the shop mentioned that the jamming was probably due to lack of maintenance (my sister tended to abuse this camera). The shop also mentioned that it looked like less than thirty or forty rolls had been through. Perfect.


To say this camera is a tank is an understatement. With a case built entirely of metal, you could probably drop it from the roof of a building and it would still survive. I haven't measured the weight w/o lens, but I would guess somewhere around a pound and a half, perhaps a bit more. The top is finished in silver metal and the lower 3/4 of the body is a textured black finish. The top of the body has the usual manual knobs and switches (from left to right): film rewind, pentaprism and hot shoe, shutter speed/film speed concentric dials, film advance lever, and shutter release located at the pivot of the advance lever.

Layout and Usage

On the front of the body is the timer and release and below that the DOF preview switch. I have a nit with the DOF preview switch being located on the right side of the body (as you point the lens away from you) in that I (as most) hold the body with my right hand when I take photos and trying to reach around with the left hand to get at the DOF preview is a bit awkward. Such is life I guess. On the left side of the lens mount is the PC-socket for flash sync. I've never used it, so I guess I can't really report on it's effectiveness - this camera is old, so 1/60 sec. shutter speed sync is as fast as it gets.

The shutter is a good old-fashioned horizontal travel cloth curtain type. A lot of people make mention that all-mechanical shutters of this nature tend not to be too accurate. However, if what you're shooting isn't super critical in terms of shutter speed then it doesn't make too much of a difference. I haven't had any issues with reliability.

The lens mount is metal, MD-type, accepting MC and MD lenses as well as Auto-Rokkor. As my experience has been exclusively with MD lenses, I can only say that it's quite sturdy as I've banged it around a bit. I'm sure there are others who have handled this model more brusquely, but it's held up to what I've used it for.

The view-finder is fairly bright but nothing I would consider exceptional. This 'dimness' could be due just to the age of the camera though. The metering is indicated by the standard 'match and stick' method. Lining up the loop of the match with the stick (that indicates the actual reflected measurement of the scene) you get the correct exposure. In practice this meter has been very good to me. I rarely find that the measurement was wildly incorrect - usually if it is off it has been due to my lack of experience with tricky lighting more than anything else.

The view-finder also displays the selected shutter speed along the bottom via a line of numbers. The selected shutter speed is bracketed clearly and the indicator is mechanically linked to the shutter speed dial on the top of the body. It's never given me any troubles and is very straightforward. The only thing I wish I could view is the aperture via optical piping (a la the XG-9). The SRT-202 apparently has this feature.

In terms of focusing, this camera (like many of this vintage) has the standard split-view in the center, surrounded by a micro-prism ring, then ground-glass for the remainder of the field. The split view is handy when you first learn to focus, but now I find myself using mostly the ground-glass and to a lesser extent, the prism ring (though usually only in dim light). The scene snaps in and out of focus quite readily and most of my images are tack sharp. Sometimes I find myself goofing the focus. I never have images that are way off, but occasionally my shots lack the punch that I feel auto-focus might have afforded. However, since I have limited exposure to AF cameras, I have little with which to compare.


Like it really matters coming from me, but overall I really like this camera. If you are of the opinion that real photographers use all manual cameras then this is quite possibly your best bet. These are advertised as used for around US$100 so it would make a great camera for starting in photography. I suppose if you really want to learn the 'real' fundamentals then a view camera would probably be better. However, this would be a very inexpensive way to get into the fundamentals of 35mm photography at the very least.

I also have a Minolta XG-9 that I tended to use more simply because it is an aperture priority AE camera which allows me to fire off shots more quickly than the SRT-201. However, for black and white still photography, the 201 allows a lot of flexibility that is a little more difficult with the XG-9 (like a match and stick light meter for one). I suppose a lot of people will say that a Nikon FM-2 would also be a great camera for starters and I won't disagree. However, with used FM-2 bodies hovering around the US$450+ mark and lenses at or near their new values, it is just more economical to start with an old Minolta MD camera. Minolta still sells MD lenses that are compatible with this body and the used market seems to be quite sizable. I really don't think you'll ever regret getting this camera.

Last modified: Tue Jun 10 01:20:17 2003
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