Film is not dead – Restoring a 1970s Minolta camera

A few weeks ago a friend came to me looking to get rid of some old photography equipment. In this lot was a Minolta Hi-Matic F from the 1970s. It’s batteries were long dead and so old that they weren’t even made anymore. I was going to add it to my collection due to its awesome retro looks but I decided to see if I could fix it. I love old-school analog technology.

Using the wonderful tool known as Google I was able to see that the old mercury batteries it used to run on had been replaced by the LR44 button style battery. They would provide the same voltage required to operate the internal light-meter and to make the shutter open and close. The new batteries weren’t the cheapest (unless you get the shady made-in-china ones) but they did the trick. You stack two of them on top of each other and they will fit inside one battery slot as they are half the size of the battery they replace. You then take a piece of tin foil, fold it up, and fill the other slot with it, shorting it out. According to multiple sources this is in fact safe for operation.

The Hi-Matic F is a manual focus rangefinder style camera and its operation is completely automatic aside from film loading/winding/re-winding. You cant select any apertures or shutter speeds. It knows what to do.

I brought it to a friend’s housewarming party and took some test shots. I was worried I didnt load it right, but it has an indicator telling you when it’s working properly – always read the manual for this stuff! However when I rewound the film, the winding lever broke and I had to unload it manually in a dark closet into its storage canister. Thankfully the photo centre attendant kept his old film processing gear and was able to wind it back into the canister by hand. I had to wait two weeks as it had to be shipped to Montreal for development, but here are a few of the test images I made. There’s even a shot of me! (Tony Stark beard)

All shots are from one roll of Ilford XP2 400 ISO C41 process film.

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