Minolta and Auto Minolta

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Japanese plate strut-folding cameras (edit)
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The Minolta (ミノルタ) and Auto Minolta are strut-folding cameras taking 6.5×9cm plates or film sheets, made by Molta and later Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō (predecessors of Minolta).


The Minolta and Auto Minolta were much inspired by the Plaubel Makina, but have a reversed configuration, with the viewfinder on the photographer's left.

The rectangular front plate is mounted on scissor struts. The spring-loaded main struts, at the top and bottom, are attached to a shaft on the right. They are complemented by smaller struts on the left-hand side. The viewfinder consists of a glass element at the front, retractable in a small casing attached to the front plate, and an eyepiece hinged to the main body, at the rear. It does not provide parallax correction, unlike that of the Makina. The main body has a handle on the photographer's right, and two tripod threads, at the bottom and on the left.

The camera is focused by varying the angle of the main struts via a small knob at the right end of the front plate. The distance is indicated by an index rotating inside a circular scale, under the viewfinder casing. A button is visible between the lens and the focusing wheel, used to unlock the scissor struts to open or close the camera.

The name Minolta and the body serial number are engraved on the viewfinder's front casing, and the round MTS logo of the Molta company is embossed at the top of the front plate, above the opening button.

Original Minolta

The original Minolta[1] (ミノルタ) has no rangefinder. It was certainly the first camera to use the name "Minolta".[2] The release date is given as 1933 in early historical accounts by the Minolta company or its predecessors, including a chronology published in 1958 and the fifty-year history book (1978) — the latter specifies June.[3] This release year is repeated in many later sources, but some say 1934 instead.[4] The year 1933 is made plausible by the date of registration of the "Minolta" trademark, which was applied for on Jan. 18, 1933, published on June 1st and finally registered on Sep. 20.[5]

Auto Minolta


  1. This model is sometimes called "Minolta I", for example in Francesch, p.75. This name does not appear in the original documents and was certainly crafted by collectors for easier identification.
  2. Some sources say that the Semi Minolta was released earlier but they are mistaken. See Semi Minolta.
  3. Chronology: "Hensen kamera ichiran-pyō", p.295 of Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (September 1958), also reproduced in Tanimura, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.116. Fifty-year history: Minolta 50-nen no ayumi, pp.5 and 65. In the latter, the release month was perhaps inferred from the date of publication of the "Minolta" trademark (see below).
  4. 1933: Francesch, pp.21 and 75, Scheibel, p.17, McKeown, p.673, Eimukku 735 Minolta, pp.131–2. 1934: Awano, p.15 of Kurashikku Kamera Senka no.12.
  5. Trademark publication (商標広告) no.S08-004434 for the name "MINOLTA" (ミノルタ) available in the IPDL trademark database.


Original documents

  • Leaflet for the Auto Minolta, dating c.1935. Ōto-fōkasu Minoruta kamera (オートフォカスミノルタカメラ, Auto-focus Minolta camera). Document owned by Andrea Apra and reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • Leaflet for the Minolta and Happy range, dating c.1935. Asanuma Shōkai hatsubai no kokusan kamera Minoruta Happī (浅沼商会発売の国産カメラミノルタ・ハッピー, Japan-made Minolta and Happy cameras distributed by Asanuma Shōkai). Document owned by Andrea Apra and reproduced in this Flickr album by Rebollo_fr.
  • Trademark publication for the name "MINOLTA" (ミノルタ). The trademark was applied for (商標出現) on 18 January 1933 (no.S08-000723), published (商標広告) on 1 June 1933 (no.S08-004434) and registered (商標登録) on 20 September 1933 (no.0246579). Available in the IPDL trademark database.

Older historical accounts

  • Minolta Camera. Minolta 50-nen no ayumi (Minolta・50年のあゆみ, Minolta 50-year history). November 1978. Pp.5 and 65.
  • Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (September 1958). "Hensen kamera ichiran-pyō" (変遷カメラ一らん表, Table of camera evolution.) P.295. (This is a chronology of Minolta cameras from the Nifcarette onwards. This document is also reproduced in Tanimura, p.7 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.)
  • Taniguchi Masao (谷口匡男), from the commercial department (営業部) of Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō. "Minoruta kamera no sakujitsu, konnichi" (ミノルタ・カメラの昨日、今日, Minolta cameras, yesterday and today). In Shashin Kōgyō no.77 (September 1958). Pp.275–9. (The two first pages of this document, on pre-1937 cameras, are also reproduced in Tanimura, p.8 of Camera Collectors' News no.116.)

Collectors' sources


In English:

In Japanese:

Nifca, Molta and Chiyoda prewar and wartime cameras (edit)
folding plate cameras
Nifcaklapp | Nifcasport | Sirius | Arcadia | Lomax | Eaton | Happy
folding rollfilm cameras telescopic bakelite cameras
Nifcarette | Sirius Bebe | Semi Minolta | Auto Semi Minolta Minolta Vest | Baby Minolta | Minolta Six
strut-folding cameras TLR cameras
Nifca-Dox | Minolta | Auto Minolta | Auto Press Minolta Minoltaflex | Minoltaflex Automat | Minoltaflex military prototype