Small Package, Big Results

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, May 23, 2022.

  1. I came by these two little cameras as part of another acquisition and put them aside for a while. Having checked out the Minolta Hi-Matic E on Google I decided they might be worth investigating, so I spent some time cleaning and polishing and restoring them to some sort of respectability. I have adapters to fit LR44 cells in place of the two defunct PX640s originally used, so I tested the electronics, having polished the terminals in the battery departments. The black version sprang into life, but not so the silver. Without power the camera does absolutely nothing, and from the lack of tension in the shutter release I suspect the shutter blades are stuck mid way through an exposure cycle. I will investigate in due course. So, I loaded a film into the black camera and ran a test and was pleased to find that it performed faultlessly.

    Minolta Hi-Matic E copy.jpg

    The Minolta Hi-Matic E is very like a junior version of the Yashica Electro 35; indeed, I understand the exposure system was licensed to Minolta from Yashica and the camera has the same little "atomic" symbol on the front. Exposures are programmed and completely automatic, and the user has absolutely no indication of what's going on when the shutter butter is depressed, apart from a red warning light that glows when the camera decides that camera shake is likely. Happily, that doesn't prevent an exposure, as is the case with several other similar cameras of the era. The shutter sound is practically inaudible, which I find a little disturbing, as I like a hearty click to assure me that an exposure has been made. The viewfinder has a nice bright viewfinder patch and moving frame for parallax correction. With a flash mounted the camera will calculate the exposure and fire the flash if it's deemed necessary, using its "Auto Flashmatic" technology, and a guide and aperture adjustment is provided for manual flash use.

    It's a handsome and heavy little camera; here are a couple of images showing it from different angles.




    The camera was first released in 1971 and was largely ignored by professionals because of it's lack of manual over-ride. However, it does have two features that elevate it above many of it's contemporaries; a programmed Seiko shutter with speeds from 2 seconds to 1/1000th, and a really superb 40mm Rokkor-QF f/1.7 lens, with six elements in four groups. Several sources claim that this is the same lens as that which features in the iconic Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII, a camera with a cult following and a hefty price tag, but I can only state that the lens ranks among the best "standard" lenses I've used. Despite the slightly higher voltage of the LR44 cells I found the exposures to be very accurate under a variety of situations, though there is no way of making exposure compensations other then by adjusting the ISO settings. These are set by a very prominent ring around the front of the lens, a feature I dislike as it's easy to reset the ISO accidentally by knocking or moving the ring.

    Overall, it's a very pleasant little camera to use, though I felt rather ineffectual in my inability to have much input into the process. However, the images speak for themselves and I include some results below for your inspection. The film was Kentmere100 developed in PMK Pyro and scanned on an Epson Perfection V800.


    Cobblestones copy 2.jpg












    Elements #63.jpg

    Before the Storm

    Before thr Storm.jpg

    Last edited: May 23, 2022
    RCap, Tony Evans, ralf_j. and 10 others like this.
  2. Tidy little camera Rick, love that "Deco" shot. That Rokkor lens appears to be all you said it is, and it's sharp as a tack.
  3. Excellent write up and results Rick as always. I wonder if the story of a number of very similar rangefinders will ever be told. I had a Prinz 35ER which looks very similar to your Minolta in a slightly later incarnation. I’ve found claims that the Prinz is the same camera as the Revue 400 SE, Vivitar 35ES, Minolta Hi-Matic 7sII and Konica Auto S3 and was actually made by Cosina. Who knows?

    LINK --- Another Classic - the Prinz 35 ER
  4. What a handsome pair of cameras (especially the black one) and outstanding results, Rick! I hope you get the chrome version working as well.
  5. I must say I have a preference towards black paint cameras, so I would have been happy as things turned out :)

    The auto flash thing sounds advanced for it's time. I imagine it would require a special flash?

    For batteries, I have found that the PR44 zink-air batteries works in almost any of my devices that was build for mercury cells.
    I have a handful of the cheap dumb brass adapters to allow for easy use in PX625 chambers and others.
    I actually find that this solution is more convenient than my Kanto MR-9 voltage adapters because the latter use SR43 and they are harder to find and more expensive - PR44s are very cheap and available everywhere.
    Using Zink-air requires removal prior to storage, but I rotate the same batteries in other devices and get fair use out of them before they are depleted. The depletion curve also appear to be very good compared to alkaline and even silver oxide.
  6. I have tinkered a lot on the Yashica Electro 35, and I think I still have a Hi-Matic E sitting around somewhere. The Hi-Matic E shutter and its control have nothing in common witih the shutter control of the Electro 35. Actually, the Hi-Matic E even does not have aperture blades - the shutter blades act both as aperture and shutter blades. For small apertures, they just open a little, and they can do this quite fast - I think the Hi-Matic E max shutter speed is specified at 1/1000. The "program" is quite simple: under good lighting conditions, it operates at high shutter speeds and small apertures, on low light it acts with the shutter opening fully (slow speed) and "full" aperture. On the Electro 35, there is a real aperture and you can pre-select an aperture value. As mentioned, with the Hi-Matic E, you never know which aperture and speed it selects. The shutter of the Hi-Matic E is much more advanced, I think it was completely made by Seiko, and also appears on a (rare) Petri camera of same era.
    ralf_j. likes this.
  7. NHSN said
    Here's one of the original ads that gives some detail. I guess it's all about a dedicated Minolta flash.

    NHSN likes this.
  8. As you convincingly show, these little, late rangefinders do a remarkable job in the right hands. Well-done!
    robert_bowring likes this.
  9. Great results, Rick. I read somewhere, IIRC, that the dedicated flash sets the shutter to a rather slow 1/20 second, which is fine for a mix of ambient light and flash, but might lead to ghost images if shooting action. I regret that I didn't buy one of these from stock at the family camera shop when they were available. Also I should have bought a HiMatic 7SII as well.
  10. This reminds me again that I want to find a HiMatic 5, my first 35mm camera.

    Rick H.
  11. I HATE you.
    Now I want to get one. ;)
  12. That is kind of cool. I would have appreciated if my parents had that. All the flash photos in their photo album had overexposed foregrounds and pitch-black backgrounds - I hated them so much, especially if I was in the picture, that I didn't want a flash for myself until 20 years into my photography hobby.

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