When introduced the Minolta X-1 / XM / XK camera system had five different finders available. Later Minolta also introduced the AE-S finder, which utilised a silicon cell for faster metering, and had an LED display inside the viewfinder. The finders are, from the top left in a clockwise order, The Plain (P) Finder, the High Magnification (H) Finder, the Waist Level (W) Finder, the Match Needle (M) Finder, The Auto Electro (AE) Finder, and the Auto Electro-Silicon (AE-S) Finder.

Minolta ultimately released six viewfinders ('finders') for the X-1/XM/XK, of which three incorporated a metering circuit, and three were unmetered. The six finders were:

  • AE finder (Auto Electro - automatic exposure control)
  • Match Needle finder (M Finder)
  • AE-S finder (later automatic exposure control model)
  • Plain finder (P Finder also known as the ‘professional’ finder in Japan)
  • High Magnification finder (H Finder)
  • Waist Level finder (W Finder)

The first three of the finders listed above were metered finders, with the final three incorporating no metering function. The X-1/XM/XK metered prism finders are designed with the metering and control circuitry built-in. Communication between the finder and body is made possible with the use of ribbon contacts which are prone to getting dirty. These contacts must be cleaned on a regular basis to maintain proper operation.

Minolta’s approach to the finder system may seem odd and archaic but it really makes sense. Considering that the metering system is the area of constant refinement, simply replacing the finder with newer offerings keeps the complete system from becoming obsolete. This was proven with the introduction of the very fast AE-S finder that was developed in 1976 for the motorised version of the camera. It quickly became the finder of choice for the basic model cameras.

Unofficially, the AE and AE-S finders are capable of exposure lock when set on ‘auto’ mode. The lock is implemented by holding down the shutter release button about half way. At first it can be tricky finding the exact spot but after practice it is easy. However, the AE finder does not lock the meter needle which continues to meter as normal.

The AE Finder

    The AE finder was the original metered finder with automatic exposure (aperture priority) that was released with the X-1. The finder has a characteristic "upturned boat" appearance. It is by far the most common finder for the system. It is pictured above next to an original Minolta finder case - probably now one of the rarest accessories for the XK.    
If you purchased your X-1, XM or XK packaged with a finder, it probably came with the AE version. This finder employs CLC (contrast light compensation) metering utilizing two CdS cells mounted on the prism which take separate overlapping light readings. The electronics then calculate optimal exposure taking into consideration each cells reading. This enables the finder to more accurately achieve good exposures in high contrast situations. It is effectively an early form of matrix metering, and its use means that the photographer should not need to make exposure compensations except where the main subject is much brighter than the rest of the composition.
The diagram above shows the location of the two CdS cells within the finder.

Care must be taken to minimize any light entering through the eyepiece as this will have a negative affect on the metering. If wearing glasses, a rubber eyecup is highly recommended. Minolta conveniently equipped this finder with a viewfinder curtain that can be opened and closed with a simple rotating knob. It is quite handy for tripod, studio and long exposure work.

Controls on the AE finder are simple and well thought out. As pointed out earlier in this article, there is a power on-off switch located just to the left of the view finder that over-rides the Senswitch. A simple ¼ turn using the left thumb is all it takes to use it. On top is a dial for setting ASA and exposure compensation. On top and to the right is the dial for setting manual shutter speeds and ‘auto’ mode. Automatic exposure is aperture priority and simple to use. Simply set dial to ‘auto’, select your aperture and the rest is automatic.

One of Minolta’s innovations with the X-1 is the Auto Exposure Override Control. It is a spring loaded rotating ring with a thumb knob located just below the shutter speed dial that will allow the user to easily adjust exposure compensation. The design of the control enables exposure compensation to be made while looking into the view finder on a shot-by-shot basis rather than making the compensation on the ASA selector dial. When released it returns to the normal setting avoiding spoiled shots on the next frames. This is truly a handy feature that is used often.

The information provided in the viewfinder is well presented and easy to read. The aperture is shown on top with the shutter speed/auto scale and meter match needle to the right. Below that is the low light L.E.D. that flashes when exposure falls below EV1, indicating that exposure may not be accurate. Magnification is .8X with a 50mm lens. Shutter speed range in auto mode is 4 to 1/2000 seconds.

Special care must be used before mounting this finder to the body. The meter coupler must be cocked aligning the red dot on the coupler with the red dot on the front cover. A built-in automatic stop will prevent the finder from seating properly on the body unless the coupler is locked. If this procedure is not followed and the finder is forcibly mounted, damage will occur. Damage may include breaking the locking lugs on the body.



A rare variation of AE Finder where the Minolta Japan Service Centre has included an EV adjustment scale on the ASA dial.

There is an interesting variation of this finder that has a special EV compensation scale on the top of the finder where the leatherette is usually located. It basically is a substitute for using the perimeter ring on the ASA dial for making +/- EV adjustments. This is another Minolta Service Center installed option that was done by user request only in Japan. It is hard to imagine that many consumers complained about the original design but does show that Minolta strived hard to please their customers.

Match Needle Finder

The Match Needle Finder for the X-1

The Match Needle finder is a fairly rare breed. Only offered on the X-1 in Japan, it has the same CLC metering using two CdS cells as the AE finder. It is a less expensive alternative to the AE, lacking auto exposure and the viewfinder curtain. And without auto exposure, it also lacks the Auto Exposure Override Control. It wasn’t introduced until 1974, about one year after the AE finder, indicating that it may have been a cost reduction effort. It isn’t clear how many were sold but known serial numbers indicate that at least 1,200 were produced. The Match Needle finder was included in some European price lists, but it is not known if any were sold into that market.

Most Minolta marketing materials of 1972/73 show a prototype Match Needle finder that has a unique ASA dial on the shutter speed dial and a small round window on the top cover for the screen compensator. The picture above shows an actual production model.

AE-S Finder

    The advanced AE-S finder. In addition to its added capabilities, in my opinion the lower profile of the AE-S finder looks better on the camera.    

The AE-S finder is the best Minolta has to offer for the X-1. It was designed out of necessity for the X-1 Motor that was introduced in 1976. The existing standard AE finder just wasn’t fast enough to keep up with the motor drive speed so the engineers came up with an all-new finder dubbed the AE-S. Instead of using CdS cells, Minolta switched to silicon photo cells that have instant response and extra sensitivity for low light levels. The added sensitivity (down to 1 EV) enabled the maximum automatic shutter speed to increase from 4 to 8 seconds.

In addition to the metering method there were multiple other changes. LED lights on the shutter speed/mode scale in the view finder replaced the meter needles used on the AE finder. In addition, there were now two range scales for the shutter speed, a high-range and a low-range (enabling the full range of speeds to be accurately displayed in the finder). If there is a triangular indicator next to the ‘S’ in the high-range scale, it means the required shutter speed is less than 1/30 sec. and changing to the low-range scale will be necessary. The change is made by manually turning a knob on the left side of the finder. The low-range covers 1/15 through 8 second exposures. While this seems awkward, it does allow for larger and more legible scale numbers in the viewfinder.

Another change is the new three position power switch. Besides the full ‘on’ or ‘off’ positions, a third now allows continued metering and auto-exposure control but the finder display will only appear when the Senswitch is depressed. This is intended to save power when the display is not required.

The Exposure Adjustment Control allows +2 to -2 range with a new locking type ring. It has a new style ASA dial and retains the viewfinder curtain feature. The AE-S finder was so popular that by 1978 in Japan Minolta started packaging it with the X-1 as the standard finder.

As with the AE finder, special care must be used before mounting this finder to the body. The meter coupler must be cocked aligning the red dot on the coupler with the red dot on the front cover. A built-in automatic stop will prevent the finder from seating properly on the body unless the coupler is locked. If this procedure is not followed and the finder is forcibly mounted, damage will occur. Damage may include breaking the locking lugs on the body.

Plain Finder

The plain finder - with no metering its was probably mainly for studio use.
The diagram for the P finder demonstrates the lack of any metering cells. The profile of the P finder is considerably lower than the AE finder, and changes the look of the camera considerably.

The Plain finder is just that. A prism only without metering but it does show shutter speed and aperture in the viewfinder. Magnification is .8X with a 50mm lens.

High Magnification Finder

The high magnification finder was primarily designed for macro work or where exact focus was a priority.

The High Magnification finder is a pleasure to use for macro work and accurate focusing. It is a non-metered finder that has a magnification factor of 6.2X and has 4 elements in 3 groups. Dioptric adjustment is available from +3 to -5. There is no shutter speed or aperture information in the viewer. The production finders utilized a rubber eyepiece.


The image above demonstrates that the high magnification finder used a four element in three group construction to achieve outstanding sharpness for focusing across the entire focus screen.

Below is a picture of a rare prototype or early production finder without the rubber eyepiece and with a ribbed thumb grip pad. This finder was featured in very early marketing material for the X-1 from 1972/73, and may be a one of a kind.


The finder on the right is considered likely to be the actual prototype for the high magnification finder. It is pictured next to a standard production finder for comparison.


Waist Level Finder

The very useful waist level finder - it displays a reversed image making your first few uses of it quite interesting! This image shows it closed.

The Waist Level finder is favored by some photographers for its TLR type waist level functionality. Naturally, like a TLR it displays a reversed image on the focusing screen. This can make it a challenge to get to learn to use, but it is quite a handy finder, particularly for street photography, as it does not need to be brought to the eye to compose a shot.

The waist level finder in open configuration. Note the swing out magnifier which can be used or not used, depending on the photographers preference.

The Waist Level Finder is another non-metered finder that shows no shutter speed or aperture information in the viewer. It has a swing-out magnifier with a 1X factor using a 50mm lens (-1.2 diopters).

Other Finders

Prototype AE Finder? It appears likely.

Now here is a real odd-ball finder. I don’t know whether to call it the AE finder variation II or an AE prototype. It is definitely an AE finder but it is lacking the Auto Exposure Override Control like the Match Needle finder. In addition, the shutter speed scale only goes to 1/1000 seconds! The viewfinder shutter speed scale also shows a maximum of 1/1000 seconds.

So why does this finder exist? If Minolta introduced an economy version of the AE finder, I can see the savings of not having the Auto Exposure Override Control. But what are the savings of the reduced shutter speed when the body is capable of 1/2000 seconds? Possibly it has cheaper and slower CdS cells or may have been a marketing strategy same as the reduced shutter speed of 1/500 in the SR-T 100. With a serial number that indicates a normal production number one would think it is a production variation. However, having never seen one before and given that the source of the finder is known to have sold Minolta prototypes in the past, it is considered probable that it is a prototype. If anyone finds another one like this, please contact the Rokkor Files.

The range of finders available for the X-1/XM/XK was complemented by a variety of screens that were optimised for different uses. Together with a large range of other accessories these formed the balance of the system. Click on the link to page three to review these accessories.