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Minolta Autocord

Overview - Virtually unknown 6x6 twin lens reflex. Made in several models, which can include variously the LVS exposure system, selenium manual meter, CDS meter, Seiko and Optiper shutters. Japanese TLRs are a dime a dozen, but the Minolta Autocord is the only variety that steadily increases in value (on every rare occasion you see one on the resale market). Why? Because it outdid the Rollei 3.5MX and Rolleicords it was designed to emulate (if you doubt this as a purpose, you will notice that the striping around the wind lever and the tripod socket are identical; you will also notice "Chiyoko" where you would expect to see F&H). These are the principal models.

Original Autocord - Optiper shutter

Autocord L - Citizen Shutter, selenium cell meter (nameplate flips up), LVS exposure system (take the reading; add the numbers on the shutter and aperture scales to match the reading).

Autocord RA - Like the Original, but with the Citizen shutter

Autocord CDS I / II / III - Like the L, but with a CdS meter instead of selenium. The last one takes 220 film as well.

In sum, I have discovered that the Autocord has better optics, easier focusing, and a more logical control layout than any other TLR. Too bad mine sat in a closet for 15 years before I learned how to use it. This article will discuss the common features of all of the Autocords. Someone has a listing of all the models, but frankly, I couldn't tell you what the name of mine is - the first model.


Left: myautocord.com; right, deadly sharpness with pleasant bokeh

Main Lens - The Autocord has two lenses: the taking Rokkor, which is a 75mm f/3.5 lens; and the viewing Rokkor, which is a 75mm f/3.2 lens. Both take Rollei Bayonet-1 filters. Spacing between the lenses is normal, and the Minolta Autopole accessory fits over them (this is a set of geared, synchronized polarizers that shows you in the viewfinder what the effect will be on film).

Viewfinder - the viewfinder is a plain ground glass with hairlines to show the frame. There is a pop-down magnifier and sportfinder. I have found this quite a bit easier to focus than the laminated-glass Rollei 3.5MX finders, despite the fact that the viewing lens is slower. Spiratone once made a split-screen groundglass, and you can certainly have a brighter screen cut (Beattie, etc) if you want. I would recommend cutting a piece of the Office Max fresnel bookmark magnifier and dropping it into the finder. Works wonders for this or any other TLR.

Autopole - where would we be without this accessory? A geared dual polarizer that shows you the polarization effect, exactly as it will be on film. Works with Rolleiflex 3.5MX, too.


Special features and burdens - definitely a different animal than the Rolleiflex.

1. The Autocord features a focusing helicoid, not a knob. The focusing lever sweeps an arc under the lensboard. There is a separate arrow for infrared films. The downside is that the lever is made of Zamak, a sometimes-unstable alloy.

2. You can operate the shutter and aperture controls with the same hand, at the same time. Aperture and shutter are via sliders, not the traditional Rollei wheels. No downside here.

3. Unlike the Rollei, the Autocord is capable of double exposures. Push a tab forward and crank the wind lever backward.

4. Speaking of the wind lever, it has a folding tip to lock it in place, rather than having the entire lever fold back into place. This means that it can be folded with one hand. Advantage: Minolta.

5. The shutter runs from 1-1/400 sec, and is cocked by the wind lever. The downside is that the Optiper shutter runs at about half speed, and no one ever wants to fix it. Of course, you can have it timed and go about your merry way. The Citizen shutter is better, but it is usually attached to a much less elegant type of Autocord.

6. The lens is a lot sharper than the Rollei Xenar or Tessar. Enough said. The Rokkor is legendary and I haven't yet encountered one person who disagrees with my assessment that the Japanese version of the Tessar wins hands down.

7. The loading is easier, with a back that does not come off, but the tradeoff is you have to line up the red arrows (instead of using the Rollei Automat's film sensor).

In my opinion, the tradeoffs are well worth the results.


Ever wonder what a party at my house looks like? (Original Autocord on TMY)