Minolta SRT101b 35mm slr

The Minolta SRT101b was a later version of the original SRT 101, which was introduced by Minolta in the mid 1960s. It is a 35mm single lens reflex camera with TTL metering, a good viewfinder and a solid reputation for quality.

My Minolta SRT101b Camera

I paid £10:50 including postage for this camera in a ‘buy it now’ sale from eBay. I bought it because the SRT 101 is one of those iconic cameras which every camera collector should own, but they are normally sold for quite high prices, so £10:50 seemed reasonable.

The camera was sold as a non working unit because the meter needle didn’t work and the mirror occasionally stuck in the up position, but the general cosmetic condition was very good. I assumed the meter problem was probably just a flat battery so that didn’t concern me, and I thought the mirror sticking up was probably because it was sticking to the mirror damper, so I went ahead and purchased it.

When the unit turned up, my initial suspicions about the battery were confirmed – once I replaced the old unit with a modern SR44 cell, the meter seemed to respond to light. I will need to actually fit a different battery if I want the readings to be accurate (or change the film speed), but at least the meter circuit seems to work.

The mirror sticking was a different issue. My initial thought that it might be caused by the mirror sticking to the mirror damper was not correct – the damper was actually in quite good condition without any sort of sticky deposit. While I was looking at this problem however, I got side tracked because I thought there was something wrong with the damper. When the mirror moved to the up position, the damper moved up with it which looked odd. After taking the top cover off and trying to find what the problem was, I discovered however that the damper is designed to move like that so I started to look for something else. A few internet searches got me looking at a known issue on the SRT 101 under the bottom cover, and I found a latch which needed lubrication. Although this has improved the condition, with the mirror sticking less and less as I use the camera, I’m not 100% convinced that the problem is completely fixed. I’ll have to monitor it and see if there is anything else causing the problem.

Cosmetically the camera is in great shape. There are a couple of marks in the top cover metalwork, but that’s about the only thing to indicate that the camera isn’t new. The viewfinder is a bit dirty and marked, but that is a relatively easy thing to deal with, and anyway doesn’t affect the pictures the camera can take.

The only other thing which made the camera less than perfect is a slight mark on one of the shutter curtains. I don’t think it’s a problem because I don’t think is is leaking light, but I’ll need to put a film through the camera to confirm that.

Minolta SRT101b Description

The SRT 101b is one of the later variants of the SRT101 which was made towards the end of the camera’s production run. The original SRT 101 was released to the world in 1966 and was made for about 10 years in total with various minor upgrades along the way. That means my 101b was made in the mid 1970s and therefore was competing with models like the Pentax MX, ME Super and the Olympus OM-1.

The camera’s layout is pretty conventional for a mid 1970s slr. The film advance is on the top right with the frame counter to the right of it and the shutter speed dial to the left. The shutter speed dial also doubles as the film speed setting by lifting the dial and turning until the correct ISO speed shows in a little window in the top.

On the left side of the camera top is the rewind crank, which also opens the back cover by pulling it up. The lens is coupled to the camera with the Minolta SR bayonet mount, and the aperture adjustment is made with the ring around the lens. On the bottom of the lens mount is a depth of field / lens stop down button, and the self-timer lever is in the almost universal position of the front of the camera.

One unconventional placement is the meter on/off switch which is fitted to the bottom of the camera. It is made with a knurled top to allow it to be turned with a finger pressed against it, but I find it one of the more awkward ‘features’ of the camera.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder in the SRT101b is one of the better ones fitted to cameras of this age. Not only is there a centre split image focusing aid, but there is also a marker at the bottom of the viewfinder showing the shutter speed selected. Unfortunately, there is no indicator for the aperture, but the exposure meter is shown to the right hand side of the viewfinder.

The exposure meter is a match needle system with an arm which moves with the aperture setting on the lens and the shutter speed dial. To set the correct exposure the camera is pointed at the scene and the shutter and aperture adjusted until the movable arm matches the position of the needle pointer. It’s a system which is quick to use when you get used to it and allows you to set either the shutter speed or aperture to get the correct exposure.

Exposure metering

The exposure metering is carried out by two photocells fitted in the prism housing which measure the light at the top and bottom of the scene and then average the exposure from those two areas. Minolta called this system ‘Contrast Light Compensator’ or CLC, and this inscription is marked on the front of the camera above the lens mount.

The exposure measurement is carried out at full aperture, which means the scene is always viewed as bright as the lens will allow. If the photographer wants to see the effects of the aperture on the scene, there is a stop down button on the bottom of the lens mount which closes the aperture to the set value. Of course this will make the scene darker, and will invalidate any reading the metering system is making, but it’s a useful addition and is easy to press with the camera held to the eye.

General Impression

So, the Minolta SRT101b looks like a good quality, well made camera with all the features a serious amateur photographer would need in the mid 1970s. By that time however, the competition had moved on to producing much smaller, more compact models, and so the 101b was one of the last 101s that Minolta made.

The next part of this post will include some sample pictures from the camera.

Minolta SRT101b Specifications

  • Minolta SRT101b 35mm slr film camera
  • Match needle, open aperture metering with suitable lenses
  • Stop down metering with older lenses
  • CLC averaged metering system
  • Film speed ASA 6 to 6400
  • Cloth shutter with speeds of 1sec to 1/1000sec + bulb
  • Split-image focusing aid in viewfinder
  • Shutter speed shown in viewfinder
  • Exposure meter visible in viewfinder
  • Hot shoe and flash sync socket
  • Auto reset frame counter
  • SR bayonet mount for lens
  • Self timer
  • Manual available on line here.

3 Comments

  • Mike PENRITH

    I had the Minolta SRT101 from new until burgled. Good solid performer although the weight… Later, bought two X700’s, one for film and the other with slides. Still have both with a galaxy of lenses and a flash. Mint as well. Look forward to the strip down of your camera.
    mike

    Reply
  • Interesting – having just acquired an earlier 101.
    The differences seem to be the 101b got a hot shoe, and a film memo holder (in place of an ASA/DIN conversion dial), but lost the mirror lock-up (due to the 21mm lens re-design).
    Yes that spring loaded mirror stop is not something you’ll find elsewhere.
    The CLC is supposed to detect contrast between the top and bottom of a scene, so it averages when there is little difference, but bottom-weights when there is more significant contrast. You should find the camera will give a different meter reading upside-down, when faced with a high contrast view – like a bright sky and dark foreground.
    Your camera is an early 101b, because the CLC was dropped post 1977, so it dates between 1975 and 1977.

    Reply
    • All correct, but note that late 101s dropped the mirror lock up function as well, so worth ensuring it is fitted, if one is shopping for a 101 and would like the feature.

      Reply

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