Minolta TC-1 is probably the smallest
angle (28mm) camera for 35mm film. It belongs to the absolute top
the ultra compact 35mm film cameras. It has been released in 1996.
There are quite some photographers who consider it as the best ultra
compact 35mm film camera ever built. Its reknown high-grade Minolta
G-Rokkor 28mm F/3.5 lens has an unusual four step bladeless aperture
ring with perfectly circular aperture holes. This aperture system is
said to give the camera's images a nice soft bokeh, but as it's 28mm, it's certainly limited. The Minolta TC-1
was extremely expensive from start and prices stay high today. It is
not a point and shoot camera, there is no full automatic control. You
have to choose the aperture and the camera can do the rest. The camera has extensive manual control:
the viewfinder indicates autofocus distance, shutter speed and AF O.K., exposure control by aperture priority AE, dedicated spot metering button, 2 modes, dedicated AF button if in manual mode, mode dial - which can be locked - for: flash mode, timer, ISO override, focus mode, exposure compensation. There is also a button to illuminate the LCD display and a mid roll change button.
Its main data are:
28mm/F3.5 Minolta G-Rokkor lens, 5 elements in 5 groups (3 aspherical surfaces), autofocus with focus lock, min. focus 0,45m Electronic shutter, 4s-1/750, 4 apertures: F/3.5, F/5.6, F/8, F/16 Size 99x59x29.5, Weight 185 gr. without battery 6-6400
ISO, automatic DX coding, override possible, aperture priority AE,
segmented centre weighted or spot metering, self-timer, automatic film
advance, manual focus in 22 steps
front closed and top.
back and bottom.
Camera front open. The lens only moves out a little.
Top. On the edge top/front: 2-way menu selector. On top: LCD screen, AF button when in manual mode, menu wheel, shutter release.
Back. LCD screen backlight, diopter adjustment dial, on/off button, spot metering button (2 modes possible). Film type window.
Bottom. Strap lug on the edge. Tripod socket.Battery compartment, takes a CR123 battery. Mid roll rewind button.
Front.Flash guide number ~7 (m/ISO 100), for correct flash AE, aperture has to be set to F 3.5. Aperture set to F 3.5 on this photo
Aperture set to F 5.6. the perfectly roud aperture is easily visible.
Aperture set to F 8.
Aperture set to F 16.
camera is said to be the smallest full frame camera for 135 film, at
least it's one of the smallest. Seen its numerous features, it is a
technical wonder. It is not a point and shoot. Some find it
quirky, others say that it's the best ever built. Anyway, it's a high
quality ultra compact with a superb lens. The lens has even been
released in a small M39 series for Leica enthusiasts which is still
sought after. For me, who has spent his
whole life with cameras, it seems to be a nearly perfect concept.
Aperture priority is a "natural" thing to me, so I don't need or even
want an all
automatic one. The possibility of extensive manual control suits me
well. It's one of the few cameras that keeps any setting you chose when
switched off. Autofocus is responsive and works well. Putting a film is
easy, you drop the film into the camera, tear the film leader up to the mark and that's it. It feels more
solid than other ultra compact cameras. Seen the size, handling is
bought mine off the big auction site from a Japanse dealer with good
evaluations. I ran 2 rolls of film through it, it has severe light
leaks. Obviously these leaks have happened to others. As far as I can
see it, the leaks depend from the diaphragm chosen. I have seen none at
F 3.5, a hint at F 5.6 and heavy ones at F 8 and F 16. Looking further
on the web, it seems as if more and more TC-1 suffer from this. And as
Minolta has ended the service for these, this means a dead camera. So
if you want to buy one, choose with care.
Here are some
photos with the leaks:
pattern on top to the right, which seems to be biggest at F 16, but
visible at F8 and slghtly visible at F 5.6. Ilford HP5, 400 ISO.
A second pattern towards the left at F 8. The first one is hidden in the clear sky.
Both patterns easily visible, the second one in the branches of the tree.
The first pattern at F16 on Kodak colour film, ISO 200.
Both patterns again, the first one hidden in the clouds.
The seller of my camera was very honest, took the camera back and refunded me without discussion. Without the leaks it
could well have become my favorite camera. I will not buy another model, seen the price it's too risky for me.