The Minolta Autocord is a classic twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera that was first introduced in 1955. It quickly gained popularity among professional and amateur photographers due to its exceptional build quality, excellent optics, and advanced features.
Minolta produced a camera in 1955 that, while not in the same technological class as Nikon’s first SLR, refined and perfected a different class of machine known as the TLR. This Twin Lens Reflex camera was known as the Autocord, and it was a better camera than any TLR made by the Germans.
Amazing optics, exceptional build quality, and a number of small ergonomic and functional refinements signaled the arrival of a new choice in the TLR scene. As an added bonus, the Autocord was significantly less expensive than any TLR from Germany.
All shared a number of desirable features: crank film advance with automatic shutter cocking and frame counting; a highly regarded Tessar-type 4-element Rokkor f/3.5 lens; self-timer; slow shutter speeds, down to 1 second; and an override button, allowing the advance crank to rotate backwards and cock the shutter without advancing the film, permitting double exposures.
Early Optiper shutters only had speeds to 1/400, but this was increased to 1/500 in later versions. Autocords use a focus lever that protrudes from below the lensboard. Some photographers have noted the ergonomic advantage of this design compared to knob-focusing TLRs such as the Rolleiflex, as it is not necessary to shift the camera between hands for focusing versus winding.
One notable feature of the Autocord is its fully coupled selenium light meter, which provides an accurate and convenient way to measure light levels. The meter readings are displayed in the viewfinder, enabling photographers to adjust exposure settings accordingly.
This camera incorporates a waist-level viewfinder, allowing photographers to compose their shots at a low angle. The viewfinder provides a bright and clear image, making it easy to focus and compose photographs. The Autocord also has a built-in magnifier to aid in precise focusing.
In terms of construction, the Autocord boasts a robust and durable design. Its body is made of metal, ensuring longevity and reliability even in demanding shooting conditions. The camera also features a solid film advance mechanism, allowing for smooth and precise film transport.
The Autocord is designed to use 120 medium format film, which provides larger negative size compared to 35mm film, resulting in higher image quality and greater detail. Loading the film into the Autocord is a straightforward process. To begin, the camera back is opened by sliding the latch on the bottom of the camera. Inside, there are two spools – the supply spool and the take-up spool.
To load the film, the film leader is first attached to the take-up spool by sliding it into the slot and winding it a few times manually. The film is then carefully threaded across the film gate and attached to the empty spool on the supply side. By turning the advance crank, the film is wound onto the take-up spool, ensuring it is securely attached.
Once the film is loaded, the back of the camera is closed, ensuring it is properly latched. The Autocord is equipped with a red window on the back that shows the film’s frame numbers. As the film is advanced, photographers need to periodically align the next frame number with the red window to keep track of the film’s progress.
This camera has been embraced and used by several renowned photographers throughout its history. One notable photographer who relied on the Autocord was Daido Moriyama, a prominent Japanese street photographer known for his gritty black and white images. Moriyama’s use of the Autocord contributed to his signature style, capturing raw and candid moments on the streets of Tokyo.
Fun fact: Minolta is the acronym for “Mechanism, Instruments, Optics, and Lenses by Tashima”.
Note: This post was made researching information based on different websites like camerapedia, wikipedia, camera-wiki, emulsive, lomography, xataka, pintandoconluz, camaras sin fronteras and many more. On the other hand, all the photographers allowed us to post their photos on Instagram. All the illustrations are made by us and we don’t allow the use of any illustrations without permission. Finally, if you have more information or you think we made a mistake, please send us a mail.
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