One of the most popular reviews on this site is for the fairly obscure Yashica 35MF. Probably that’s because information about that camera is pretty hard to come by. As a result, I likely see most of the traffic generated by interest in it. The Minolta Hi-Matic SD that’s the subject of this review s a good alternative if you’re looking something similar. And in some respects, the Minolta’s a better choice.
There are tons of Minolta Hi-Matics out there, but this particular model has to be one of the less well known. As the photos show, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the Yashica 35MF. But it’s not simply the same camera with different name badge. One of the features that’s different about the Minolta is that it’s powered by a pair of ordinary AA batteries. The Yashica uses two AA’s as well, but they only power the pop-up flash — you need a separate LR44/675-type cell to for the camera’s shutter and metering system. Although I haven’t tested it, I suspect the Minolta will run just about forever on a pair of Duracells, so long as you don’t use the flash on every shot.
So what is the Hi-Matic SD? It’s virtually identical the equally obscure Minolta Hi-Matic S — the “D” means you can have the date imprinted on the picture, for what that’s worth. (The selectable years span from 1980 to 1992, which gives some insight into the camera’s vintage and Minolta’s expectations for how long it will last.) Thankfully there’s a switch next to the viewfinder that allows you to turn off this “feature.”
Both the S and the SD are auto-exposure viewfinder cameras — not rangefinders as some assume. Focus is set by guessing. The lens barrel is printed with the usual distance icons (person’s head, two people, mountain, etc) as well as the subject distance in feet and metres. Unusually, the focus setting is indicated in the viewfinder with a moving-needle display. Unfortunately only the icons are used, which makes it a little less useful than if the actual distances were shown.
The camera seems to work very well. All my exposures came out fine and the images are pleasingly sharp and free from distortion and obvious vignetting. The camera sports a 38mm f/2.7 Rokkor lens, which is likely a 4 element/3 group optic. Several sources report the shutter speed ranges from 1/4 second to 1/450, but I don’t think that’s correct, at least at the slow end. The shutter on my sample will certainly stay open longer than 1/4 second — for up to several seconds. I don’t have the camera’s manual, so I can’t say for sure what the exposure range actually is.
Really, there’s very little to complain about with the Hi-Matic SD. Some might be put off because the highest ISO setting is only 400, but that’s as fast a film as I ever use, so it hasn’t been a problem for me. Probably the camera’s greatest shortcoming is that it’s not very common. I’d say if you happen across a Hi-Matic S or SD at your local thrift store, pick it up. It’s a very competent no-muss-no-fuss shooter with a good lens.
To see more sample images, go here.
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