Sunday, September 05, 2010

A Canon in A Minor - the AF35M

A few posts ago, I reviewed the Nikon One-Touch, a very capable 35mm 2.8 AF camera that is still a pretty decent model to carry along. This post is about the Canon equivalent, the AF35M. The AF35M was Canon's first autofocus compact camera, and was introduced in 1979. The AF35M (also called the Sure Shot later on) features:
38mm f/2.8 lens
CdS photocell on front of lens assembly
ISO 25-400 setting around lens
auto-film transport and rewind
integral pop-up flash
48mm filter ring
active AF system using IR-emitting diode

I picked the camera for a few dollars at the Ann Arbor Recycle/Reuse Center, and it also came with an add-on telephoto lens that I have not tried out. I popped in two new AA batteries, and the camera worked right off the bat. My first impression of this camera was that it was a bit larger than the Nikon One-Touch, and the film advance is noisier. I liked the fact that it has a separate lens cap and accepts 48mm filters - a common Canon thread. However, rather than trying to find a 48mm filter, simply buy a 48-49mm step-up ring and you can use the more commonly sized filters. Since the exposure photocell is inside the lens ring, it will automatically expose and compensate for whatever filter you put in front of it. I did not try any filters for the first roll of film I ran through it.
Okay, what about the photos?

I shot a roll of Ilford XP-2 in the AF35M, and carried it around with me for about a week. It's certainly not a bad street camera, though it is a tad noisy advancing the film. I took the camera downtown, around campus, and to Toledo. The images shown here are from the Walgreen scans.

Alley off Liberty street.

Reaching for the door.

Toledo Museum of Art

Shadows of Summer's End

The Yellow-wood tree

BJ's and Sons

The AF in the camera works quickly and accurately, and and most of the shots I took were properly exposed. My favorite shots on the roll were those of the columns of the Toledo Museum of Art. Although it's hard to tell from the small images, sharpness was excellent, and though the lens is a bit less wide than the Nikon One-Touch, it certainly is suitable for street photography. One drawback is that the maximum ISO is only 400. That's a limitation for anyone wanting to shoot in low-light without flash. The Nikon One-Touch will read the DX code up to 1600 ISO film.

Final analysis -- The Canon AF35M isn't a great camera, nor is it a bad one. Not as light nor as capable for low-light situations as the Nikon One-Touch, it does offer the ability to use screw-on filters and accessory lenses, which the Nikon does not. Just a tad noisy, and heavy, it was the first generation of AF 35mm compacts, which became more refined, with the culmination of the Olympus Epic Infinity in the early 1990s. (A future post). The push for the manufacturers to produce small cameras with zooms might have been appealing to many snapshooters, but I think a single focal-length AF camera is the best. They are fast, easily focused, and ready in a moment to shoot. Perfect for candids and street photos. While this Canon model might not quite match the equivalent Nikon in all aspects, it is a notch above the slow zoom cameras that later followed. If you can find a working model for a few bucks, go for it!

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