With all the wiz-bang innovations coming from the Lomographic Society helping light up all our lives, sometimes its not too late to travel back in time and learn the basics of photography with the Minolta SRT-101 SLR camera!
The acronym “SLR” or “Single Lens Reflex” if you want to get technical, can spark a sense of fear or even heavy distaste in the keen lomographer. Conjuring images of geeky, fastidious photographers, with over-compensating, over-sized cameras too busy fiddling with settings and “the perfect exposure” whilst missing the actual moment, it is easy to see why lomographers may be turned off by this dangerous collection of letters. However, with the Minolta SRT-101 I believe SLR cameras have the power to shake off these negative portrayals and become a truly useful basis for the budding photographer, whilst still being true to the idea of Lomography.
First and foremost, it is analogue! Spawned in 1958, this camera came well before the cold, clinical aberration of photography that is “digital cameras”, and whilst it does give the user full control over settings such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO of film, it doesn’t use a single battery (except for the optional light meter). Now I don’t know about you, but I think that is pretty true to the lomographic way.
One of the key ingredients which has always drawn me to the Lomographic Society and its philosophy is the ability to have copious amounts of tantalizing fun, for not much money, being affordable enough for everyone to participate in and contribute to. This Minolta SLT-101 is no different! Having acquired mine for about 90 Australian Dollars, with a nice f1.4 lens, these cameras are easy to find on the used market in pretty good condition for not many piggies (or money for normal people…) which helps add to their unique appeal!
However, if we were to focus on the camera itself, the reason why I think it is such an important part of photography and should be part of every enthusiastic photographer’s arsenal is because it helps one truly learn the art of photography. Jargon like ISO, shutter speed and aperture were just jibberish to me before I experienced this camera. Knowing that your passion and your love for photography played the entire part in the photo-product which you receive is a feeling which can be achieved by little else. Whilst yes, settings can get in the way of the moment, with a beautiful, analogue piece of history such as this, the element of surprise is still true and strong, all adding to the exhilaration and joy of shooting with film. Also, being made of a magnesium-leather construction, with completely mechanical parts, these cameras are real workhorses, and should not fail you even in the harshest of conditions.
If you can, try and find a lens with a large aperture as I have. The ‘Bokeh’ effect one witnesses with a wide aperture lens can be awe-inspiring when used on the right subjects, and is heaps of fun to experiment with. Lenses are made from f1.7 all the way down to f1.2 if you are lucky enough to snag one of the sought after models.
Things to watch out for:
As with buying anything used, sometimes things don’t go exactly how you planned. Certain cameras may not work below certain shutter speeds or their light meters may not work, and may not have been treated properly, so always be wary when searching for the little gem.
However, aside from these small risks, if one is to search hard and be patient, the rewards are extremely satisfying. Don’t let the settings take over your photography by any means, however, take them in your stride so that when you do go back and shoot with your wiz-bang Lomographic creations, you can appreciate the beauty and roots of the picture you come home with! Stop reading and start shooting!