TC-1 Stats
Type: 35mm compact auto/manual focus, aperture priority, built-in flash camera
Size: 3¼x2¼x1¼ in.
Weight: (without battery): 6.5 oz.
Lens 28mm f/3.5mm; 5 all-glass elements in 5 groups; 3 aspherical surfaces
Viewfinder: Real-image type with 0.4x mag. 85% field of view at 9.8ft.; diopter adjustment from -2.5 to +1
Focus: External, passive-type AF with focus lock; built-in LED-type AF illuminator activated automatically in low light or low contrast situations; AF illum. range: 8.2 ft.
Maximum magnification: 1/13.5x
Focusing Steps: 455 for autofocus; manual focus with 22 selectable zones
Focus Range: 1.47 ft. to infinity
Exposure: Aperture-priority program; manual aperture settings f/3.5, 5.6, 8, 16
Shutter: Programmed automatic electronic type; speeds: 4 - 1/750 sec.
Film Speed Setting: Automatic setting for DX-coded print or slide films; manual setting available. Non-DX-coded film set to 100
SISO Range: (auto): ISO 25 - 3200 in 1/3 EV increments; (manual): ISO 6-6400 in 1/3 increments
Flash: Built-in fixed type with auto, cancel, fill, and night portrait (slow shutter sync) modes. Range at ISO 100: 1.47 - 6.5 ft.; recycling time 5 seconds; guide number 23 feet
Power: One 3V CR123A/DL123A lithium cell
Battery Performance: Approx. 13 rolls (24-exposure film with flash on 50%)
Price: $1000+
Gem of a Point and Shoot
The Minolta TC-1

I never liked point-and-shoot cameras. Most lack edge-to-edge sharpness. It's difficult or impossible to adjust exposure when shooting in the snow. Fit and finish often seem below par. And I prefer wide lenses if confined to one focal length. Even the highest quality models fell short one way or another. Until now.

Finally, Minolta created a little jewel that counters all my objections, the TC-1. The camera is about the size of a pack of cigarettes (3 1/4 x 2 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches), small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. A metal case houses the innards. When you turn off the camera, a sheet of metal covers and protects the lens.

"I can't detect a difference between the little Minolta and my equivalent EOS lens...."
Apertures range from a fast f3.5 for capturing action to f16, sufficient for full depth of filed landscapes. A small flash adds fill. You can use the default center-weighted meter or switch to a built-in spot. A timer allows you to dash into your shot or to avoid camera shake on longer exposures when using a tripod. The timer replaces a cable release. While I miss manual operation, the ability to perform exposure compensation with the aperture priority system allows me to get the exposure right when conditions would otherwise fool the meter.

Best of all, the glass is great. The 28mm lens is wider than most, and I see no light fall off or fuzziness at the edges of my slides. This is where the rubber meets the road. Without good glass it's impossible to take professional quality shots regardless of the bells and whistles. The TC-1 passes. I can't detect a difference between the little Minolta and my equivalent EOS lens.

But jewels are pricey. The TC-1 runs $1500 in stores and almost $1,000 by mail order. Sadly, the iron law of econimics states, " you get what you pay for."

I used to miss photographs because I didn't want to lug my gear over hill and dale. I would make excuses to myself- the light is bad, I'll just scout a location for later, looks like rain- and then miss out on a surprise marvel. The TC-1 is always welcome, never a burden. Now I never lose shots to sloth or pessimism.

James Martin, Mountain Photographer

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