Why Minolta Autocord?

Agust Olafsson in action with the Autocord in Zion National Park

Agust Olafsson in action with the Autocord in Zion National Park

Here is my short summary on the Minolta Autocord.

The Minolta Autocord is a twin lens reflex (TLR) camera, made in Japan between 1955 and 1966.  A TLR camera has one lens that serves the viewfinder and another lens for the film.

Pros

The 3.5 Rokkor lens on the Autocord is legendary for image quality.  Yes, there are other cameras that have similar or better image quality (depends on who you ask) – the Autocord is on pair with them all.

If you are looking for a camera to explore medium format photography, the Autocord is most probably your best option.  I have yet to find a camera that has better image quality per dollar ratio.

The Autocord is about as light as an medium format camera will get, it is easy to bring along.

You can do double exposure with the Autocord.


Film loading is easy and the film mechanism of the Autocord is well designed.  Because of how the film is loaded from above, through and down – it is kept well straight and free of bends.  On some cameras, if left unused for a longer period of time, the next frame advanced can have a bend.  Not so with the Autocord.

Both the aperture and speed are stage-less. That means you can put these to any value.  For example, on my Zeiss 80mm Hasselblad lens, F-stop is either 2.8, 4.0, 5.6 etc…  On the Autocord you can simply slide the F-stop smoothly to the value you want.  It’s a nice feature to have if you want to slightly increase or decrease your exposure.

The Autocord, like all TLRs has no mirror to switch between the viewfinder and the film, this brings some nice features:

– As you release the shutter there is no blackout in the viewfinder.  You can keep on viewing your subject as you take the picture.


– Mirror movements brings vibration which is bad for image quality.  On most cameras, mirror vibration is not a problem as long as speed is kept faster then 1/60 or so.  A TLR has no mirror, so if you can hold it relatively steady you can bring the speed down as needed.

The Autocord is well built and quite sturdy.  I once dropped mine on concrete pavement.  I had a bay 1- 49mm converter attached which absorbed the fall and took the beating – but the camera held it together and survived the fall well.

Cons

Many have reported that the focus lever can break easily if the overall focus has become stiff of old age.  Recommendation: If your Autocord is hard to focus – bring it into to a shop to have it cleaned, lubricated and tuned (CLT).  Or, do it yourself if your feel capable (try the web for instructions).  I have never had this problem on my Autocord.

If you want more information, Camerapedia covers the Autocord.

18 Responses to Why Minolta Autocord?

  1. John Doyle says:

    Hi, I have just purchased the camera which you have reviewed. Your review is very positive, im delighted to hear. I am looking forward to taking some pics with it, and am keen to see the results..Tips very welcome……..Regards John

    • Agust says:

      Thanks for commenting John, and for our email conversation today. You are in for a treat to explore photography with the Autocord!

  2. Alexia says:

    Hello,
    I am contemplating purchasing one. What film does it get, and is it easily found in shops, or especially ordered?

    • Agust says:

      Hello Alexia,

      The Autocord uses a typical 120 film which is quite common. You can buy it in all pro photo stores and of course online. I once bought 100 expired Fuji Provia 120 films on Ebay for $200 – then put them in the freezer. I still have films left of that stock! Most of the pictures on Autocord.com are shot on that film. I’d recommend Adorama or BH for buying online. Of course you can also use B&W or a color negative. Personally I am moving into using more B&W and doing my own developing as I finish my stock of Provia.

      Hope you buy one – I’ve enjoyed mine 🙂

      Agust

  3. cocoloco1 says:

    Where is the serial number located on a Minolta Autocord? I believe it is an RG model, since I bought it new in ’63. I’d appreciate any help anyone can give.

  4. bill johnson says:

    i am 68 years of age and just took my minolta autocord from its wrapping where its been for years. still brand new although focusing lever is very stiff, i might try and oil it if i knew how or sell it as i have not used it in years, any advice

    • Agust says:

      Hello Bill,

      Brand new – that is valuable! Be very, very careful with the focusing lever. It can easily break. It has to be loosened. I would recommend you to either sell the Autocord on Ebay and noting clearly that it has a stuck focusing lever OR to take it to a professional that will clean it, lubricate and make sure it is functioning 100% – then you can either sell it for a much higher price or use it yourself.

      A mint Autocord in excellent shape will sell for between $250 and $400.

      Agust

  5. Rick Aiello says:

    I have a Minolta Autocord that has been in my family for many years. I believe it was my Grandpa’s camera, and somehow we ended up with it over the years. According to the link you gave above, it appears to be a Autocord LMX with Selenium Meter from the mid to late 1950s. It’s in magnificent shape and appears to be working fine- although I have not yet tried it out.

    A friend of mine just bought a camera similar to mine, but a different make and model. We are both photographers, so I suggested we try out our cameras and see what we can come up with. Thanks to you for your site for giving me some background on these wonderful classics.

    Oh I was also shocked to find out how much these cameras are retailing for today– just shows the value in great machinery!

  6. Lewis Bowers says:

    I am looking into buying a Minolta Autocord TLR and I am not sure which model to purchase. I read that in just over a 20 years span, about 17 models were made, so it gets confusing. What model is good for to cover all the basics? I would appreciate any help.

    • Agust says:

      Well, all the models cover the basics – by my definition of basics 🙂
      I would not rely on getting on with a meter. Rely on a hand held meter.
      If you can get one that takes both 120 and 220 film – that is great.
      Having a self-time is nice – but not a must in my opinion.

      In summary – the main thing is finding one in good shape for a reasonable price and where the focus, time and aperture move smoothly.
      You can look at this chart for overview: http://www.wctatel.net/web/crye/a-cord.htm

  7. James A. says:

    Hi: I have a very nice example of the Minolta Autocord, that I’m happy with and owned for years. I would like to replace its focusing screen with a brighter one. My question is do you have any suggestions or know where I can purchase a replacement for my camera’s focusing screen? I appreciate any help you can provide. Thank you! I’ll wait for your reply. James A.

    • Agust says:

      James,

      No, I do not know of replacements other then buying another Autocord, preferably one that is not working but can be bought cheap and used for parts. Perhaps a good Google search will yield something, or talking to some of those camera shops out there that still repair those old classics 🙂

      Happy shooting! Agust

  8. DMGross says:

    I still have my Autocord that my father bought it in Japan (metric scales) in 1963 and I used it for years to photograph weddings vbefore I switched to a Bronica S which let me switch between BW and color negative in the middle of the role. Like the Rolli , the Minolta was great as you could hold it above your head and still see the shot in the viewfinder. Great for working in crowds. Having the focus lever at the front below the lenses was handy for one handed operation

  9. Randy Roach says:

    I just purchased a autocord -Citizen- MVL . Is there a way to set the ISO ? I see no dial anywhere . Thanks

  10. Conor says:

    Agust,
    That is a lovely review. I have a very much used but perfectly functioning Autocord LMX. In the past I have used a 6×6 SLR and while it was of the highest quality and had the advantage of interchangeable lenses and so on, I absolutely detested the noise of the thing when I pressed the shutter release. It was like a rat trap. As you mention in your review there is no moving mirror in a TLR so the image is not interrupted during the exposure and there is also none of the noise that is associated with the mirror flying up and the back shutter opening in a SLR. One of the most enjoyable aspects of using a TLR is that the sound of the shutter is the only thing that one hears during the meditative process of making a photograph.

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