These are descriptions of my growing collection of old film cameras together with my experience of using them. The descriptions are entirely based on a particular camera that I have before me rather than just on Interweb research.
Yashica Minister D
I already have an article on Yashica Minister III rangefinders. This Minister D is clearly from the same stable.
The camera is about the same size to look at – I suspect the Minister II and D both use the same main casting. The most obvious difference is with the light meter. With the Minister III, the meter cells are selenium cells in a ring around the lens and do not require a battery. The Minister D meter has the sensor on the left edge of the top plate and it does require a battery.
focal length: 45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/16
focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Copal SVL
speeds: 1 second to 1/500
flash: PC socket
film size: 35 mm
The camera measures 135 mm long (not including the strap lugs), 85 mm high and 40 mm deep – 75 mm including the lens. In 1965, this camera cost £33-14-3 (in old British money, or £33.72 in modern British money). This equates to £1,089 in 2020 values.
(C) John Margetts
The controls are as had become standard on (non-SLR) 35 mm cameras. On the right is the film advance lever. this lever moves through about 120 degrees to advance the film one frame which is easily achieved with one movement of the thumb. Between the film advance lever and the right edge of the top plate is a window to the frame counter. This counter is automatically reset to ‘S’ when the back of the camera is opened. This is two before the counter shows ‘1’ allowing for the film to be wound on two frames to move the fogged film leader past the film gate once the back is closed.
Just to the left of the film advance lever and slightly in front is the shutter release button. this is chrome plated and is 5 mm is diameter. It is threaded for a standard cable release.
To the left of these three, the top plate is slightly raised. on this raised portion are the light meter display and ASA setting. ASA (effectively the same as ISO) can be set from 10 to 400 – about the range of film speeds available in the early 1960s. the film speed can only be set in ASA numbers – there is no DIN scale – but for those who prefer DIN (me!) there is a ASA/DIN conversion scale on the inside of the back door.
The light meter consists of a window to a black and white scale and a pointer – see forward on how to use it.
Left of the light meter is an accessory shoe – no electrical contacts so a ‘cold’ shoe. On the far left is the rewind crank. This pulls up to release the film cassette when loading/unloading but plays no part in releasing the back.
The front of the top-plate has the viewfinder window – fairly large at 20 mm by 13 mm – and a small rangefinder window at the end of the ‘Minister D’ logo. To the right of the viewfinder is the light meter cell. This is circular and is around 5 mm diameter in a 15 mm diameter enclosure.
The lens is central in the Copal SVL shutter. Just to the left of the shutter housing is a PC (Prontor Compur) flash connector.
The base plate is uncluttered. It has a button to release the rewind mechanism, a 1/4 inch UNC tripod boss (the old standard for tripods was 1/4 inch Whitworth which is very close to 1/4″ UNC), a battery compartment and then usual Yashica recessed catch for the back. This is marked O-P – ‘O’ for open and ‘P’ for closed.
The back of the camera, as well as having the hinged back, has the light meter actuating button, the viewfinder eyepiece and a grey plastic plug. This plug hides the rangefinder adjusting screw. last thing to note is the presence of strap lugs at either end.
The lens is a Yashinon f/2.8, 45 mm lens (actually described on the lens fascia as 4.5 cm as was usual up to the 1940s but was old hat by the 1960s). I am told the lens has five elements in four groups. It is, of course, coated as was usual by the 1960s. The camera focusses by moving the whole lens; this is the high quality method of focusing compared to the cheaper method of just moving the front element of the lens.
The lens is set in a Copal SVL shutter:
S – for flash synchronised
V – for Vorlaufwerk (delayed action)
L – for light value settings
The shutter clearly takes its name from the German Prontor shutters – S, SV and SVS.
The lens can focus down to 0.8 m (2.8 feet) and is coupled to the rangefinder. this camera is now 50 years old and the rangefinder patch is fairly dim. However, knowing this is in the centre of the viewfinder it is not necessary to actually see it. It is still quite easy to the secondary images of strong verticals and so the rangefinder is straight forward to use. On the rear of the top plate is a small (5 mm) grey plastic plug. This is easily removed to reveal a small screw which is used to adjust the rangefinder. This camera seems to be already adjusted correctly.
Incidentally, it is possible to improve the contrast of dim rangefinder patches. this can be done by inking in a small black circle in the middle of the viewfinder using a Sharpie or such.
Another nice feature with focusing this camera is parallax adjustment. As you focus the camera closer, the bright lines in the viewfinder move progressively to the right and down. You will still get some parallax error in your framing but you should be able to avoid cutting peoples’ heads off.
There is a usable range of f stops from f/2.8 to f/16. This couples with shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/500 seconds. With films rated between 100 ISO and 400 ISO there will be few conditions that this camera will not cope with – at least in the UK; Florida beaches might be a problem.
Setting the exposure takes several steps.
1) press the red button on the rear of the top plate to switch on the meter
2) while holding the red button in, note the number the meter needle is pointing to
3) transfer this number to the outer-most ring on the lens/shutter housing
This sets the exposure but to the camera’s choice of aperture and shutter speed. To get either the aperture or speed you want requires a fourth step.
4) turn the inner, gnarled, ring until either the aperture you want, or shutter speed, is against the red index mark. Not every aperture or shutter speed will be available for a given LV setting. For instance, with an LV setting of 17 you are stuck with f/16 and 1/500 and at LV 3 you only get shutter speed of 1 second and an aperture of f/2.8.
This is essentially a shutter priority system as altering the LV will alter the aperture, the shutter speed staying constant until the aperture required is outside the available range.
Most Japanese cameras use black foam in the recess the back fits in. this acts as a light seal. Unfortunately, this foam eventually turns to goo which has happened to this camera. Before I can run a test film I need to clean out the remains of the light seals and fit new black foam – easily secured on the Interweb.
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