It comes as a BIG surprise to many Minolta photographers when they learn that there are a LOT of cameras that were not made by Minolta, but that use the Minolta, manual-focus-style, Rokkor, SLR lenses! This is not big news to users of other cameras since there are quite a few cameras that use lenses made by other companies. For example, Chinon, Cosina, Lindenblatt, Exakta, Ricoh, Topcon and other camera manufacturers used the popular Pentax K-mount. Similarly, many cameras used the Praktica (AKA Universal, 42mm, or Pentax) screwmounnt for many years! But there are also many NON-Minolta cameras -- running the gamut from non-metered, manual exposure cameras to auto-exposure, TTL flash, motor-driven wonders -- that use Minolta / Rokkor lenses. All of these were made in China, but they were not all made by the same company. The most frequently seen brand is Seagull (see below), but there were many others. These companies did not just make "copies" of Minolta cameras that would accept genuine Minolta lenses -- they also made their own lenses with a Minolta (AKA Rokkor or SR) lens mount, of course. This means that you can use Minolta/Rokkor lenses on their cameras, or you can use their lenses on your Minolta camera(s).
For the first few years after the Communist Government established itself in China in 1949, private enterprise was allowed to operate as before. Then the government (OOPS, I mean "The Party") departments gradually increased their involvement in these enterprises, in some cases buying some of their stock, and later on, many were simply nationalized (and usually given really bland, new names to boot!). This happened in every type of business, be it manufacturing, services, or anything else. In the photographic realm, while many businesses shared the same "Seagull" name and trademark on their products, it is likely that many, or most, were in a sense separate corporate identities under the umbrella of some government department. (The Seagull company, as we know it today, may have a portion that is no longer run or owned by the government.)
The relationship between Seagull and Minolta is interesting. The Shanghai General Camera Factory (AKA Seagull) has manufactured many types of cameras over the years and liked to assign a "type" number on each camera category, such as "58" for its Leica derivatives, "4" for its 6X6 twin-lens reflexes, etc. For their 35mm SLR cameras, Seagull named them all with a "DF", followed by a number. The prototype of the first Seagull 35mm SLR (probably in the late 1960's) had a Leica thread (see below) just like many Russian cameras of the time, but the first production model surprisingly sported a Minolta mount -- supposedly because it was easy to copy! That's hard to believe because a simple screw mount, like Leica's 39mm is as simple as you can get. No matter, various DF models followed over time, and Minolta did not seem to be too peeved at all, primarily since they were only sold in the relatively small Chinese photographic market. Later, Minolta got together with Seagull in 1986 to have it manufacture the Minolta X-700, X-570, X-370, and several others.
Although the DF was developed at Seagull, it was also a common practice in China to have resource and model sharing with other companies (remember, all of the different companies were really working for the Government, I mean, The People) so it was also built, often with modifications, by other Chinese cameras manufacturers under different names. The Seagull DF was also built , among other names, as the Peafowl DF.I, the Panda, and the Zhujiang S-201 (with interchangeable finder) in Harbin, and elsewhere as well. Seagull also used the same chassis for their DFAB, DFB, and DFC recording cameras.
Most people think that all of Minolta's manual-focusing SLR lenses will fit on any manual-focusing Minolta SLR camera. That is true, but with certain constraints. Minolta made many changes in its lens mount over the years. Most people know this, but think it just has to do with the added features to the cameras, such as meter-coupling, auto-exposure, TTL flash, etc. But Minolta made noticeable changes to its lens mount over the years and some of these changes did not provide any noticeable new features to the camera user. Minolta did not mention these changes but we label the various Minolta mounts to distinguish them from each other. Seagull, the first copier of Minolta cameras, started out by using, what we have labeled, the SR3 lens mount. But Seagull later made the changes to the mount as Minolta made changes. Other companies that made cameras using a Minolta-like mount -- i.e., Pearl River, Mingca, and Huaxi -- had a somewhat different style. So on these pages we can groups the various Chinese/Minolta copies by the lens mount that they used. The first we will call the DFA mount, after the original DF style cameras and lenses -- from Seagull and other manufacturers. The second style we label the DFB, after Seagull and others made the change to the Minolta SRT mount. The third we designate as the PMH mount, after the three users of that mount. Here is some description with photos of the three Chinese/Minolta lens and camera mounts. This is important to be aware of because not all Minolta lenses will fit on all Chinese/Minolta cameras, and not all Chinese/Minolta lenses will fit on all Minolta cameras. They might look like they should fit but the small changes made to camera and lens mounts can make them incompatible. If you need to use force when trying to attach a lens, STOP! You might be able to get the lens on the camera, but you will probably need a pipe wrench to get it off!
One final note. There are three features to watch for on these cameras -- the flash connection(s), the body style, and the power winder/motor drive option(s). These all vary from one model to another, even though the cameras might appear to be the same. These details of these features have been set up on different pages. It's a good idea to check out these pages before you delve into the specific models, below. Here are the details on the various flash connection(s), the numerous body styles, and the different power winder/motor drive option(s) on the various cameras below.
Below is the most complete list you will find on these Chinese-made "Minolta" cameras. Some details on some of their lenses and accessories are listed as well. There were at least 21 brands and several dozens of models of Chinese cameras, with names other than "Minolta", that used a Minolta-type lens mount. Who knows, there may be more, so, please contact us if you have additional information to add to this website.
See Pearl River
HERE ARE SOME OTHER INTERESTING THINGS TO EXPLORE: