A Christmas Gift I’ll Never Forget

Above: It’s my original film SLR kit, including three filters and a cable release (yes kids, that steel cable is what we used to capture photos of dinosaurs, and those two small circles with gray caps were what film rolls came in). 

Each year we throw a Christmas Party at our house for our family and friends, and this past Saturday was this year’s get-together and one of my dear friends from my childhood days, John Couch, was able to come this year with his lovely wife Diane and his kids Will and Katie (they live hours away so we don’t get to see each other very often). It was really a treat to see John and his family (I was his Best Man at his wedding, and now not only does he have kids, they’re pretty much all grown, and just wow — how time flies).

At some point during the party, John calls me over and says he brought me a special Christmas present. He holds up a camera bag and asks, “Does this look familiar?” I looked at it, and it kinda did look familiar I guess, but I wasn’t sure. Then he says, “Your gift is what’s inside. It’s your original camera.” He opens the bag and sure enough — there is was — my first SLR film camera, a Minolta SR-T 101 body with my old Soligar 50mm lens and my 200mm Vivitar Telephoto lens. I was just astounded (and I had a smile as big as the moon)!

Above: Here’s a close-up of my mighty Minolta SR-T 101 (later supplanted by a Pentax SLR). Kind of ironic that these photos of SLRs were taken with my iPhone, rather than a DSLR. 

John said I had given it to him many years ago, back when we were roommates just out of high school, and he thought I might like to have it back to display on my desk at work or at home, and was he ever right (and man did that old gear bring back memories of my older brother Jeff and I traveling together and shooting and laughing and spending more money than we could afford on film and processing).

Above: Clearly there must have been a problem at the factory, because the LCD monitor is missing. ;-)

Anyway, I can’t tell you how tickled I am to have that old camera back again (it still has film in it. Now, if I could just find a place that actually develops filmâ¦). Anyway, I thought I’d share a few photos of my new “old” rig here with you. It certainly was a wonderful surprise and surely a Christmas Gift I’ll never forget. Thanks John, and Merry Christmas!

  1. Wow…I’m not the only one that started with a Minolta. I “borrowed” my brothers SRT-101 until I could afford my own. He was really happy when I finally returned it almost a year later….

  2. Are you sure its not a retro camera started made a copier company. Maybe its wireless and the monitor is a smart tablet. Was it originally owned by a guy named Asa Din, his name is on the back. Since the pop-up flash is missing it must have a really high ISO. Is the lock missing from the steel security cable? You need to check if it has the new prototype Kodachrome I inside.

  3. Yeah Scott!!!
    It’s unbelievable: my own christmas gift for THIS year is an old (and cool) Nikon FM2 with an’85mm f/1.8 :-) I’m fascinated by the new technology and I like to buy the newest lens or the top-line of flash (…you know the amazing speedlight 600ex-rt!!!) BUT the “click” and the “clack” of the old mechanics are poetry and there is also the surprise when you see for the first time the picture maybe two week later.
    Ps. excuse for my english but I’m from Italia :-)

  4. Oh I totally love this!! The Minolta SRT-101 was my first big-time camera also. I got it in high school from my dad. I had studied the photo magazines and decided that was the one for me. We drove all the way from Phoenix to LA to the place that advertised it in one of those ads in the back. Makes me laugh now to think of it. I took so many photos with that camera that we could barely afford to get the film developed. I still have my Minolta but have to say that digital has won my heart.

  5. I’ve still have mine, with the 50mm 1.4 Rokkor lens. The rewind crank came off several years ago and I rewind with a small spanner, otherwise it still works. I do prefer my 5D3 now though!

  6. I use a Minolta X270 now and then. It was my mom’s camera and my first SLR. My first camera itself, though, was a Kodak Disc 4000. Now I use a Fuji X-E2. Best way to bridge all the worlds.

  7. Actually, I just had some film printed at MPIX. They send you a mailer, and you send the film back to them. Cost a few bucks to “unlock” the images after its developed and then you pay per print. I do not think you can download them.
    I still have my Minolta x700 and 50 1.7 that my Dad got me for no good reason that turned me on to photoagraphy. It doesnt work but sits on my collectible shelf.

  8. I still have my SRT-101 from high school and college (72-77) and I loved that camera. I dropped it a dozen times, would only put a dent in the floor. The meter no longer works since they quit making mercury batteries.

  9. easy there…we get it…you have been shooting for a long time. No need to “validate it” with pictures of your old camera from way before all these digital overnight photographers.

  10. I love reading these types of stories. I almost sold my black Minolta XD-11 kit a number of years ago, but then thought it was better just to keep it for posterity.

  11. W that indeed brings back memories and it all the more makes you realise how time flies. Somewhere in attic i must have an old camerabag containing my first SLR (a Pentax SpotmaticQ) and quite a few lenses I picked up over the years, and it still works like a charm (at least the last time I checked it). Maybe nice to shoot a few FP4’s or HP5’s and develop myself… For the nostalgia. Oh, the good ol’ days :-D…..

  12. I’m just waiting for the comments saying, “Scott, why are you shooting Minolta now? I thought you shot Canon?” ;-). Great story, though. You’re lucky to have a friend like that.

    BTW, how are the 12 days of Christmas going? I think you missed a couple of days! LOL


  13. Too much fun! When I bought me first camera I was considering a Minolta SRT-101′ Pentax Spotmatic, and a Nikkormat FTN! Wow, that was some time ago, Merry Christmas!

  14. Great post, Scott. Reminds me of my first camera, a Canon AE-1 Program, which my future wife gave me as a gift right after college (much to her now regret at times :-). I bought all sorts of accessories for it after a time: prime & zoom lenses, motor drive, filters. Now it’s relegated to an old camera bag. But about a year ago, one of my daughter’s friends, who’s into film photography, was over our house with her AE-1 Program and I gave her that motor drive and a teleconverter I had, which made her day and mine. Fun to see there’s still some useful life for some of these cameras, rare thought it is in these digital days.

  15. My dad’s SRT-101 was the one that started my photographic interest back in 1987. I borrowed it for a holiday, and when I came home, I bought my own Nikon F-301 :-) Memories ….

  16. Scott – What a great post! This was my first SLR kit as well, a gift from my grandfather and my son recently used it for a high school photography class! It was quite the workhorse, the camera could really handle the wear and tear of the field. The camera survived some severe conditions throughout the years, in fact I dropped it when I was climbing the Grand Tetons at 15 years old. But the camera kept on ticking and I have attached a self portrait on top of the Tetons using the timer and a rock as a tripod….processed in my first darkroom as well!

    Happy Holidays!


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