Chapter 2: Pick Thy Camera

Minolta Camera

One would think any camera choice is easy, however it never is. In fact I found choosing an analog camera a thousand times harder than a digital one.

The point of my journey through 35mm was to not only tell the stories but it was to get me closer to the components of how everything works. In short I needed to stop being lazy through the digital medium. It is therefore important to lay out from the start I was only ever looking to have an SLR that operates manually without any auto support.

“In short I needed to stop being lazy through the digital medium…”

I researched and researched for months, I explored the options of Leica’s such as the M3, M5 or M6 (I love these cameras), as well as the Cannon AE-1, Pentax and Olympus cameras. However through all the research I found myself always coming back to the Minolta SRT 101 and SRT 202. For street photography and their ability to cope with natural light I just knew they would give me everything I needed to start this journey. Also I have a big family to feed so cost was a factor. The affordability of the cameras was great and I was able to pick the cameras up for around £50-£70 each through online stores. Also with the changes in battery standards over the years I knew I could operate this camera without having to rely on the light meter working. I have been reading on the blogs that some people have used things like hearing aid batteries – however a word of warning this can result in your light meter reading being inaccurate.

“I found myself always coming back to the Minolta SRT 101 and SRT 202.”

I ended up with four cameras, the Minolta SRT 101, SRT101-b and two SRT 202’s. These all came with a variety of lenses all of which are ROKKOR glass and range from 28mm to 58mm, with my favourite being the prime ROKKOR 50mm f1.7.

I would always suggest to anyone with budget constraints to invest in a Minolta SRT 101 or 202. Also for any beginner wanting to jump into the deep end they have endless tutorials on YouTube, even down to the simple elements like loading your film in and how to remove the film safely at the end. Also for any beginners in photography or film do not let photo snobs put you off venturing into the unknown – the simplest tutorials on YouTube hugely helped me. The most important thing is to have fun with the cameras, and to not expect miracles in your first few rolls of film, if everything goes wrong and the photos are just a blur you can join the club, we have all done it and will continue to do it.

“…do not let photo snobs put you off venturing into the unknown…”

My top tip would be to make sure you buy a polarising filter and some stops of ND should you want to retain any depth of field. Test your cameras in daylight as I have found this the best way to learn the camera, but remember you are limited on what ASA you can use depending on your film stock (ASA is the old ISO). These cameras only go up to a shutter speed of 1000, so the extra items to control light will be hugely helpful during the summer months. The filters will also allow you to retain creative control over the image, you may wish to shoot on a slower shutter speed for a creative reason, these filters will allow you to do that in daylight. Before venturing off into colour filters, master your ND first before controlling the colour (just my advice but I found taking on to much information left me not doing anything well). There are also some new free android apps that allow you to turn your phone into a light meter – I am currently testing the approach and will keep you updated in the following posts.

Also the cameras I brought needed a good clean, remember you are buying used cameras! Do make sure you invest in some lens cloths – remember if the body works great and the lens is mucky, you will never stand a chance!

In upcoming blogs I will relate back to how I used each camera and what I learnt, offering reviews and advice as I come to terms with the cameras myself.

Should you want to ask me any questions please feel free to comment, send me a tweet @Visual_Alex or send me a message via Instagram @journey35mmfilm .

Ta for now – Alex

Photo above is of a Minolta SRT-101b and was taken by a Minolta SRT-202 with the Rokkor 50mm lens at f1.7 on Ilford XP2 Super 400 black and white stock.


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