Minolta Autocord

September 6, 2009

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.

Minolta Autocord TLR with Optiper shutter

Minolta Autocord TLR with Optiper shutter

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.

Specifications

shutter type leaf
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

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Cormac October 9, 2009 at 1:08 pm

what type of film does it take and where can you buy it?
Thanks for the post; it’s very informative and interesting

Richard October 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I have owned several autocords, over the years, and I am a huge fan! I still have one and it is the non-meter variety (which I prefer) as I like to meter with a Luna Pro. I also own several Rollei 2 1/4 cameras. Honestly, if there is a difference in image quality, It is difficult, for anyone other that a complete camera nut, to ascertain. I have taken some absolutely beautiful B&W landscape images with my Minolta! It is a fantastic way for someone to break into the 2 1/4 medium format without “breaking the bank”. And, forget about the meter models, as it is just one more area of concern in relation to upkeep. Purchase a decent inexpensive light meter or simply utilize the “sunny 16″ rule at various settings. Go, now…..find one in good mechanical shape and begin to mimic “Ansel” (almost!)
Digital is fun……But film is still difficult to beat.

Russell November 8, 2009 at 12:03 pm

I did most of my photography degree with one of these (in the 1980s). Best camera I ever had.

AJT May 27, 2010 at 11:38 am

I bought an Autocord a year ago for $120. It was in pretty good shape, but I sent it to Karl Bryan anyway for a CLA. He did a really fantastic job, and other than a few paint chips here and there, it looks and performs like it did 50 years ago. I ended up having to send it back to him for a new focus helix when that broke. He has machined new ones made of stronger metal. I’d suggest just doing that upfront as it is a known weak point of the camera. Anyway, the CLA cost me as much as the camera (more if you count sending it back to fix the focus helix), but it makes it so much more pleasant to use! It is truly a fantastic camera not only for its image quality, but also because it slows you down and lets you think about what you are doing.

Ron Moroz August 19, 2010 at 7:15 am

This reading has been a delightful pleasure. My experience started with the Minolta Autocord started in the 50′s. it was my first cam. From beach cheese cake to portraits to gp.
Mine is still in its leather case and never used, these days.
the quality of the pics was outstanding. the 2×2 slides could be projected to 6′x6′ with clear images.
I did go astray after a while, being swayed by Nikon for their 35mm bag of tricks. and since have amassed many as the years went buy. But never did I sell the Autocord.
Liking the quality was hard to leave behind.
The quality of the negs and chromes led my into a dark room setup which allowed some nice 16×20 portraits that were absolutey studio quality.
Mamyia RZ67 came along and I was back into the larger film format; later even going to the 4×5 route….large format is the way to go if your serious.
By the way, my Autocord sold new for $77.00, in the mid 1950′s. I suppose I could get my money back using ebay.
Maybe it’s time to get it out and try it again.
I would like more info on the repair service to have it cleaned up. Please let me know who CLA is.
Thanks
Ron Moroz

David Yarmish September 10, 2010 at 6:42 pm

In 1972 while doing an office renovation in a building built in the 30′s a small box was found behind the wall of an old closet with a Minolta Autocord Twin Lens camera. It was given to me and then I gave it to my Father in Law who thought it the best camera he had ever owned.

It has now been returned to me and I want to sell it to an interested buyer. Any ideas about value. Probably less than 20 films through it. It comes with a Zeiss IKOPHOT exposure meter.

thankyou

David Yarmish

Stephen September 10, 2010 at 8:28 pm

David — it depends on the condition and accessories but I have seen them on ebay from about $70-$350.

John Doyle October 19, 2010 at 5:24 am

Hi.. I have recently bought a Minolta autocord and was wondering about the range of accessories still available for it, particularly flash… Can anyone bring me up to speed on this……Regards John

Agust Olafsson October 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Hello John,

On my Autocord there is a simple traditional flash synch plug. I’ve used that with an very old vivitar flash, and also with state-of-the-art 2007 flash system – works great either way.

There are some accessories out there – mainly on Ebay.

Have fun! Agust

Donald Belbin January 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

I have my fathers Autocord with no manual. On the top is says Chiyoko, between the lenses it says Seikosha-MX. On the side of the lower lense there is a three position lever that has M (yellow), F (black) & X (red). I don’t see a serial number anywhere. Can you tell me what version and year it is from the information provided? Is there a manual printed anywhere on the internet?

Thanks

Stephen January 8, 2011 at 10:41 am

Donald – check out the link in the article. It lists the different production versions along with dates.

andrew k January 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm

for a manual for the autocord and any other camer you may have,
http://www.butkus.org/chinon/
leave a donation if possible, he works hard to provide these manuals to us for free.
Help the guy out.

Samantha H June 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

Hello, I have had an autocord Minolta camera past down through the family. I am curious to how much these are worth now. It is in good condition but would probably better off in a new home where somebody can use it. Anyone help me out on a price please.

Stephen June 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Samantha — as mentioned above I would check out ebay for prices on your Autocord. Another option may be to look at used camera dealers like KEH.

Carol Geraghty March 31, 2012 at 6:55 am

My dad recently took a Minolta Autocord out of the attic and we are hoping to find out what year it was made – the serial number is 265049, can anyone advise how I can find out?
Thanks
Carol Geraghty

Stephen March 31, 2012 at 7:31 am

Carol — the webpage linked to in the post has a list of serial numbers, models, and production years.

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