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Minolta Autopak 550
France Version française
Photos by Sylvain Halgand text by Sylvain Halgand. From the collection of Sylvain Halgand. Last update 2022-12-11 par Sylvain Halgand.

Manufactured or assembled in Japan from 1969 to (After) 1969.
Index of rarity in France: Infrequent (among non-specialized garage sales)
Inventory number: 913

See the complete technical specifications

Chronology of cameras Minolta 

Traduction de Sylvain Halgand

Autopak 550 uses cartridge 126. It two-speed (1/90 and 1/45 second). The lens is Rokkor 2,8/38 mm with 4 elements in 3 groups.
A Cds cell controls the exposure; it is above the lens. When the subject is insufficiently enlightened, the shutter speed is reduced to the 1/45 second for the flash. On the right side of the camera, is a marked serrated roller of three icons " Zone éloignée ", “Zone moyenne” and “Gros plans”. The choice is recalled in the finder. When the light is too weak, a red reference mark appears in the finder indicating that the recourse to the flash is necessary.

Minolta Autopak 550



__________

1928: Mr. Kazuo Tashima could have become a textile industrialist, like his father, or a weapons manufacturer (which was quite fashionable at the time). However, during a trip to Europe, especially in France, a visit to the S.O.M factories would change his destiny: Mr. Tashima would establish, on November 11, 1928, the Nishi Doku Shashinki Shoten, or in a much clearer way, the Nippo-German Photographic Equipment Store, Nishi Doku PHoto COmpany as seen on the logo of that time. This brand would later become Minolta!

By the way, why "Nippo-German"?
Having no particular knowledge in optics or photography, Kasuo Tashima partnered with German engineer and optician Billy Neumann and Willy Heilemann. The first factory was established in Mukogawa (between Osaka and Kobe), and the first camera manufactured would be the Nifcarette A (4 x 6.5 cm), heavily inspired, it must be said, by the Rollette Krauss. Of course, at that time, Minolta did not yet produce lenses or shutters, which were imported from Germany.

In March 1929, the first cameras were released, and a choice of several lenses and shutters was immediately offered.

Between 1929 and 1931, several plate cameras or pack-film cameras were added to the catalog, all very well constructed. But the beginnings were challenging, despite the troubled global period, which did not discourage Mr. Tashima, confident in his products.

1931: A change in the company's legal structure led to a name change, becoming Molta Goshi Kaisha. Molta is a kind of acronym: Mecanismus Optik und Linsen von Tashima. The rest is a Japanese legal term referring to a limited partnership.

Between 1931 and 1932, the two German partners left the company and founded their own: Neumann & Heilemann Co., which had a short life (dissolved in 1937).

1932: In that year, the first camera using the name Minolta was introduced: the Semi-Minolta. There are two explanations for the word "Minolta":
- It could be an acronym for Mechanismus Instrumenten Optik und Linsen von Tashima.
- It might also come from the Japanese "Minoru Ta," which means ripening rice field. Both meanings are likely important, as acronyms are often chosen because they also have a distinct significance.

Shortly after the launch of the Semi-Minolta I, the MTS logo appeared, embossed on the intermediate joint of the scissors. A rectangular version can be found on the leatherette. An explanation is needed here as well: the "M" for Minolta or Molta, the "T" and the "S" probably for TaShima, unless Kazuo had a fondness for someone named Sachi or Sarina? Unfortunately, we do not know Mrs. Tashima's first name! The "M" is quite discreet, almost blending with a circle surrounding the intertwined monogram, but a recessed point in the middle of the upper part clearly suggests the intermediate leg of the letter.

1934: An unusual camera, the Minolta Best (or Vest), would change the company's fate. Its construction, almost entirely in bakelite, including the bellows, made it more affordable than competing cameras. Its global success allowed the construction of a new factory in Sakai, dedicated to lens production.

1935: The Auto-Minolta would be the first Japanese camera equipped with a coupled rangefinder, an advantage for press photographers, the target audience for this model.

1936: The Nippon Kogaku Kikai Kenkyujo was founded in Amagasaki, which would soon be integrated into Molta Company. It was an institute for opto-mechanical research.

1937: Another name change occurred; Molta became Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko Kabushiki Kaisha, or Chiyoko for short, or even C.K.S, an Industrial and Precision Optics Public Limited Company. The term "Chiyoda" here does not refer to a district in Tokyo but combines two ideograms meaning "1000 generations" and another corresponding to the beginning of "Tashima," conveying the idea that the company would be almost eternal. Unfortunately, we now know that it would not be the case... It was also in 1937 that exclusive agreements were made with Asanuma Shokai, a major distributor of photographic equipment.

1939: A new factory was established in Komatsu, producing machine tools needed for the company. It came under military control due to the war. Production during these troubled times focused on military optics: binoculars, periscopes, aiming systems, aerial photography, and more.

1941: Amid various models or prototypes of military TLR cameras, some with interchangeable lenses, a civilian camera was released: the Minoltaflex Automat. A fifth factory, demanded by military authorities, was established in Itami, but it would only become operational two years later.

1943: Ironically, Chiyoko acquired, in Nishinomiya, the former Neumann & Heilemann factory, their first partners who had moved to the competition!

1946: The company was liberated from military control, but only three factories remained: Sakai, Itami, and Nishinomiya. Under these conditions, the Semi-Minolta III was introduced, an evolution of the 1937 Semi II. At the end of the year, a fourth factory in Toyokawa would strengthen the production capacity.

1947 marked a new development: the 35mm format was in vogue! More precisely, the use of 120 film was prohibited for economic reasons, so the "small format" became the norm. Thus, the Minolta 35 was born, particularly economical as it allowed for 40 photos on a 36-exposure roll of film!

In 1950, an even more economical camera using 16mm film, the Konan 16, was introduced. However, 120 film made a comeback with the Minoltaflex II, followed by IIb and III, which were used by journalists from around the world to cover the Korean War.

1958: The first-ever Minolta SLR, the SR-2, was introduced, marking the beginning of a successful line of SR and SRT cameras that would continue into the 1980s—a remarkable achievement.

1959: A small gem, the Miniflex, a miniature TLR on 127 film, was introduced. It was also the year when the first subsidiary, named Minolta Corporation, was established in the United States!

1960: A world record was set with a 1/3000th of a second central shutter. It was believed that the V2 was unbeatable, but the Minolta V3 proved otherwise.

1962: After a long time, the company changed its name. This time, "Minolta," which was previously just a brand name, became the official corporate name, starting in July. Long live Minolta Camera K.K. or Minolta Camera Co. Ltd. The logo, depicting a prism and a lens in cross-section, no longer had "Chiyoko" at the center, replaced by the company's new name

. Consequently, some older cameras produced after this date might bear the old or the new logo. This was the case for the Minoltacord, for instance. Similarly, the engraving "Chiyoda Kogaku" or C.K.S was replaced by "Minolta Camera Co Ltd" on the SR-1 and SR-7. The latter camera was the first 35mm SLR to have a built-in light meter.

1964: Minolta had previously produced light meters, but they were either specific to a particular camera or internal, as in the case of the SR-7. In that year, the first handheld light meter, the View Meter 9, was introduced, targeting professional photographers.

1966: Little did anyone know, the SRT 101 would become an iconic camera, perhaps the company's largest production. This series and its numerous derivatives would remain in production until the early 1980s, totaling almost 5,700,000 units.

1970: Similar in design to the SRT 101, the SR-M targeted professional photographers by offering a reinforced body with motor drive. While the expected success did not materialize, the SR-M remains a sought-after collector's item.

1972: The collaboration between Minolta and Leitz began, resulting in the release of the Leitz-Minolta CL in 1973, with the last two letters standing for Compact Leica! As mentioned earlier, Minolta aimed to attract professional photographers. While the SR-M had been a failure, the X1 / XK / XM released that year fared slightly better, although they didn't overshadow the dominant players in the market.

1974: The collaboration with Leitz continued, leading to the creation of two new cameras: the XE / XE-1 / XE-7 by Minolta and later the Leica R3 by Leitz (1977). These cameras were not identical but shared many components.

1975: Finally, a French subsidiary! Minolta France S.A. was established in Rueil-Malmaison and became the exclusive importer, succeeding Photo-3M.

1976: Derived from the X-1, the X-1 Motor (XM or XK Motor depending on the region) was offered to professionals. Although it had a wider distribution than the SR-M, the previous motorized reflex, the X-1 Motor did not achieve the expected commercial success. This marked the last attempt to attract a portion of the professional market. From then on, the company would focus on the amateur market, including enthusiasts, with some surprises still to come...

1977: Speaking of surprises... building on the cooperation with Leitz, the XD-7 was released. It used the shutter from the XE but was the first 35mm SLR to offer multiple exposure modes: aperture priority, shutter priority, or manual. This was made possible by adding an additional lug on the lenses (MD mount), but the older lenses (SR and MC mounts) could still be used except in shutter priority mode. The same XD-7 would serve as the basis for Leitz's Leica R4, released in 1980.

1979: Minolta turned 50! A special series of XD / XD-7 / XD-11 cameras engraved or screen-printed with "50 anniversary" was offered (less than 2000 units worldwide). Those with good memories would recall that the company was founded in 1928, but the celebration commemorated the first camera produced in 1929.

1981: A new logo was introduced for clear brand and product identification. This was a serious matter, as a selection committee had been established to review proposals for several years. A pipe story would be decisive! When Saul Bass, the designer of the logo that was ultimately chosen, met with the committee, he was met with a chilly reception. He began by pointing out that the name "Minolta" was perfectly symmetrical, centered around an "O," and he noted that this "O" was the ideal place for a symbol. At that moment, he took his associate Herb Yager's pipe, a Dunhill. This pipe had just a white dot on the stem, enough for connoisseurs to identify the brand. With the pipe in hand, he addressed Kazuo Tashima, the founder of the brand, who was retired but still influential: "Here is what you need: a magic dot! That was enough to pique curiosity and interest, and Saul Bass would finalize the project: the "magic dot" would be a blue globe separated by four clear lines between the tropics. Among the first cameras to feature this new logo were the Minolta CLE, the first interchangeable lens rangefinder to benefit from OTF (On The Film) TTL (Through-The-Lens) metering, and the X-700, the first fully automatic camera from the brand in the modern sense.


1982: It's best to ignore the release of the Disc 5 and Disc 7 series that year... the Disc format turned out to be a resounding failure.


1985
: A few quiet years were required for the development of the Minolta 7000, the brand's first autofocus SLR. There had been a hybrid in 1983, the X-600, a camera with assisted focusing, but it received relatively little attention, likely due to its limited distribution only in Japan. The 7000 introduced a radical change: the lens mount was completely redesigned, making all previous SR, MC, or MD lenses incompatible. From that point on, there were Minolta cameras with manual focus and autofocus, whether one welcomed it or lamented it. In any case, the 7000 was a success and would remain an iconic camera. It was soon joined by the Minolta 9000, with improved performance.

1988: An evolution of the previous models was the Dynax 7000i, with the "i" standing for "intelligence." Electronics infiltrated every aspect, controlling all parameters: autofocus, light metering, flash, and various "result" modes accessible by inserting micro-cards into the camera.

1990: Amidst reflex cameras and a multitude of autofocus compact cameras, an intruder emerged: the X-300s! A camera with MANUAL FOCUS... a return to barbarism... to the Middle Ages! It was a success until 2003!

1992: A blow to the company, Honeywell obtained $125,000,000 in compensation from Minolta for the use of certain autofocus patents. Added to this, the photography market was experiencing a downturn, and Japan was going through an extended recession. The period was rather gloomy.


1994: The company's name was... shortened! We knew Minolta Camera Co Ltd., and now it became Minolta Co Ltd. It was a sign of trouble...


1995: Minolta entered the digital world with the RD-175, a gas-guzzling monster weighing over a kilogram without a lens and producing 1.8-megapixel images. This behemoth used Minolta-A mount lenses. It's worth mentioning the Dynax 600si Classic, a traditional-looking AF SLR with modern conveniences.

1996: The APS format made its debut, intended to replace the venerable 135 format. Minolta introduced the Vectis S-1, the only camera to fully exploit the features of this new format. It used a new mount (V mount) for which 8 lenses were created. However, the

APS format disappointed and eventually disappeared in 2011. Among the surprises Minolta still had to offer was the TC-1, an ultra-compact 35mm camera with a fixed focal length lens known for its excellence.

1998: At Photokina, the Dynax 9 was unveiled, a concentration of technology and the company's know-how. Unfortunately, it also marked the swan song of film photography. The other presentation at Photokina announced the digital era: the RD-3000, producing 2.7 megapixels and using all Vectis lenses, plus a specially designed 17mm lens.

2003: For strategic and financial reasons, Minolta and Konica merged, combining their names and slightly modifying Minolta's logo. Konica-Minolta would release the 7D, a digital camera. However, the days were numbered, and the company eventually sold its photo division to Sony in 2006. This marked the end of Minolta's presence in the photography world, except for copiers.





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