The first model in Minolta’s long-running series of 35mm rangefinder cameras, the original Hi-Matic from the early 1960s is a historic analogue beauty in more ways than one. Find out what catapulted this camera to stardom during its heydays in this installment of Lomopedia!
Introduced by Minolta in 1962, the original Hi-Matic was the first model in the camera maker’s Hi-Matic line of affordable 35mm rangefinder cameras, and the first Minolta camera to have automatic exposure. It was equipped with a 45mm f/2 or 45mm f/2.9 Rokkor lens and a built-in selenium light meter. Interestingly, wristwatch maker Citizen made the shutter assembly for this camera.
The Minolta Hi-Matic had its claim to fame when the US version, the Ansco Autoset, was among the cameras brought by American astronaut John Glenn in space during his historic orbital flight around the Earth on February 20, 1962.
According to NASA :
“When John Glenn became the first American in orbit, bringing a camera was an afterthought. An ANSCO AUTOSET 35mm camera, manufactured by Minolta, was purchased in a local drug store and hastily modified so the astronaut could use it more easily while in his pressure suit. At the time, everything that John Glenn did was deemed an experiment. At the beginning of the program, no one knew for certain whether weightlessness would prevent a man from seeing, or from breathing, or from eating and swallowing. Photography was deemed nothing more than a recreational extra.”
- Type: rangefinder camera
- Manufacturer: Minolta
- Year of launch: 1962
- Film: 35mm with speeds from 6 to 1600 ASA
- Lens: 1:2.0/45mm (6 elements in 5 groups)
- Shutter: Citizen leaf shutter with meter-controlled aperture/speed combinations from f2 1/45 sec. to f16 1/500sec
- Metering: Selenium meter
- Size: 138×84×67 mm
- Weight: 740 g