I bought my Minolta SRT200 at a camera show in Tucson where I was floored by the reasonable prices and the chance to try out all kinds of fun toys. There were a few grumpy old men who gave me ‘tude just for existing, but the knowledgeable and friendly people and the huge variety of working antique cameras at market price made up for that. It was funny for me to see the bucket of old Kodak Brownie cameras going for $5 or less. At antique stores and even thrift stores, Brownies can be found with pricetags of $50 and up. I found an SRT200 with a 55mm f/1.4 lens and I had to have it. It was so heavy and metally and the meter worked.
As it turns out, maybe I didn’t get the incredible historic find that I thought I got at the time, but that hardly diminishes the fun I’ve had with my SRT200. This is what RokkorFiles.com had to say about the SRT200:
The major specifications of the budget SR-T body were now as follows:
- Single lens reflex camera with through-the-lens CLC (Contrast Light Compensator) meter coupled to shutter and film speed.
- Meter sensitivity EV 3 to EV 17 at ASA 100.
- Film speeds supported ASA 6-6400
- Fully mechanical cloth focal plane shutter with speeds from 1-1/1000 sec plus B
- Shutter speeds 1-1/60 sec with electronic flash
- Oversized quick return mirror for no image cut-off even with supertelephoto lenses
- Exposure control needle visible in viewfinder
- Flash synchronisation (X and FP)
- Automatic reset film counter
- Accessory shoeAs with the original SR-T 100, the later budget model does not have a lot to recommend it when other more fully featured models are now available for similar prices. At the time, however, it remained an attractive option for someone seeking a fully mechanical body with a limited budget.
The appeal of this camera for me is the extremely mechanical feel. Every detail about the camera makes it feel like a finely tuned machine from the days of old:
- Very heavy
- Dirty (but very large) viewfinder
- Analog needle to show exposure
- Winding sound when changing the shutter speed dial
- Deafening mirror-slap
- Manual focus
- Manual aperture ring
Due to the control layout, the camera operates similarly to shutter-priority, if it had automated exposure modes. The shutter speed dial is on top, and the aperture ring is around the lens. There are two needles visible on the right side of the viewfinder. One is pointy, and it represents the exposure reading. The other needle has a circle on the end of it and changing the aperture and shutter speed moves the circle. When the circle is on top of the pointy needle, the exposures match. A good explanation of this method along with some general comparisons between film SLR’s and DSLR’s is given here. Maybe it’s blasphemy, but the shape and control layout of my A200 is more comfortable and more accessible than the control layout of the SRT200. However, the simplicity of the SRT200 along with the gigantic, bright viewfinder and the mechanical feel add up to a wonderful experience.
The included 55mm f/1.4 lens was icing on the cake. It’s not in the best condition, but the images it creates are gorgeous. The focusing ring sticks and just feels a bit icky compared to some of my other Minolta manual focus lenses. It’s tough to complain about the results, though.
For anyone looking for the MMM (metal, mechanical, manual) film experience, you can’t go wrong with any of the Minolta SRT cameras. The manual focus Minolta lens lineup is fantastic and the used prices are nice and low. Digital cameras are great and they have truly created some amazing opportunities for today’s photographers, but it’s nice every once in a while to experience what it feels like to be the one responsible for how your pictures turn out. Try as I might, I can’t find “scene modes” or “art filters” anywhere on the SRT200. That’s exactly why I like it.