Minolta  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Minolta Brand Overview

Minolta logo

Founded: 1928 — Osaka, Empire of Japan
(modern day Japan)
Currently: Konica Minolta, Inc.
Sony Corporation

Minolta Brand History

Minolta was a Japanese brand founded by Kazuo Tashima in 1928 as Nichidoku Shashinki Shoten which is translated as “Japan-Germany Camera Store.” During its 75 year history, Minolta produced cameras of all types and formats ranging from subminiature spy cameras to high end 35mm rangefinders to glass plate folding cameras.

The company’s first camera, the Nifcarette, was introduced in 1929 and used imported German lens and shutter assemblies. Two years later, the company went public and changed its name to Molta Goshi-gaisha, MOLTA being an abbreviation of the German Mechanismus Optik und Linsen von Tashima or “Mechanisms, Optics, and Lenses by Tashima.” In 1933, the company introduced a copy of the famous German strut folding camera Plaubel Makina and dubbed it the Minolta. A few years later in 1937, the company changed its name again to Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko K.K. or Chiyoda Optics and Precision Industry Co., Ltd. As World War II began, the company began producing goods for the Imperial Japanese military including aerial reconnaissance cameras and the very first lenses to bear the Rokkor name. After the war ended, the first of the highly successful Minolta-35 line of Leica-compatible rangefinders was introduced.

In 1962, the company changed its name to Minolta Camera K.K. and introduced the Minolta Hi-Matic rangefinder which was taken into orbit by NASA astronaut John Glenn as he became the first American in space. About a decade later, Minolta entered into a partnership with Leica and launched the formidable Leitz Minolta CL the following year. Building upon the CL’s success, Minolta also went on to manufacture the first three models of the Leica R series of SLRs. Minolta innovated with their own products as well, including the Minolta XD-7 of 1977 (the first SLR to feature aperture and shutter priority autoexposure modes) and 1985’s Minolta Maxxum 7000 (the first SLR to have an integrated autofocus motor).

Minolta merged with Konica in 2003 to form Konica Minolta and stayed in the photography market until 2006 when financial problems forced the company to sell off its camera division to Sony. Today, Konica Minolta continues to produce a wide range of products including industrial and commercial grade printers, industrial optics, planetarium projectors, and medical equipment.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Minolta cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 462-472.

“History,” Konica Minolta, Inc., http://www.konicaminolta.com/about/corporate/history.html

“Konica Minolta Announces Withdrawal Plan for Camera Business and Photo Business,” Konica Minolta, Inc., http://www.konicaminolta.com/about/releases/2006/0119_03_01.html

“Another Journey for John Glenn’s Ansco Camera,” Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, http://blog.nasm.si.edu/behind-the-scenes/another-journey-for-john-glenn’s-ansco-camera/

“Minolta and Konica Plan to Merge by End of 2003,” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/08/business/minolta-and-konica-plan-to-merge-by-end-of-2003.html

“Minolta,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minolta

“Leica CL,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leica_CL

“Japanese aerial cameras,” Camerapedia, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Japanese_aerial_cameras

“Rokkor,” Camerapedia, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Rokkor