Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Minolta AF-C compact P&S

I did not know about this camera until several months ago, when I was working on cataloging cameras from an estate.  I ended up with it, and due to the move to North Carolina, I had put any reviews on hold. Finally, I have been able to develop the roll that I shot with it early in the summer, and here goes my review.

The Minolta AF-C -- an automatic P&S, looks a bit like an Olympus XA and a Lomo LCA.  In truth, it's more like a Nikon 35AF, as there are no real controls of the exposure.  It's a compact 35mm camera with a detachable flash that is very similar in operation to the flashes on Olympus XA series of cameras. In use, it reminds me a bit of a Lomo LCA with the lens cover sliding up and down to cover the lens.  The only thing you can adjust is the ISO setting and the use of the flash unit.  The camera uses active infra-red for the autofocus, and the exposure is completely automatic. 

Considering the many compact P&S cameras that were produced in the early 1980s by the likes of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Ricoh, and others, this camera stands out from all of them with its distinctive styling and compact form factor (only slightly larger than an Olympus XA).  The 35mm f/2.8 lens is a 6 element Minolta lens with good contrast and sharp optics.  It focuses from just under a meter to infinity.

The shutter is made by Seikosha, and has a range of 1/8 sec to 1/430 sec.  There is no bulb or time exposure.  The film speed is set manually, and goes from an ISO 25 to 400.  The exposure is automated, and operates from EV 6 to EV 17, or 1/8 sec. at f/2.8, TO 1/430 sec at f/17.

A thumb wheel advances the film, making the camera more compact and there is no auto-rewind, but a manual rewind crank, as with the XA series and Lomo LCA. 

My version had a Quartz Data Back, which I have not tried using as yet.  I'm not a fan of dates on negatives.  The databack makes the camera less svelte and more blocky. 

The camera is powered by 4 LR-44 cells, or 2 1/3 N cells.  They fit much better than the Lomo LCA arrangement of 4 stacked cells. 

To operate the camera, you push the front cover down, which uncovers the lens and viewfinder.  Advancing the film cocks the shutter, and if you have enough light you get a green LED in the viewfinder when you press the shutter button halfway -- which also sets the autofocus. If there is low light, you'll get a red LED if a flash is needed.  The flash screws onto the left side of the camera.  It requires 2 AA cells to operate. The self timer is on the front of the camera, and a red light flashes in front when in use.

Using the Minolta AF-C was easy, of course, and the lens cover design makes it a pretty rugged little camera. I shot a test roll on Ilford HP-5+ black and white film, and developed it in D-76. 

One thing I noted that in some of the frames there is a vertical light stripe about 3/4 across the frame.  That must be some sort of light leak, so I should go and check where new foam will be required. That's not unusual for a camera that's over 35 years old.  The camera has a tripod socket, so using it in low light on 400 ISO film is not a problem, though it is limited to 1/8 sec.

This camera was a freebie, which I really appreciate, as the ones on ebay  are going from $50 to $155 in working order.  It's not an Olympus XA, but certainly works very well as a fully automatic camera.  It's far better than an often-unreliable Lomo LCA, and it's more compact than the Nikon and Canon offerings from the same time.  I think the camera has a very cool appearance, and does not feel cheap or fragile. 

Here are some samples from the test roll, all shot in June, 2019.

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