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 Chinese name for an SLR is "DanFan" in PinYin, Romanized Chinese -- hence the "DF". The prototype of the first Seagull 35mm SLR (probably in the late 1960's) may have 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, with various modifications, by other Chinese camera manufacturers under different names, such as the Peafowl DF.I, the Panda, and the Zhujiang S-201. The important thing is that they all used a Minolta lens mount.
One final note. There are five features to watch for on these
cameras -- the lens mount, the flash connection(s), the body style, the shutter
type, and the power winder/motor drive option(s). These can vary
substantially from one model to another, even though the cameras can appear
to be the same. Likewise, some cameras can appear very different, but
have the exact same features. The details of these features have been
set up on different pages, and it's a good idea to check out these pages
before you delve into the specific models, below. Here are the details
on the different lens mounts, the various
flash connection(s), the numerous
body styles, the shutter
types, 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 TWO DOZEN different brands, with many dozens of models of Chinese SLR 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.
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