Time Travel With Minolta STR101 SLR

Discovering an Analogue Camera Sidekick for My Digital Photography Hobby

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Having given away my Zorki rangefinder, I bought Minolta STR101 SLR, a camera that’s about 40 years old, with a couple of lenses. It appeared in good condition, apart from the light seals, which I quickly replaced.

Holding it in my hand took me back to 1978 when I was a sales assistant at a local camera shop; I knew what to do. I brought a roll of Kentmere film and walked around the local river to test it out. I took the 24mm Vivitar lens and 37-70 zoom lenses with me. Getting used to the controls wasn’t difficult, as I usually use a Fuji digital camera with a similar layout. The greatest challenge was remembering to wind the film.

The mirror slap noise took some to getting used to, plus the weight: this Minolta is built like a tank. There is no auto-focusing; the viewfinder provides just the basics though I found it bright and easy to use.

The best part of this time-travel experience was slowing down while taking the shots. I know that I only got 36 frames per roll, and I can’t check if my image is any good until much later. Somehow, it felt right.

A couple of people stopped to chat about the camera, something that doesn’t usually happen: “I used to have one of those,” and another, “my friends still use film.”

I posted the film off to my local camera shop to be developed and waited for about a week. Once I got it back, I ran the negatives though my scanner.

In the end, I found the weight and the lab/film costs a little much for an everyday shooter, to have the Minolta replace my digital Fuji. Still, I bought more film, for whenever I’m looking to slow down.