Minolta-35 Model II
The Minolta-35 when introduced in 1947, had a number of innovations that make it an interesting design: - The rangefinder was integrated into the viewfinder with reasonably good visibility. The Canon S-II, introduced in October, 1946 also featured an integrated rangefinder-viewfinder, and the Contax II of 1936 had a rangefinder spot in the center of its viewfinder, with a much longer rangefinder base. Leica, however, did not take this step until the M3 of 1954. 9 - The Minolta-35 had the first self-timer integrated into a Japanese 35mm camera. - The camera back opened completely like a door on a hinge facilitating loading of film. Other rangefinder cameras of the era used to bottom-load of film, which was less easy (although the distance from the camera lens to the film plain could perhaps be better assured in a rigid, bottom-loading camera body). - size was also compact at a width of 137mm x height 76mm x depth 62mm. Weight was initially 730 grams or about 1 1/2 pounds - solid but light.
This is a Minolta 35 Model II rangefinder made by Chiyoda Kogaku starting in 1953. Despite the Roman numeral II in the name this was actually the 7th variation of the original Minolta 35, first released in 1947. The entire Minolta 35 series is loosely considered a copy of the Leitz Leica II, but had several significant differences, making it more of a Leica-inspiration, rather than a direct copy. The entire Minolta 35 series was very successful and stayed in production for 12 years before being discontinued in 1959.
In fact, the Minolta was more different than it was the same as the Leica, sharing only the same 35mm film format, cloth focal plane shutter (although it was of a different design), 28.8mm “flange to film” distance, and it shared the same 39x1mm screw lens mount.
The Minolta 35 had a combined coincident image rangefinder, a self-timer, hinged rear film door, and most significantly, shot 24x32mm exposures, which at the time was a standard in Japan, and would yield four extra exposures on a single 36-exposure film cassette. It came standard with a very good Super Rokkor 45mm f/2.8 that was said to be superior to the Leitz Elmar found on many Leicas.
The Minolta 35 was one of the first Japanese made cameras to see success outside of Japan after the war. Although Nippon Kogaku would release their first Nikon rangefinder in 1948 and Canon had been producing their Leica copies since the mid-30s, it was Tashima’s knowledge of the German camera industry and the contacts he had developed which allowed his cameras to get a bit more exposure.