The Minolta Autocord is a twin lens reflex camera that was manufactured in the years 1955 to 1966. It has two lenses positioned directly above each other and they are coupled so that they focus on exactly the same plane. The top lens is used for viewing and it reflects a mirror image onto a ground glass. The bottom lens projects the image onto the film.
The Autocord is a medium format camera and it records 6×6 images on 120 roll film. A 6×6 image (56mm x 56mm) is approximately 3.6x larger than a 35mm frame (24x36mm). Since image quality is proportional to the film size, this camera can produce much higher quality enlargements than any 35mm camera.
I bought my Autocord used on ebay for about $80. Although, the camera was in bad cosmetic shape, it was in good working condition considering its age. The lens was clear and free of fungus and the focus lever worked smoothly. There were no light leaks and the aperture blades opened and closed freely. The shutter speeds were, however, slow by as much as 2 stops and the mechanical self timer often stuck and failed to fire the shutter.
The serial number of my camera is 143649 indicating that it was a 1959 Autocord with an Optiper MXS shutter. This website has a list of Autocord serial numbers along with production dates and version differences.
The camera had no meter but this wasn’t a problem as I shot black and white film which has a wide exposure range. I exposed based on the sunny 16 rule and leaned toward overexposure. Later camera versions have a selenium light meter.
Although Autocords are supposed to have a bright viewfinder, mine was very dim and it was a struggle to compose and focus in well lit environments. I removed the ground glass and cleaned the mirror box which was very dusty. This helped although the image was still not as bright as I would have liked. The scene also appears as a mirror image and it took me some time to adjust.
One advantage I discovered with the Autocord is that because it has separate lenses for viewing and taking, there is no mirror blackout when the shutter fires as with SLR cameras. This means that you can see the image at the exact moment of capture.
The Autocord produces very nice negatives and can yield enlargements unmatched by 35mm film. However, after my initial experimentation, I haven’t used it much because I prefer to shoot chromes and the shutter speeds were simply not accurate enough. (I did precisely measure the shutter speed at the various settings, but since the delays varied with the shutter time, carrying around a table of time adjustments was simply too much hassle. I had planned to get a CLA but I never got around to it).
Finally, buying a used Autocord is a very inexpensive way to get involved with medium format photography. Although the camera is completely manual, it will give higher quality images than 35mm film. If you don’t like the camera you can generally sell it for what you bought it for on ebay.
|shutter speeds||B, 1-400 continuously variable|
|aperture setttings||f/3.5-22 continuously variable|
|flash sync modes||X, M|
|size||14cm high, 7.5cm wide, 10cm deep (5.5″x3″x4″)|
|weight||994 grams, 2 lbs 3 oz|