Finding the Camera

When the time came for me to "go away to college" I did it a bit backwards. We were living here in Richmond, Texas, my dad had just started a great job with the University of Illinois and my mom would be moving with him at the end of my senior year of high school. I had a decision to make: go to Illinois as an out-of-state student or stay in the place I'd made the most roots and attend the University of Houston. I chose the latter, telling myself my parents were going away to college instead. I started out with a completely different major in the school of art. While attempting to be decent at Interior Design and Architecture, I found I was actually succeeding and surpassing my photography course I took as a requirement. That was when I knew I wasn't meant to do anything with numbers (other than shutter speed and aperture). I changed my major, and consequently my minor, and went full speed into the darkroom. I loved the darkroom. Every pair of my jeans had stains from the solutions we used and I didn't care, I wore them anyway. I started shooting with a Minolta Maxxum that my dad passed down to me during my high school photojournalism and yearbook classes. U of H did eventually switch over to digital photography, locking up the darkroom and bringing in 30 or so Macs in its place. But during the darkroom years, while on a trip to Illinois to visit my parents, I found this steal!

My mom loves antiques. She loves the search, the find, the haggle, all of that probably more than the actual purchase. I tagged along with her for an estate sale in who-knows-where, Illinois. The house was stacked with junk! I mean, from the bottom of the basement to the top of the second floor, stacked! As my mom made her way to the fabrics, I found a guest room upstairs full of old cameras. Most were little Kodak Brownies (of which I already had several), or 80s Polaroids (guess who had a ton of those too?), but in the middle of the bunch I saw the Minolta SRT 200.

The Minolta SRT 200 series was released in 1975 as a full upgrade to the original SRT 100 series. The most notable upgrade in this model was the addition of faster shutter speeds. This SLR came equipped with a Minolta MD Rokkor-X 50mm f/1:1.2 lens and shot full frame images using 35mm film. It had manual focus, manual film advance, and used a 1.3v mercury button cell battery to power its through-the-lens light meter. The Minolta SRT 200 made photography more approachable for the newcomer while still meeting the needs of the professional.

Fixing the Camera

I ended up purchasing the camera for a whopping $25, after my mom haggled a bit with the seller. I brought it back home with me to Richmond, Texas. I ran a roll of film through it and everything worked, but it had some light leaks that would definitely need fixing.

That was 18 years ago.

Today the camera is still working great but needs some TLC.

I invite you to follow my blog, I'll try to update it regularly as I go. In this blog I'll be going over a full rehab of the Minolta SRT 200. That rehab will include:

Changing the battery to a new silver oxide 1.5v to enable use of the light meter.

Calibrating the light meter to work with the stronger battery (the original mercury cell was 1.3v).

Replacing the entire light seal.

Cleaning the viewfinder.

Cleaning the entire camera and lens.

Attaching a new film advance lever.

Attaching a new strap and lens cap.

My goal with this project is to be able to fully restore this camera to perfect working order, to be able to run a roll of film without light leaks, and to make it shine like it's brand new again.

I will also be dipping my fingers in home developing! I'm very excited about that so stay tuned for more on that as well!

Thanks for reading,

Happy Shooting!