I have a confession to make. I have a bad case of GAS. Now before you get concerned and take a sneaky step away from me, I'm talking Gear Acquisition Syndrome. I have a thing for camera gear, I love the different models and equipment - the way they feel and smell and sound! I love going to op-shops and antique stores and finding bargains that maybe, just maybe, will still work and produce unique looking images. None of these are worth a great deal, unfortunately camera gear generally doesn't hold much value (though try telling this to some of the antique shops flogging broken cameras for $100's!) but it's even better when you find a gem for $20 and it just sings with some film in it!
I picked up my Minolta SRT 303b on ebay a few months ago for the princely sum of $20.50. For that price I'm willing to take a risk on it working, though the seller was here in Geelong and assured me it had been working well last time it was used. Batteries in, and yep, the meter is doing what it should, shutter cocks and fires and all looks great. The lens it came with wasn't so healthy unfortunately. The 50mm f1.7 has a healthy dose of fungus, but that's a risk you take with these old cameras that haven't been stored particularly well. To take it out and test I put a 28mm f2.8 which I hadn't used but which looks nice and clear as I was in a bit of a wide-angle mood!
The SRT 303b is manual only. Underneath is a dial for off - on - battery check; the meter won't work if it's not in the on position. Top plate has a single dial for ISO and shutter speed and aperture is set on the lens. I tend to work based on my aperture so I'll set that on the lens and then all I have to contend with is the shutter speed. I have to admit I found this the tiniest bit fiddly as the shutter speed dial is very close to the pentaprism so it involves a tiny bit of maneuvering. I love that there's a little window on the rear of the camera to show when you have film loaded, as I'm forever forgetting which cameras I'm in the process of using!
I was teaching a workshop in Pinup photography on the weekend at a local farm, so I brought the Minolta along with me to test it out and shoot some behind the scenes shots. Film was a random roll I'd received in a pack from the Film Photography Project, it was branded CVS ISO200 (I rated it at 100 as I like to overexpose colour neg by 1 stop) and I have no idea if it was expired or not, but I figured it would be worth playing with. First things, the camera feels great to hold. This is a solid chunk of metal. Ergonomically cameras have improved, but it never once felt uncomfortable to hold. The meter is big, basic and easy to use. The shutter speeds are visible in the viewfinder and then it's just a case of matching the needles on the side to ensure correct exposure while keeping an eye on the shutter speed to make sure it wasn't getting too low. Easy peasy!
Over the course of the day I shot 24 exposures without a single murmer of trouble. The film loaded easily and fairly traditionally - fit it in the slot and wind on until it's obviously taken up and snug, shut the back, wind on until 1 and you're good to go. Exposure was easy and the ranges it was giving me seemed about right for the conditions, and the clunk of the shutter was just oh-so-satisfying! I love me a big clunk!! Nothing better than knowing when you've taken a shot! The viewfinder window on this one is very slightly hazy as you can see in the above image but focussing was still pretty easy, and knowing I had the 28mm I knew I could be slightly out and still be able to pretty much get focus.
For an relatively unknown (to me anyway) film I was highly impressed by the way it captured the day. While very far from a professional level film, the results really suited the environment and contributed to the feel of the long, hot, dry Aussie summer. Exposure was spot on. My film was developed by Analogue Academy and then scanned by me on my Epson V700.
I have a thing for hybrid photography - no film snob here! - so the following are also from the same roll, converted to produce the images I saw in my mind while taking them. My final conclusion is that this is definitely a camera I will use again and I would highly recommend it. Now to find some good, fungus-free fast lenses to go with it!
Overall I'd give this camera 8/10 (only minus is the location of the shutter speeds).