The Chinese Minolta

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, May 26, 2019.

  1. Any Minolta collector will immediately realise that the Seagull DF is an almost exact copy of the the Minolta SR2, Minolta's first SLR camera.

    Seagull DF


    Manufactured by the Chinese collective Shanghai Camera Factory (later to be known as Light Industrial Products), even the typeface on the front of the camera matches the Minolta product. First appearing in 1964, it follows the release of the Minolta SR2 in 1958; there seems to be some debate as to whether or not it was a licensed copy or a straight knock-off. Certainly, the Chinese factory later manufactured a range of Minolta clones under licence, and one source I came across suggested that some later Minolta parts were fabricated in China. It could be said that the Chinese improved on the SR2 by the addition of a mirror lock-up that the Minolta lacked.

    The camera features a Minolta SR-bayonet lens mount, a cloth focal plane shutter with speeds from 1 sec. to 1/1000 sec. plus B, and a viewfinder with a simple ground glass screen. It has X and FP flash synch. It's very heavy and rugged, and while it may lack the silky finish of the Minolta it gives an impression of great strength and durability, as if it's been hewn out of a brass ingot. This copy still works perfectly.



    These cameras are somewhat rare in my part of the world, and rarer still is the 58mm Haiou-64 f/2 lens. It's apparently pretty much a clone of the Russian KMZ Helios 44, which was in turn derived from the Zeiss Biotar, and it's a very good lens indeed. It seems to lack the rather swirly and intrusive bokeh which is a feature of the Russian lens; it's lightly coated and very sharp with excellent contrast and colour rendition. I've been using it on my Sony full-frame cameras with very impressive results. Once again, it's a very heavy object with no sign of plastic, with clear and sparkling glass and smooth, positive adjustments. I did a quick comparison between the Haiou-64 and a Minolta Rokkor PF 55mm f/1.7 of a similar era, and really couldn't declare either lens a winner in terms of image quality.



    I'll post some images from a length of Kentmere 100, developed in PMK Pyro. Please excuse the rather predictable subject matter; the excursion was intended as a test for the newly-cleaned lens.

    Monsieur Fox

    Monsieur Fox.jpg







    @Merino Kids

    @Merino kids.jpg



    The Shed


  2. Quite good Rick.

    Very nice example of an SLR you have there.

    I've noticed that folder Seagulls can fetch prices equal to that of near mint Mamiya 6 Automats and Kodak Retina 111Cs, and you need to dig a little deep in your pocket for a mint Seagull TLR. Seagulls are collectable and somewhat quality cameras it seems
  3. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    Very good results from the Haiou lens. A nice-looking and interesting camera, when Chinese products were still a mystery to the rest of the world.

    There were also a couple of Seagull SLRs which made unauthorized use of the "Zenit" brand name, but were based on the later Minolta bodies.
  4. Great write up and results Rick, thanks. There's a fascinating story to be told about all these copies, Chinese copies of Japanese cameras, Japanese and USSR copies of German cameras, and the USSR Nikon mount SLR's. And there's something special about these early totally mechanical cameras, if you don't mind carrying a meter. I've just spent a couple of hours wandering around a classic car show with a Nikkorex F and a Nikon F. I'll share the results when I can,
  5. Great find, Rick. And great results. Many of the Chinese cameras had parts that were hand finished and weren't quite as well finished as machined parts in Japanese and German cameras. But they worked well and very likely provided gear for photographers who might not have been able to obtain Japanese and German gear (at least at reasonable prices). Later, IIRC, offered under the Phoenix name, a copy of the Minolta X370 (probably made by Seagull) that had the electronic shutter, but manual match diode metering.
  6. nice camera and nice work with it.
  7. I at one time had a copy of a ltm Leica made by Shanghai.
    It was very well put together and actually quite impressive.
    Don't recall the lens but it was equally good.
  8. For the most complete look at all of the Chinese Minolta 35mm SLR clones -- there are hundreds of them -- check out:

  9. Wow, great result from that Chinese Minolta, if it wasn't for the flat top prism, I would think this camera would look just like my sr1, sr3 or sr7.

    Again results are pretty impressive from that glass. I have had luck with their modern AF Yongnuo lenses made for MFT and Canon mounts.

    Always great to see your posts Rick when I am able to catch my breath.
  10. ralf_j. said :
    Thanks Ralf, much appreciated.
  11. Shanghai Optical purchased Minolta plants, including tooling several times. Whether they manufactured Minoltas for Minolta for a while remains an open question (except for those who know, of course). So these Minoltas are more Minolta than a mere copy would be.
    A bit similar to the Contax saga, where entire factories were moved to inside the then Soviet Union.

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