Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024
The Decline of Minolta: Prosperous Beginnings and Sony's Legacy

Minolta, “it” was never a giant like Nikon or Canon, and was always judged below the level of these two monsters.

Show me your arm if you own a Sony camera. If you are a Sony user, have you heard of the Minolta brand? I asked the same question to a few friends, and photographer or not, almost 100% know the Sony brand, but unfortunately few of them have heard of the Minolta name.

So what is Minolta? Are you surprised when I say that this is the soul, the DNA of the Sony camera you are holding today?

Minolta, “it” was never a giant like Nikon or Canon, and was always judged below the level of these two monsters. However, the technologies of the 70s, 80s or 90s that Minolta brought to today’s camera world must be considered huge, not only Sony but also have an influence on many DSLR or Mirrorless products from Sony. Today.

To this day, we cannot see this brand on the market, but that does not mean that its soul has completely disappeared. Arguably, the departure of a film camera company called Minolta became a stepping stone for Sony to rise to the top spot in the camera manufacturing industry today.

Minolta and the childhood of film cameras

Have you heard of the term PASM? Otherwise, it means program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual, i.e. the shooting functions you’ve seen on modern cameras these days. In fact, these have been around for 40 years and it was Minolta that introduced it to the world of photography.

And the camera that represents this company that brings PASM concepts is the Minolta XD-7 (also known as XD-11 in the US market). It was also one of the most popular film cameras, offering state-of-the-art technology at the time.

Another feature that is probably essential in most modern cameras today is autofocus (autofocus), again Minolta is the name that brings this technology to us. Thank God! Without this technology, we would probably still have to manually focus the lens.

Although autofocus technology has existed before, it has only been applied to specialized and expensive lenses, so its popularity is not really high. During this time, Minolta brought a better solution with the autofocus system built into the Minolta 7000F body and also allowed today’s lenses to become lighter and less bulky.

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And that’s still not the only different technology this 7000F has to offer. The camera also incorporates the ability to shoot fast movies automatically by means of an electric motor system, which is dedicated to continuous shooting, and this is the start of continuous shooting mode or in the burst that we know today.

Also, a legacy that Sony still holds to this day and it can be said to be part of the soul of Minolta in the past, is the A-mount system, which is used on today’s Sony Alpha series .

If you are using the Sony Alpha series, you can easily mount the Minolta film camera A-mount lens on it.

Minolta and the beginnings of the digital generation

During the transition of the seasons between analog and digital photography, Minolta was not indifferent, but rather launched its new product to respond to the market – the Minolta RD-175. The DSLR with a 1.75 MP sensor was their first digital product in 1995. Not the world’s first DSLR digital camera, as that credit goes to Kodak, but the RD-175 was the first DSLR to have a neat look (at the time) and above all, a more affordable price.

The world’s first affordable DLSR camera

Despite its transition to the digital age, Minolta has continued to create and innovate. Proof that one of the common features of modern cameras today is the in-sensor stabilization/image stabilization system that was introduced by Minolta in the Dimage A1 in 2003.

Instead of focusing on designing a complex and expensive anti-shake system on the lens, Minolta used an on-sensor stabilization solution for its A1.

As a small company, Minolta also had to work hard and went through unstable financial times. In 2003, Minolta merged with Konica film and photographic equipment company, becoming Konica Minolta Ltd. to increase its competitiveness.

However, Minolta’s delay in capturing professional film camera market share signaled the difficulties they faced along the way. While Minolta’s digital cameras at the time were only aimed at the casual consumer market, the giants of this industry were determined to hit the professional camera market to make a difference.

And Sony came

At the time, Sony was a world-class electronics brand, producing a wide variety of products ranging from audio equipment to televisions. Sony saw the treasure of inventions and talents that Konica Minolta possessed, so in 2006 chose to partner with them to promote this company.

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Six months later, Konica decided to exit the camera business and sell it to Sony. This is an extremely important moment, marking the next step for Sony, as this electronics giant has long been interested in the DSLR market and the A-mount (Alpha) technologies available to Minolta. It really is a priceless treasure. .

In less than a year, Sony released its first DSLR and introduced it to the mainstream market – Alpha A100. The camera has a 10.2 MP sensor, the appearance inherits a lot from Minolta’s design and of course also brings many of its technologies, such as built-in image stabilization and shutter release. autofocus every time you look through the viewfinder (Eye-start autofocus).

Sony’s first child DSLR inherits a lot of technology and looks from Minolta.

With the A100 as an initial springboard, Sony quickly outlined its future product launch and development goals. In 2008, the electronics company announced the Alpha 900 full-frame DSLR camera with the highest number of pixels ever on the sensor – 24.6 MP.

The birth of the Alpha 900 showed that Sony’s intention is very high: ready to penetrate deep into the market to “fight” with other giants. Using Minolta’s existing technology, while inventing more, Sony continues to realize ambitious plans, releasing a series of DSLR and compact camera products that are well received by the market.

After firmly committing to the DSLR path, Sony quickly realized the importance of the mirrorless market in its early days and launched the world’s first full-frame mirrorless camera – the Sony Alpha 7 (Sony A7) . Although now Sony no longer uses Minolta’s Alpha mount but has replaced it with the E mount, but if you dig deep you will see that the A7’s DNA is actually built from Minolta’s creative foundations .

Sony A7, Sony’s first full-frame sensor mirrorless camera. It is also the premise for Sony to develop a series of versions later and receive the trust of experts and ordinary users around the world.

Minolta’s departure is a shame for loyal fans. But if you look at it in a more positive light, with the assets they left Sony to develop and create today’s high-end products, it is indeed a very valuable thing.

Without Minolta, perhaps Sony’s photography business could not have grown as dramatically as it does today; and vice versa, without Sony, perhaps the technologies Minolta has built in the past would be buried with no future. Just like we couldn’t experience these amazing technologies without both of them? Maybe.