Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō was relatively late to start making its Minolta 35 Leica-like 35mm rangefinder camera, beginning in May 1947. Up until then, Chiyoda had specialized in medium format rollfilm cameras such as the Semi Minolta folders and Minoltaflex TLRs. Eventually, Minolta would even cooperate with Leitz to build rangefinder cameras, such as the Leitz Minolta CL.
The Minolta 35 appeared similar to the Leica III with which it shared a common Leica-thread-mount (LTM) interchangable lens mount. The Minolta 35 had a horizontal cloth focal-plane shutter with speeds T, B, and 1 to 1/500 second, separate shutter speed dials with a front dial setting speeds below 1/35 second, and a knob advance. It pioneered some features beyond its German contemporary in that it had a combined rangefinder/viewfinder window and a self-timer. Its integral film take-up spool and hinged back door enabled easier film loading than on the Leica. Early models of the Minolta-35 also offered a 'hot shoe' for flash synchronization. Minolta offered a dedicated flashgun, the type U. This feature was later dropped: starting with model E, Minolta-35 have a more common PC socket flash synchronization.
|Advertisement in Ars Camera February 1949. (Image rights)|
The Minolta 35 was manufactured from 1947 to 1958. There were nine significant variations during this period. The early Minolta 35 underwent almost continual development from models A to D, and these versions are hard to tell from another since the model names are not marked on the camera, various changes seemed to be 'softly' introduced during production and their serial numbers were sequential without breaks.
From the model E on, the model names were engraved on the front plate of the camera.
Minolta 35 Model A
All versions had the name 'Minolta - 35' engraved on the top cover. The logo engraving on the top cover of the model A and early model B read 'Chiyoda Kogaku' 'Osaka', and these models may be engraved with 'Made in Occupied Japan' on the bottom cover. The model A can be confirmed by measuring its 24×32mm shutter mask opening in the film chamber.
For the Minolta 35, the physical rangefinder base between the front viewfinder window and rangefinder window was 40mm. On the earliest models the finder magnification was only 0.33, yielding an effective rangefinder base of just 13mm and leading to focusing difficulty.
Later model A bodies have a slightly different set of slower speeds '1, 2, 4, 8, 25' in stead of '1, 2, 5, 10, 25' on the slow speed dial. The change is said to have taken place from serial number 0800 or 0900. Another change that needs to be mentioned is the disappearance of the small latch above the slow speed dial on later model A bodies. In addition on the wind knob in serial #'s of 0550-1000, appears two marks. (0550-0750 Katakana Japanese script=CPO); (0751-1000 <CPO>), in both cases they are TAX free duty stamps and those cameras so marked were NOT to be sold in Japan or, owned by Japanese citizens.These cameras were shipped to many Allied Armies Occupation Forces stores.
|Tele Finder 85mm|
image by Geoff Harrisson (Image rights)
|Tele Rokkor 13.5cm f/4, Super Rokkor 8.5cm f/2.8|
image by Geoff Harrisson (Image rights)
Coupled interchangeable lenses developed for the Minolta 35 included:
- First version of the 45mm f/2.8 Chiyoko Super Rokkor standard lens, with 5 elements in 3 groups.
This version featured a small round window in the front bezel to read aperture.
- 8.5cm f/2.8 Chiyoko Super Rokkor 85mm portrait lens.
- 11cm f/5.6 Chiyoko Tele Rokkor 110mm short telephoto lens.
- 13.5cm f/4 Chiyoko Tele Rokkor 135mm telephoto lens.
- Accessory finders were supplied with these lenses; while the lenses are marked in cm the finders are marked in mm.
Minolta 35 Model B
During model B production the shutter mask opening increased to 24×33mm from 24×32mm. The logo engraving on the top cover changed to 'C.K.S.' (Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō) during the model B production run, and remained so marked until the model II type b. Shutterspeeds on the slow speed dial read right-side-up from front of the camera, when one is facing the camera.
Some model B may have CPO marking on the winding knob (two variations are known: Latin alphabet or Japanese alphabet).
Minolta 35 Model C
|Minolta 35 model C|
image by Mikel Adell (Image rights)
The model C shutter mask opening remained at 24×33mm. On earlier models, slow speeds read the same as in model B. However on most model C, slow speeds are marked upside-down to read right when one is holding the camera and looking down at the slow speed dial (but then again, some model B are known to have this feature too). The magnification of the finder was optically improved to 0.7, and the effective rangefinder base became 28mm which increased ease of focusing.
Some model C may retain CPO marking on the winding knob.
Minolta 35 Model D
|Model D: camera body No. 9247, bottom marked "Made in occupied Japan",|
shown with lens Sankyo Kōki Tokyo KOMURA - 135mm 1:3.5 No. 211256
images by ebayer hobbs111 (Image rights)
Changes for the model D include strap lugs, the rewind lever located to under the winding knob, and an indent into the front plate below the lens mount to make clearance for the lens' focusing tab. The image size of the model D is nominally 24×34mm, and is said to vary between 24×33.5mm and 24×34.5mm. This image size remained until the model IIB was developed.
A modified standard lens became available with the model D:
- second version 45mm f/2.8 Chiyoko Super Rokkor standard lens, with focusing tab but without front bezel aperture window.
Minolta 35 Model E
image by eBayer zbm-cem (Image rights)
Model E is now engraved on the front plate of the camera. The main differences from model D are the addition of a diopter adjustment on the finder, and the addition of a flash sync plug on the right rear of the finder cupola.
Minolta 35 Model F
The only difference from model E is the 1, 2, 3 marking of the self timer.
Minolta 35 Model II
|Rokkor 3.5cm f/3.5 lens & Finder|
image by Geoff Harrisson (Image rights)
The main difference is the opening of the hinged back: on models A through F, a small button in the bottom plate is pressed to open the back, whereas on model II, there is a circular latch with 'Open' and 'Shut' or 'Close' engraving.
Additional lenses were introduced with the model II:
- 3.5cm f/3.5 Chiyoko Rokkor 35mm wide angle lens, 4 elements in 3 groups, with focusing lever.
- 5cm f/2.8 Chiyoko Super Rokkor 50mm normal lens, 5 elements in 3 groups, with focusing lever.
- 5cm f/2 Chiyoko Super Rokkor 50mm normal lens, 7 elements in 4 groups, with focusing lever.
image by Peter-W (Image rights)
|Minolta 35 II "type a" no.49752, with Super Rokkor 45mm f/2.8.|
Pictures by eBayer Yalluflex. (Image rights)
Model II type a
This model is very similar to model F. There are variations within model II type a: there are two different types of backs (not compatible), one with a squared, smooth pressure plate, the other one with a larger, rectangular black pressure plate. At some point in time, the sync speed 'X' was added between speeds 1/8 and 1/25 second.
image by @Michael (Image rights)
image by David Sides (Image rights)
Model II type b
There are numerous cosmetic differences from model II type a. However, the insides of the camera remained all the same (rectangular, black pressure plate, X sync speed on the slow speed dial). The logo engraving on the top cover reads 'Chiyoda Kogaku'. The overall shape of the camera is more angular with a revised shutter speed dial pedestal flush to front of camera, shallow platform under rewind knob, and deeper top and bottom cover flanges.
Not to be confused with Model IIB.
Minolta 35 Model IIB
|image by Akira Nakajima (Image rights)|
Not to be confused with Model II type b.
The main change is the addition of a advance winding lever (instead of a knob). The magnification of the finder improved to 0.8, and the effective rangefinder base became 32mm. Image size finally developed to 24×36mm. There were cosmetic changes as well as technical changes. The exposure counter center of the advance lever and both speed dials were finished in gloss black, the rewind knob was knurled and kerfed. The 'Minolta - 35' font changed to match Minolta's 1955-82 font style. The logo on the top cover read 'Chiyoda Kogaku' in small font.
More LTM lenses were introduced with the Model IIB:
- 5cm f/1.8 Chiyoda Kogaku Super Rokkor 50mm standard lens with 6 elements in 5 groups.
- 10cm f/3.5 Chiyoda Kogaku Tele Rokkor 100mm short telephoto lens.
- 35mm f/1.8 wide angle lens.
|with Super Rokkor 1:1.8 f=5cm|
image by moto44 (Image rights)
The 10cm f/3.5 and the 35mm f/1.8 were actually produced by Chiyoda Kogaku, although probably in very small numbers, judging by the rarity of both lenses today and by the low serial numbers of the actual examples that have been observed.
Several accessories were offered for the Minolta-35, including Minolta-made and also third party.
- ever-ready case for the camera with its standard lens
- metallic film cassette
- cable release
- flash unit (type U)
|Early Minolta-35 with type U flash mounted on the hot shoe.|
image by Fragarach (Image rights)
Third party accessories
- Auto-Up for 5cm 1:2.0 Super Rokkor, made by Pleasant
- Cable release
- JCII/Lewis, ed. "The History of the Japanese Camera" p192.
- Sugiyama/Naoi "The Collectors Guide to Japanese Cameras", code numbers 3420-27, 3429.
- article in Photo Deal II/2007 p17.
- Minolta-35 Rangefinder Cameras 1947-1958 at Antique & Classic Cameras
- Minolta 35 LTM lenses had 'Chiyoko' logo until 1956-58.
- Compare model II type a and model II type b to see cosmetic differences; both at Collection Appareils.
- Logo changed from 'Chiyoko' to 'Chiyoda Kogaku' for Model IIB LTM lenses. See also Minolta Super A regarding 'Chiyoko' and 'Chiyoda Kogaku Super Rokkor' bayonet-mount lenses.
- Cooper, "The Minolta Manual" 1959 p24.
- Minolta 35 Model II user manual at Butkus.org
- Minolta 35 at Antique and Classic Camera Web Site.
- Minolta 35 and 35 IIB in the 70th anniversary Minolta poster, reproduced at Photoclub Alpha
- Early Minolta 35 Model 1a at Tomei Collection
- Minolta 35 Model II Type 1 at Photoethnography by Karen Nakamura
- One known Minolta 35 Model A #0515 with a Katakana Symbol winding knob, owned by Eastwestphoto
- Model B, Model C, Model E, Model F, Model II type a and Model II type b on www.collection-appareils.fr by Sylvain Halgand