|Minolta XD-7 (XD-11, XD)|
|Type||35 mm SLR|
|Lens mount||Minolta MD mount|
|Exposure||Shutter and Aperture priority autoexposure|
|Flash||Hot shoe only|
|Dimensions||51 x 86 x 136 mm, 560 g|
Minolta Co., Ltd. was a Japanese worldwide manufacturer of cameras, camera accessories, photo-copiers, fax machines and laser printers from 1933 until 2003, when it merged with Konica Corporation to form Konica Minolta. Minolta was founded November 11, 1928, in Osaka, Japan, as Nichi-Doku Shashinki Shōten (日独写真機商店; Japanese-German camera shop) by Kazuo Tashima (1900 – 1985), in collaboration with two German engineers. The name Minolta was registered in 1933, and first appeared the same year on a camera, a copy of the Plaubel Makina simply called "Minolta."
Kazuo Tashima's objective was to produce affordable cameras that allowed amateurs without much skill or experience to take professional-quality photos. During times of financial difficulty, he refused to become a subsidiary of more established companies, and persistently pursued this ideal, developing a series of ground-breaking inventions. Minolta is perhaps best known for making the first integrated autofocus 35 mm SLR camera system. From the late 1950s through the 1980s, Minolta introduced one innovation after another; it was the first Japanese manufacturer to introduce a bayonet lens mount rather than a screw mount, the first manufacturer to introduce TTL metering with full aperture, and the first manufacturer to introduce multi-mode metering. Its Maxxum series was the first commercially successful autofocus SLR line. In 2006, Konica Minolta announced the sale of its digital camera business to Sony, and ceased the production of film cameras, to become solely a manufacturer of office machines.
Nichidoku Shashinki Shōten (日独写真機商店, “Japan-German Camera Store”), the precursor of Minolta, was founded in Osaka on November 11, 1928 by Kazuo Tashima (1900 – 1985), who had a fascination with optical equipment and cameras, which were rare in Japan at that time. Tashima enlisted the support of two German camera technicians, Billy Neumann, who had previously worked for Krauss in Paris, and Willy Heilemann who had worked for Kenngott; the first cameras used lenses and shutters imported from Germany. A plant was built in Mukogawa (武庫川), in the prefecture of Hyōgo (兵庫県).
The first camera produced by the company was the Nifcarette, released in 1929. It was followed by the Nifcaklapp and Nifcasport folding cameras and by the Nifca-Dox strut-folder, all taking film plates or pack film. At this early period, all the cameras were directly advertised and distributed by the company, which was using a round logo with the letters N, D, PH and Co assembled inside a circle.
In 1931 the company was reorganized as a joint-stock corporation named Molta Gōshi-gaisha (モルタ合資会社), taken from the German "Mechanismus Optik und Linsen von Tashima" ("Mechanism, Optics and Lenses by Tashima"). The mention of Germany disappeared from the company name, and Heilemann and Neumann left the company respectively in November 1931 and in 1932, to found their own Neumann & Heilemann company. The camera range was also renamed: the Nifcarette became the Sirius Bebe, the Nifcaklapp became the Sirius, and the Nifcasport became the Arcadia. The cameras were still distributed by the company itself for a couple of years, and the Sirius and Arcadia were also distributed by Misuzu Shōkai as the Lomax and Eaton. Molta later entered an agreement with the Tokyo-based distributor Asanuma Shōkai, which distributed the cameras and assumed all the advertising until 1945, and retained commercial contacts after the war. The Sirius and Arcadia plate cameras were replaced by the Asanuma brand Happy.
In 1934, the company released the Minolta Vest, originally designed by Ehira Nobujirō, with an innovative system of collapsible boxes replacing the bellows. In 1936, the company created the subsidiary Nippon Kōgaku Kikai Kenkyūjo (日本光学機械研究所, “Japanese Opto-mechanical Research Institute”) in the city of Amagasaki (尼崎市), to manufacture bakelite cameras such as the Minolta Vest, Minolta Six and Baby Minolta. This subsidiary was soon merged into the main company, and became its Amagasaki plant. In February 1937, the company opened a third plant in the city of Sakai (堺市), in the Osaka prefecture. In September 1937, the company became Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō K.K. (千代田光学精工㈱, “Chiyoda Optics and Precision Industry Co., Ltd”.), abbreviated "Chiyoko" (千代光) on some logos and publications., and introduced several expensive advanced cameras, including the first Japanese-made twin-lens reflex camera, the Minoltaflex, based on the German Rolleiflex. The Auto Semi Minolta was the first serially-produced Japanese camera with a combined range- and viewfinder; the Auto Press Minolta, an evolution of the Makina copy, was the first Japanese camera synchronized for flash; and the Minolta Flex was the second Japanese 6×6 TLR. In 1939, a fourth plant specializing in machine tools opened in Komatsu (小松).
Chiyoda began manufacturing its own Rokkor lenses in 1940, exclusively for military use. It also produced military ordnance, including hand-held cameras for aerial reconnaissance. In 1942, the Japanese Imperial Navy asked the company to open a glass melting facility; the plant was built in Itami and was not operational until 1944. All five Chiyoda plants ended up participating to the war effort. Civilian camera production was stopped around 1943, and the company took over Fujimoto's plant in the city of Nishinomiya (the former Neumann & Heilemann factory), which became Chiyoda's Nishinomiya (西宮) plant. The Mukogawa, Amagasaki and Komatsu (小松) plants were destroyed by aerial bombing.
The company resumed camera production shortly after the war with the Semi Minolta III. This camera was equipped with a Rokkor 75/3.5, the first commercially-available Japanese coated lens. The company also absorbed the optical section of the Toyokawa Navy Arsenal (Aichi prefecture), which became the Toyokawa (豊川) plant in November 1946.
In 1950, Chiyoda released the Konan-16 Automat, a subminiature camera with its own 16mm film format. Throughout the 1950s, Chiyoda’s range consisted of TLR cameras, 4.5×6 folders, 35mm viewfinder and rangefinder cameras and 16mm subminiature cameras.
In 1954, Kazuo Tashima sent a mission to the United States to promote the sale of Japanese cameras there, the first such attempt by a Japanese camera manufacturer.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, Minolta competed in the medium-format rollfilm camera market with the excellent Autocord series of TLR (twin lens reflex) cameras. Marketed at a time when other indifferent copies of the Rolleiflex TLR design were flooding the market, the Autocords soon acquired an enviable reputation for the high quality of their Rokkor optics.
As a youth, Minolta's founder, Kazuo Tashima, had been fascinated by the night skies. By the late 1950s, industrial pollution and light pollution had obscured the stars for many urban dwellers, and Tashima resolved to recreate the experience of stargazing by using technology. In 1958, Chiyoda produced its first planetarium projection apparatus.
Minolta adopted the strategy of producing a reasonably-priced camera that would allow ordinary people without much skill or experience to take professional-quality photos. Until that time, only two types of camera had been available: expensive and sophisticated professional cameras, and cheap, low-quality cameras for amateurs. In 1958, Minolta it introduced the SR-2, its first 35mm SLR(single-lens reflex) camera, and one of the first to combine several features of the modern SLR, such as a pentaprism viewfinder, instant-return mirror, bayonet mount lenses, lever advance and auto-resetting frame counter. The new SLR cameras began a worldwide revolution in amateur photography.
In 1959 Chiyoda began producing photocomposing machines, copiers, and special projectors. In 1962, the company name became Minolta Camera K.K. (ミノルタカメラ㈱, meaning Minolta Camera Co.). In 1964 Minolta began the production of versatile and sensitive light meters. The Minolta SR-T series of SLR cameras introduced in 1966 was a big success and the Minolta SR-T 101 was one of the world's best-selling cameras of its type.
The SR-T 35mm SLR camera series (cameras with the 'SR' designation equipped with through-the-lens metering) are regarded as some of the most innovative single lens reflex (SLR) cameras of the era. Although well-made, the SR series and the SR-T series were not as robust as the professional-level Nikon F or F2. Like the Canon Ftb, the Minolta SR/SRT design used sleeve bushings instead of bearings on its focal plane spindles, and had greater tolerances between working parts. This occasionally caused problems in very cold weather or at extremely high-levels of use. Nevertheless, the cameras appealed to serious amateur photographers with their more affordable prices and high-quality optics.
From the late 1950s through the 1980s, Minolta introduced one innovation after another; it was the first Japanese manufacturer to introduce a bayonet lens mount rather than a screw mount, the first manufacturer to introduce TTL metering with full aperture, and the first manufacturer to introduce multi-mode metering. With the Maxxum series, Minolta also introduced the first commercially-successful autofocus SLR line.
In June, 1972, Minolta signed a cooperation agreement with the German camera company Leitz , entering a new phase of cooperation with German experts.Leitz needed expertise in camera body electronics, and Minolta felt that they could learn from Leitz's undoubted optical expertise.
The first results of this collaboration appeared in 1974: the Minolta XE SLR and the Leica CL rangefinder camera (sold in Japan as the Leitz Minolta CL). The XE was the basis for the 1977 Leica R3. The final product of Minolta’s association with Leitz was the Minolta XD-11 (the same as XD-7, and the basis of the Leica R4), the first multi-mode 35mm compact SLR camera combining both aperture priority and shutter priority automatic exposure modes in a single body. Many Rokkor lenses of the new MD series, usable in both automatic modes, were produced for this exciting camera. The XD-11 is considered by many to be the best manual-focus 35mm SLR Minolta ever produced.
In 1981, Minolta launched the CLE, a rangefinder camera with M-mount, the first one to have (aperture-priority) automatic exposure, “TTL OTF” (through the lens, reflected off the film) metering and TTL flash automation. The same year, Minolta returned to the amateur market with the X-700 SLR. Minolta continued to offer 35mm MF SLR cameras in its X370, X-570, and X-700 from 1981, but slowly repositioned its cameras to appeal to a broader market, abandoning the high level of design and parts specification of its earlier XD/XE line. The advanced vertical metal shutter design of the older cameras was rejected in favor of a cheaper horizontal cloth-curtain shutter, reducing flash sync to a very slow 1/60th second. Further cost savings were realized by changing some interior operating components from metal to plastic. Minolta decided to invest in a new autofocus SLR design, and to withdraw from building professional-level manual-focus SLR cameras. In 1981, Minolta X-700 single lens reflex camera becomes the first winner of the "European Camera of the Year." In 1982, Kazuo Tashima stepped down as president of the company, and was succeeded by his son, Hideo Tashima. Kazuo Tashima remained Chairman of the Board until his death in 1985, at the age of 85.
The Nishinomiya plant, which hosted research and development activities as well as a service center, was closed in April 1985.
In 1985, the Minolta 7000 AF SLR, the world's first "in-body" autofocus SLR camera, was introduced. Previously, manufacturers had experimented with lenses that focused themselves but that fitted their existing, manual-focus SLR cameras. Minolta was the first manufacturer to put the mechanism and electronics for the autofocus system into its SLR camera bodies. The Maxxum 7000 had two 8-bit CPUs and six integrated circuits. A circuit on the lens relayed aperture information to the camera body, and the motor for autofocus was contained within the camera body. An LCD showed aperture, shutter speed and film frame count. The 7000 had TTL phase-detection focusing and metering, autoexposure and predictive autofocus. The Maxxum 7000, the most popular of the new Maxxums, introduced the innovation of arrow buttons for setting aperture and shutter speed, rather than a shutter speed dial on the body and an aperture ring on the lens. The camera had an advanced design, with liquid crystal screen display, built-in film winder, and a body built largely of plastics.
In North America, Minolta used the name Maxxum, in Europe the cameras were called Dynax and in Japan they were named Alpha. For five years beginning in 1985, Minolta was the leading seller of SLR cameras in the world, until Canon and Nikon introduced new autofocus designs of their own, with a wide array of new lenses and professional bodies. Minolta concentrated on the affordable end of the SLR market, and pursued revolutionary technological developments.
After popularizing the plastic-bodied, push-button-controlled SLR, in the mid 1990s, the company returned to a more traditional user interface with the 600si Classic. This interface was carried forward into its popular pro-level Minolta Alpha/Dynax/Maxxum 9 and later, the Maxxum 7.
Unfortunately, Minolta’s autofocus design was found to infringe on the patents of Honeywell, a U.S. corporation. After protracted litigation, Minolta in 1991 was ordered to pay Honeywell damages, penalties, trial costs and other expenses in a final amount of 127.6 million dollars.
Though well received by the photographic press, the Maxxum (Dynax) 9 and the Maxxum 7 in 2000, which used a full LCD readout on the rear of the camera, did not achieve expected sales. All of these cameras were eventually discontinued in favor of the less-expensive Maxxum 50 and 70, which were sold under the Minolta name until 2006.
Like other camera manufacturers, Minolta faced difficulties in building low-priced cameras for the amateur consumer market. It was one of the first Japanese companies to move production of its cameras to Malaysia, China, and other countries with less expensive labor. Minolta occasionally redesigned parts in existing models with less expensive materials, or introduced new, less expensive designs, in an effort to cut costs. Even in times of financial crisis, Minolta refused to become a subcontractor and continued to strive for innovation.
Minolta also invested heavily in APS (Advanced Photo System) film-format cameras, most notably with the Vectis line of SLR cameras beginning in 1996. APS cameras did not sell as hoped. Digital photography was entering the marketplace, and Minolta eventually discontinued all APS camera production.
Minolta introduced a number of features that became standard in all brands a few years later. Among standardized features that were first introduced on Minolta models are: multisensor light-metering coupled to multiple AF-sensors; automatic flash balance system; wireless TTL flash control; TTL controlled full-time flash sync; and speedy front and rear wheels for shutter and aperture control. Special features introduced by Minolta are: interactive LCD viewfinder display; setup memory; expansion program cards (discontinued); eye-activated startup; and an infrared frame counter.
Minolta began offering consumer-level digital cameras in the late 1990s, creating a new category of 'ZSLR' or fixed zoom-lens SLR-type cameras with the introduction of the DiMage 7. The DiMage incorporated many of the features of a higher level film camera with the simplicity of smaller compact digital cameras. The camera had a traditional zoom ring and focus ring on the lens barrel, and was equipped with an electronic (EVF) viewfinder rather than the direct optical reflex view of an SLR. Minolta solved the problem of the protruding optical zoom lens on pocket digital cameras, with a folded lens design that allowed an optical zoom lens to be totally contained within the body of the camera. It added other features such as a histogram and the cameras were compatible with Minolta's flashes for modern film SLRs.
Minolta later innovated this line by being the first manufacturer to integrate a mechanical anti-shake system based inside the camera body.
In October, 2003, in an effort to strengthen market share and acquire additional assets in film, film cameras and optical equipment, Minolta merged with Konica to form Konica Minolta. All new cameras after that time were branded as Konica Minolta, although Minolta remained the dominant partner in design and development.
Minolta has been criticized for its slowness to bring out a digital SLR camera compatible with the Dynax/Alpha-mount lenses. In late November 2004, Konica Minolta released the much anticipated Konica Minolta Alpha/Dynax/Maxxum 7D Digital SLR. The 7D DSLR had built-in image stabilization which worked with any electronic autofocus lens attached to the camera body.
During July 2005,  Konica Minolta and Sony negotiated on a joint-development of a new line of DSLR cameras On January 19, 2006, Konica Minolta announced that it was leaving the camera and photo businessand that it would sell the digital portion of its SLR camera business to Sony as part of its move. In the spring of 2006, Konica Minolta ceased the production of film cameras and is now solely a manufacturer of office machines.
Sony announced the first Konica-Minolta-based Sony SLR - the Alpha A100 - on June 5, 2006.
Nichidoku Shashinki Shōten (日独写真機商店, “Japan-German Camera Store”), the precursor of Minolta, was founded in Osaka on November 11, 1928, in collaboration with two German engineers. In 1931 the company was reorganized as a joint-stock corporation named Molta Gōshi-gaisha (モルタ合資会社), taken from the German "Mechanismus Optik und Linsen von Tashima" ("Mechanism, Optics and Lenses by Tashima"). The name Minolta was applied for and registered in 1933, and it was first used for a camera called simply “Minolta,” a copy of the Plaubel Makina I. Many sources say that the name was crafted from "Mechanismus, Instrumente, Optik und Linsen von Tashima" ("Mechanism, Instruments, Optics and Lenses by Tashima") but it is more likely inspired by the Japanese word minoru ta (稔る田), "ripening rice-fields" (a strong image of health and fruitfulness in Japan, and in Japanese pronounced identically to "Minolta"), in combination with the name "Molta" itself. All the later model names included the word "Minolta," but the company name and brand name differed until 1962.
All links retrieved November 6, 2014.
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