Montreal, Minolta, Marvellous

Simon’s Camera in Montreal

Toronto. Before heading north to Labrador, I spent a few months training in the old Salada Tea Building on St Lawrence in Montreal. To an Ontario boy, Montreal discounts were exciting. The best camera deals were said to be at Simon’s on Craig near St Lawrence.

Money burning a hole in my pocket, I set out for the old tiny shop on Craig. Inside, over the door was a gorgeous poster extolling the virtues of the Exakta as a nature/scientific camera. It was just too rich for me at the time. Along the narrow glass counters, Simon’s displayed the latest camera gear from mostly German and Japanese makers.

I ended up choosing a Japanese Minolta Super A camera and light meter. In those days, Japanese cameras were considered second rate copies. I was surprised at the quality of the camera, especially its 50mm Rokkor lens. Of course, the manual was something else. It seemed to be written in pidgin-English by someone just learning the language. I wondered how a mirror box could be added for close-ups, unaware that Leica, Contax, etc had just such a device and had had one since before the WW2.

Up north less than a year later, I sold the Minolta to a fellow technician and invested in my Exakta, but I didn’t see any jump in photo quality, just a decision to buy added lenses since the Exakta could use a any lenses by many makers while the Minolta had a behind the lens leaf shutter and used a very limited number of Minolta lenses to make it a modest wide angle or telephoto.

Over the years, Craig was renamed St Antoine as it was just an extention of that street. After moving back to Toronto, every time I had a meeting in Montreal, I tried to squeeze in a visit to Simon’s – this time to buy used Leica accessories. I spent many a pleasant time in the old, narrow shop on Craig/St Antoine.

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