A while back, I wrote about the Rokkor Files — an excellent site about manual focus Minolta cameras. While there is a wealth of good information on the site, there was one page that troubled me. Site owner Antony Hands offered an in-depth preview of the Seagull D55 — a new digital camera built with Minolta’s manual focus lens mount. Thus, anyone with a stockpile of Rokkor X lenses would have an upgrade path into the digital universe. Sound the trumpets or something.
There was just one problem — there is no Seagull D55 planned. It was all an elaborate April Fools day hoax.
It is a really, really well done hoax, however. There are photos of the prototype, complete specs of the proposed dSLR and a review of how Seagull came to build a new manual focus dSLR.
I have to admit, I was taken in for the first part of the article. It was entirely plausible, since the Chinese Seagull camera company had produced several film SLRs with the Minolta MD manual focus mount. There are thousands of excellent Minolta MD lenses out there, many of which you can pickup for a song on ebay. The idea that a Chinese company might just offer a dSLR that could take advantage of all those MD lenses makes a certain kind of sense. A manual focus dSLR? Why not?
As I continued through the detailed review, I stated to get the idea that something was fishy. I switched to another browser tab and googled Seagull camera. I found several references, but no mention of any D55. I returned to the Rokkor Files, already suspecting the worst. I clicked on the supposed distributor link at the bottom of the link and immediately got the “Aprils Fools” message.
So I was had. But only for a short while. It was amusing, but it bothered me that it was too good of a hoax. I suspected that a lot of people might read the article, but never click on the link that informed them it was a joke. They might go away thinking that the Seagull D55 might appear in the near future.
Antony Hands isn’t the first blogger to plan an elaborate April Fool’s Day prank. Even the more traditional media outlets sometimes engage in this sort of thing. Many years ago, a major computer magazine published a tech tip claiming that you could improve the data transfer speed of your hard drive by disassembling it and spraying the platter with Lemon Pledge. It was, of course, a April Fool’s day prank. I wasn’t fooled, because I knew that you needed a Class A clean room to safely open a hard drive. The magazine, however gave no indication that it was a prank — readers just had to figure it out from the April issue date. No doubt most people did, but it bothered me that some people might just take the article at face value. Would someone really be naive enough to take apart their hard drive and coat the platter with Lemon Pledge? The magazine in question was highly valued for their excellent technical advise and at that time most people were fairly unsophisticated about computer technology. I’m fairly certain that somewhere, someone acted on the magazine’s advise and destroyed a perfectly-good hard drive and all it’s data. Probably more than one someone.
So I wasn’t totally comfortable with the Rokkor Files prank. Some people would be so taken in by the hoax that it might affect their purchasing decisions. When I mentioned the Rokkor Files in my earlier post, I made a point of warning readers to check the date the story about the Seagull D55 was filed. I didn’t want to spoil Antony’s hard work, but I didn’t people going off thinking that Seagull was actually developing a camera that would support their lens collection.
I had pretty much forgotten about the mythical Seagull D55 until today, when I checked my server logs. I had recently been visited several times by someone who had been searching on Google for the Seagull D55. Since I had posted my somewhat cryptic warning on Alphatracks, gogglebot had indexed that term and sent several readers to my blog. Curious, I opened a new Google search and typed “Seagull D55”. I got several pages of results.
Some of these were well-known sites that apparently used the Rokkor Files story as the source for their own news story. There were also numerous posts to forums and discussion groups as people eagerly speculated when the D55 would be available.
I can’t fault people for falling for this story. It was plausible, the images and specifications looked real and the April Fool punch line was fairly obscure. Still some of these web sites should have done some homework before jumping on the story.
For the last time. There is no Seagull D55. It is a myth.
Of course, the fact that this hoax has spread so far on the web does indicate that there is lots of interest in using older Rokkor X lenses on a dSLR. There is a rare adapter that will allow you to use MD lenses on a Minolta AF lens mount — which would include the Sony A100. These show up on ebay now an then — but they usually end up selling for a couple hundred dollars. The Rokkor Files also has an in depth article about a real solution for using MD lenses on a digital camera. A company called Cameraquest offers an adapter that will mate Minolta MD lenses to an Olympus four-thirds dSLR, such as the E300. This isn’t hoax, but it isn’t inexpensive since you need a fairly recent Olympus dSLR and the Cameraquest adapter. Still if you absolutely need a digital option for your manual focus Minolta lenses, this might be the best option. I intend to look into this more fully in a future post.
Of course if someone at Seagull is paying attention to all that traffic clamoring for the non-existent D55, they would be smart to produce such an animal. If Seagull — or any other manufacturer were to provide an affordable dSLR that accepts Rokkor MD lenses — it is apparent they wouldn’t have to search very far for customers.
Until next time, stay focused! — Tom