A few months ago I picked up a Konica Big Mini SR BM-100 on the local Freecycle Network. It was a well-loved shooter, rather than a mint cabinet poser, bearing the scars and wear of international travel. The old lady who passed it onto me said she purchased it in Singapore in 1995.
A good look at the photograph may help you sympathise with the sinking feeling in my heart as I turned the Big Mini over in my hands on that first morning. It looks like shit in the daylight of 2013. Squarish. Clunky looking. Retro-burlesque, a boy in a girl’s fashion shoot. But a diamond on a riverbed or a piece of dirty gold look ordinary, too.
It wasn’t until I threw a roll of Ilford Pan F 50 in a non-DX coded cannister (the Big Mini defaulted back to ASA25) and visited the Central Business District that I realised my luck. The photographs were simply amazing. You can imagine pointing your ten-year-old old basset hound at a greyhound track and watching him break all the records. Or like watching your 55 kilogram girlfriend clean up a brawl in a biker bar.
That’s a special kind of being floored that film camera lovers drool over… the BM-100 is a cheap point-and-shoot film camera with good glass that goes for around $10 on Ebay. From a short list of Big Mini models I ran across on RangeFinder Forum, the BM-100 is the slowest glass of the series. So I wouldn’t mind checking out the faster models if any pop out of the clouds into my sunny hands.
- Big Mini JR BM-20 [34mm F3.5]
- Big Mini SR BM-100 [34mm F4.3]
- Big Mini BM-201 [35mm F3.5]
- Big Mini HG BM-300(301/302) [35mm F3.5]
- Big Mini BM-301 [35mm F3.5]
- Big Mini F [35mm F2.8]
In my initial research, following that first roll through the Big Mini, I also found a great article on the higher end Big Mini F (35mm with faster F2.8 glass) written by Bellamy Hunt on Japan Camera Hunter. That’s high praise from an authority on point-and-shoot royalty, right there.
The only original concern I had after the first roll was that the film advance was tardy and over-lapped frames. By the third roll the BM-100 was operating to perfection; smooth and sharp. I’ve never had such an easy time shooting in crowds and the vast majority of photographs I made at Salamanca Market that day were keepers.
Seriously, the BM-100 that I have may just be the slowest glass of the group but it’s still a great little camera. Bellamy Hunt says the Big Mini is loud, but the whirring after each shot isn’t like an obnoxious SLR so I wouldn’t sweat it. The other bonus of any point-and-shoot is it doesn’t look professional so people expect you to point it in their direction. Dare I say, people seemed to like it. Not one market stall owner came rushing at me with that crazy war face yelling “No pictures! No pictures!”
I like to keep the BM-100 in a pocket as a second camera when I’m out among people. It’s just another option. And if it breaks I’m up for $10 plus shipping to get a new one. Oh, if you happen to have a Big Mini in the back of your cupboard and don’t want it then I promise to love it for the rest of its life. Kick it over to me.
The only Big Mini manual I could come across was for the BM-201 and it appears to pretty much cover the BM-100 so I’m not entirely sure the differences weren’t cosmetic and faster glass. If you happen to see a Big Mini, pass over the few bucks and you won’t be disappointed.