5 frames with...

5 frames with the Minolta TC1 – By Isa Maidan

I spent a long time searching for the perfect compact and after weeks of thinking (and having read Hamish’s review a number of times) I ended up with a Minolta TC1.

Why? It has everything I want in a compact camera:

Form: It’s pocketable. Not “pocketable” like a lot of compacts, where it physically fits in your pocket but it looks like you’re carrying a brick in your trousers. Actually pocketable. The result: it comes everywhere with me.

Function: It shoots in aperture priority mode. It retains settings when you turn it on and off i.e. I can set it and forget about it. The viewfinder is bright, clear and has all the information I need in it.

Lens: It’s unreal. It delivers sharp, contrasty, beautiful images with a certain character that means every image has a “TC1 feel” to it.

It’s tiny, no more than two rolls of film wide!

I’ve owned plenty of film cameras in my time but I’ve put more rolls through this camera than any other by some distance. Its size and its ability to get out of your way whilst consistently producing amazing images means it’s hard to leave the house without it.

Below are five shots taken from a roll of Portra shot on our three week honeymoon in Sri Lanka (with the last image on the roll shot in a South London car park).

These images are all as they came back from the lab (corrected by the lab for colour cast and nothing else). Hopefully you’ll agree with my view that this lens is one of the best ever put on a compact!

If, like me, you spent hours trying to decide which compact is the one for you (and assuming 28mm works for you as a focal length), buy this camera. You won’t regret it.

You can see more images from this camera (and a few others) on my instagram: isa_on_film

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18 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    StephenJ
    December 29, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Golly!

    I looked at Ebay in regard to this camera… I was shocked, I thought that Contax compacts were bad. Remember that these cameras have primitive electronics that can never be repaired once broken.

    Whilst I agree with your assertions regarding lens quality, I would rather have a pocketable Leica screwmount, and a fair few rolls of film thrown in for that money.

    The camera and lens would last forever, you would learn more about the mechanics of photography and the lenses have more character than any of those compacts, and can be sourced from a plethora of manufacturers and price points.

    Finally, you could sell it for more than you paid for it whenever you want to.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Isa
    December 29, 2018 at 9:29 am

    Hi Stephen. Thanks for the comment.

    I would argue that a screwmount is the exact type of camera that goes into the “pocketable” rather than actually pocketable cameras I’ve referred to above, at least in any pair of jeans I own. Fortunately, for a number of years I have shot (and continue to shoot) manual cameras so have that experience, I don’t necessarily turn to this camera to learn the mechanics of photography.

    Ultimately comparing a pocketable, autofocus compact to a Leica screwmount to me feels like apples and pears. Of course a Leica will last longer and is a better long term investment, but I don’t shoot film to save money or to invest, I shoot it because it’s fun and I love the images and shooting this camera is fun! Fortunately you don’t always have to buy a Leica to shoot Leica quality, the lens on this camera was so loved that an M mount version of the lens was created 😉

    • Avatar
      Reply
      StephenJ
      December 30, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      Hi Isa, I wasn’t criticising your work, or your choice of camera, neither was I suggesting that you must have a Leica, or that you need to learn how to take snaps.

      I was just shocked at the prices of that Minolta, if you got yours for a good price, then well for you sir.

      Regarding 28mm Minolta lenses and Leica though… Is that the one with the spotty coatings? I used to have one… I didn’t think it was that great.

      The 40mm is a different matter, that is one of the best “leica” lenses, very under rated, and still pretty cheap whether a Minolta or Leica version.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Isa
        December 30, 2018 at 9:22 pm

        Hey Stephen

        No need to apologise, sorry if my post came across defensive, not taken personally at all 🙂

        Not sure re the Leica lens, I’ve not used/shot it before, Hamish is the one to ask, I believe he owns one!

        Cheers
        Isa

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nigel Cliff
    December 29, 2018 at 10:14 am

    It looks a really nice camera but the prices are astronomical,they make Yashica T cameras look cheap

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Faraz
    December 29, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Been tempted a few times by this wee gem, but skyrocketing prices keep me away

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Thomas Risberg
    December 29, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Hi Isa, I really enjoyed your photos, well done. I also enjoy using the TC-1. It’s the smallest of the “luxury” compacts and the only one with diopter correction that my eyes now need. I’ve used the Contax T2 and Nikon 35Ti before and I find the TC-1 to be even better than those. The lens is great and I like the “spot” button for locking exposure and recomposing. As for prices of used ones, they are high and the lack of repair options is a bit worrying. The prices are still below what the price was when the camera was sold as new. In spite of all this, I’m sure I would buy another if mine broke down.

    -Thomas

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Isa
      December 29, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks very much for the kind words.

      Agreed, the spot metering is helpful. To me that is one of the things that you don’t have to use but is easily accessible if you want to. It means the camera can function as a point and shoot but you also have plenty of control should you want it.

      Prices seem to be increasing exponentially. Mine wasn’t cheap and prices are at least 50% up on what I paid! Like you, I think I’d probably still end up replacing it if/when it dies!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Phil
    December 29, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    Like everyone else who hadn’t heard or considered this camera, I jumped straight onto ebay to see what they were going for and I’m blown away – prices higher than what I paid for my M6…I know the demand for a pocketable, reliable, manual ISO settable compact camera is high, but not that high…I guess cause they’re still repairing them it increases the demand even more. Still after looking at your shots and reading the linked review, I still sorta kinda want one lol

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Isa
      December 29, 2018 at 11:33 pm

      I know, scary prices. Even cheaper ones on eBay seems to be 50% up on what I paid from a highly reputable Central London camera shop (and at the time I paid more than what they were going for on eBay). I’m currently trying to source a dead version for parts and am worried even that will cost an arm and a leg! Still, if mine broke I’d find it hard not to replace it!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Isa
      December 29, 2018 at 11:42 pm

      Phil, should have said, if you shoot Leica an M mount version of the lens was made (which I believe Hamish has).

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Brian
    December 29, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    The major manufacturers all came out with premium “P&S” AF cameras in the 90s or so. These had top-notch lenses, many have been adapted to focus mounts after the originals could not be repaired. I had the “Contax T”, manual focus via RF. Sold long ago. The manufacturers also had a line of high-quality “plastic-fantastic” pocketable cameras. The Leica Mini had a great lens, Mine still works after 25 years. My favorite was the original Nikon Litetouch. I wore out a Nikon Litetouch AF “Panarama”, also pocketable with a 28mm F3.5 lens- took it everywhere, including the beach. These can be found in working/tested condition for under $100. I popped the lens from the dead body- at some point will mount it in a focus mount. At one point the Litetouch could be had for $3 on Ebay. I suspect people caught on, and film has a new life.

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    December 30, 2018 at 4:14 am

    I read the article. Pricey little camera. Personally, I’m not a fan of blue jeans. I wear ’em, but let’s face it, they’re not really cut to hold a camera in any pocket. I hate carrying my cell phone in them. Now, give me a decent pair of pants (trousers) with a cargo pocket. I can slip my iPhone in the pocket, carry spare change, get them dirty and the khaki color hides dirt. Maybe, just maybe you can slip a compact film camera into them. Now, what’s one persons compact may be another’s brick. StephanJ is holding out for a LTM. James Bond (or was it the Man from UNCLE?) liked the Minox. Me, when I go compact, I pack my (film) CL with a 40mm M-Rokkor (sans lens shade) in one of my many cargo pockets. Sometimes I forget which one, and the decisive moment passes. ISA, you’ve got a lot of intestinal fortitude to write an article about a camera you took on your honeymoon…no, to be thinking of the camera that you pics you took on your honeymoon while you’re on your honeymoon. I bet you have a very lovely, understanding wife with a great sense of humor. I hope Santa/Father Christmas/St. Nick was very good to her.
    My favorite pic is the one of her sitting in the open door of the train. It captures the excitement of your journey.
    Happy New Year.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      StephenJ
      December 30, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      Dan, the film CL/40 is hopefully going to be my pocket camera, my iii/elmar is more of a curiosity from 1932, great heft and still a great little camera… I was just commenting on the huge price that some of these compacts are fetching.

      But that 40, (I have the Leica version) even though I prefer to use it on my M4, is something special. My CL is a bit scratched and I am not sure how accurate the light meter is, I haven’t had it that long, I bought it to get a second 40, I sold the Rokkor version and regretted it.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Isa
      December 31, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks very much for the kind words Daniel, Happy New Year!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Robert
    December 30, 2018 at 9:11 am

    I really love this camera. It does look unconventional and prices are high but using it is so easy compared to most compacts and the picture quality is nothing short of stunning. I think I’d rather have a TC-1 than a Leica despite the obvious time bomb reputation of the former. The viewfinder is the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen on a camera that small too but even with all this information the TC-1 gets out of your way. Awesome images here Isa.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Isa
      December 30, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      Thanks Rob!

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    January 1, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    @StephenJ,
    I did an article on 35mmc “Five Frames with…” on my adventures with my CL last summer (2017). Check it out. The CL prices seem to be like a rubber ball, bouncing up & down. I actually sold my Leica CL, and replaced it with the Leitz-Minolta version of the CL (not the CLE.) The L/M version incorporated the engineering tweaks that Leica initiated over the production run. I’m very lucky: my exposure meter works. I switch the 40mm M-Rokkor between my CL and the two (film) M bodies I own. A nice little lens, performs well and is mostly ignored by the lens sharks gobbling up any M mount Leica lens. Happy new year & good shooting.

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