Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot)

31

It felt weird buying this camera. I buy old cameras, and this one just doesn’t seem old to me. But this Canon AF35ML is old, having been made in 1981. I was newly a teenager then, and somehow for me that’s when the Modern Era began. It’s a great dividing line in my life – stuff from before my teenagerhood seems old, stuff after does not. Black and white.

Canon AF35ML

So why did I buy such a “new” camera? Because I got it and another camera (its older brother, the AF35) for $15. Autofocus point-and-shoots haven’t quite reached classic status yet. They’re just junk cameras and command itty bitty prices – at least for now.

Canon AF35ML

The Canon AF35ML, also known as the Super Sure Shot, was among the first autofocus point-and-shoot cameras. Minolta, Nikon, and the other Japanese players all produced similar cameras at about this time, and they all had similar features – built-in pop-up flash, a CdS-based coupled light meter that drove a simple autofocus system, decent lenses, an electronic shutter, and an automatic film winder, powered by common-as-pennies AA batteries and wrapped in a plastic body.

What set the AF35ML apart from its competitors is its 40mm f/1.9 lens, of 5 elements in 5 groups. Most of its competitors used f/2.8 lenses, which don’t let in as much light. An f/1.9 ought to do especially well in low light.

The AF35ML is easy to use overall but it does have its quirks. It leaves an excellent first impression when you load the first roll of film. It couldn’t be simpler. Just lay the film across the spool, close the door, and fire the shutter a couple times. You’re good to go.

Canon AF35ML

The impression changes the first time you try the on/off button. It’s fiddly. You press your finger onto it and twist it, but it’s hard to stop on the setting you want. Worse, when you try to turn the camera off, it’s too easy to sail past Off to BC (battery check), which causes the camera to beep loudly. I like knowing my batteries are good, but this is a bit much. My AF35ML has a ring around this button that essentially recesses it, which I suspect is to keep it from accidentally being moved. I’ve seen other AF35MLs without this ring.

With such a nice lens you’d think the AF35ML would be a great choice for street photography. You’d be wrong. Street photographers value stealth, and everything about this camera is loud. Not only does the camera beep on battery check, but it buzzes when you try to take a photo in insufficient light. When you fire the shutter, it clacks loudly – and then the autowinder makes a god-awful noise not unlike a single violin shriek. Used in rapid succession, the sound would set the right tone in a horror flick.

But like any autofocus point-and-shoot camera, all you have to do is frame the shot and press the button. You do need to hold the button down halfway for a second to let the camera focus. A red indicator – a head, a group, a mountain – appears when it focuses. Oddly, the autofocus system doesn’t always find something to focus on, so you might have to try two or three times. The focus mechanism uses a CCD (charge-coupled device) rather than an infrared system, which is more common today.

To rewind the exposed film, press the button on the bottom and then slide the rewind slider (it’s labeled; you can’t miss it) until it locks. Rewinding is loud, too, and it doesn’t stop on its own. You have to listen for the winder’s tone to change pitch after the last of the film comes off the takeup spool, and then turn the rewinder off.

The AF35ML is a good snapshot camera. I’d take it on a trip, I’d haul it out on holidays. But my collection offers many better (and quieter) choices for times I want to be artsy phartsy with a camera. For example, here’s what happened when I centered tulip blossoms in the viewfinder and snapped the shutter. Up close the camera delivers wicked parallax error and focuses just behind the subject.

Not so good at close ups

I had a little better luck photographing this 1906 bridge’s railing. The colors are a little washed out in the searing noontime sun. I hoped the AF35ML would handle that better.

Rainbow Bridge

I went out to the church I shot with my Kodak Six-20. This fellow guards the main doors. The shot suffered from some parallax error, too, so I cropped it.

Second Presbyterian

I gave up on getting in close and just backed way the heck up. That’s when the AF35ML started to shine. This is a house in my neighborhood. They need to cut their grass!

Under the Branches

This is a pedestrian bridge over the canal in Broad Ripple.

Pedestrian Bridge

I work in this anonymous office building. This side faces the sunrise, which was blunted that morning by moderate cloud cover.

Anonymous Office Building

Of all the shots I got from my test roll, I like this one the best. I’ll bet you could count every brick in that wall, and the colors are so good.

Brick Chair

Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection!

31 thoughts on “Canon AF35ML (Super Sure Shot)

  1. ryoko861

    Obviously, it’s better for taking to the family picnic and taking shots of Aunt Doris and Uncle Fred. And I guess it’s not a paparazzi choice of camera. But it still takes a nice shot…..for an 80’s little camera. Not you’re higher end Canon, but good for the family vacation.

    1. Jim Post author

      The lens belongs on a higher-end camera, but you’re right, the rest of it is meant for family picnics and holidays and such. I’m not sure I’ll find a reason to use this camera again.

      1. ryoko861

        It is a cool collectible though. Just add it to the other cool cameras. They’re just nice to look at if anything!

  2. versa kay

    You have described a similar camera I had in the eighties, with which I covered a lot of events .It was convenient and hassle free. It was called Hotshot. I do not remember the company. It was filched by some one and then I got Canon 2000 , which I used for a few years before buying a panasonicdigital camera which Istill use.

  3. jennifer

    You are inspiring me to dust off some old film cameras and try them (if they work). What film did you use to take those great shots? Do you get your film processed at Walgreens or somewhere fancier? I haven’t bought a roll of film in at least five years – maybe longer…. Some of the old cameras are – oh heck – 50 years old? They were my dad’s. Have to learn about light metering on them (lots of dials with numbers….hmmm….

    Great post — wonderful pictures.

    1. Jim Post author

      I hope you will try your old film cameras! I buy Fujicolor 200 most of the time, though I’m known to use Kodak 200 if I can’t get the Fujicolor. These are both workaday color films, nothing terribly special, though some of the other guys I follow who collect cameras praise the Fujicolor. I have bought the stuff at Wal-Mart, and it’s available at Meijer (saw it there on Saturday), though last time I bought it at a camera shop that I have been using for processing. I’m in the market for a new processor, though, because this camera shop has made too many mistakes in the rolls I’ve given them. I used to use snapfish.com for processing because they were inexpensive, but I wasn’t very happy with the color I got. The Wal-Mart near me has a surprisingly good photo processing department, and I’ve used the Walgreens nearest my house in a pinch and it’s okay. I may try mail order again, but from a respected camera shop, such as North Coast Photography or Dwayne’s.

      When I shoot with an all-manual camera, I tend to do “sunny 16.” To do this, you set the shutter speed to the inverse of the film speed (e.g. for 400 speed film, shoot at 1/400 sec or something close to it), and then for a bright sunny day (crisp shadows) shoot at f/16. Stop down one stop each for partly sunny (dull shadows), cloudy (dim shadows), and overcast (no shadows). Many places on the Internet describe this in more detail if you’re interested. I find that it works plenty well if I’m just testing a camera to see how it behaves.

  4. Lone Primate

    Man, you’re right, that last shot is just diamond-cut sharp. The kind of thing I’d expect only from an SLR, even these days. I was impressed when you said it had an f/1.9 lens… you usually pay a premium for a lens that fast and I’ll bet that was THE big selling point in its favour.

    I can see our discernment of “modern” varies. For me, anything that uses film… ain’t. :) “Modern” cameras date from the mid-1990s, when I bought the Kodak DC 25, which was a $700 POS that took photos that wouldn’t make decent postage stamps and used expensive N-size lithium batteries, BUT!! — it was DIGITAL, ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!! :) Along with cell phones in everyone’s paws, the ‘net, the web, and DVDs, that’s where modern starts. ;)

    1. Jim Post author

      If you look at that photo at its full size (click through to go to Flickr, where you can do that) the sharpness is retained, even though the film’s grain becomes visible. Not bad.

      I was so late to the digital party! My ex was a photographer and tried early digital, and I wasn’t impressed with the results. I waited until it grew up before I dove in!

      BTW, I’ve tried several times to leave a comment on your blog today but it keeps telling me I can’t leave anonymous comments. I’m signed into my Google account, so I’m confused. I can’t tell whether the problem is on your end or mine.

      1. Lone Primate

        Weird! I just had that same problem on another Blogger site… I had the presence of mind to copy my comment to the clipboard before signing out and signing back in, and it worked like a charm.

        Sorry, in Google’s behalf, for the inconvenience. Esp. because I particularly value your comments. :)

  5. Carly

    I found this blog very helpful, thanks for posting it! I just acquired this same exact Canon this week at a second hand store for 50 cents and was wondering what everything did! My test roll came out pretty decent, out of the 24 pics I really like 10 of ‘em. Funner than digital cams, but yes, very noisy. My buttons actually have the opposite of yours; they’re hard to move. Hahah I joke that I’m breaking all of my nails by using this. Anywho, I’m loving using it, even though the film and developing fees are way more than that of a digital camera. Walmart’s alright, but like, some of the pics have a thin line going thru them vertically, which I find odd.

    1. Jim Post author

      Carly, I’m glad you got some use from my review! I’ve had some odd results from inexpensive photo finishing too. Some of my cameras have scratched the film when I wound it, too.

  6. Mone

    I have this camera, it was my dad’s camera and he gave it to me but I was wondering, which film should I use?? I was looking at some good lomography films but I don’t know if they’re compatible

    1. Jim Post author

      The great thing about this is that you get to try out some films and see how they perform! Any 35 mm film will fit into this camera. I’m pretty sure this camera takes film of up to 400 ISO, so don’t try faster films in it. Other than that, the field is open to you.

  7. Richard

    The Vegematic of Cameras

    For those too young to remember, a vegematic was a chopper of vegetables that made horrendous noise, kind of like this camera advancing to its next shot. I have read and know that you can depress the shutter, keep holding it down, and release it seconds later under your coat perhaps to muffle the sound.

    The first time I used the Canon AF35ML was taking a photo in a small food store without their permission. The store owner asked me what I was doing. (Last time I ever did that.) The camera took a fine photo of a guy looking at vegetables indoors using ASA 200 film and no flash. Nice lens.

    Anyway, I much prefer its older sibling, the Canon A35F, it’s a wonderful camera. I call it the Son of Canonet. I found mine for $5 at a garage sale: http://whatisafilmcamera.com/canon-a35f-son-of-canonet/

    Thanks for letting post links to my blog here. I wish I received as many comments as you do. I guess we all can’t be Matt Denton, but a little Jim Grey kind of website traffic wouldn’t hurt.

    Best Wishes.

    1. Jim Post author

      I’m not too young to remember Ron Popeil hawking the Vegematic on TV. And yes, the AF35ML is as loud.

      The A35F is on my “if I find one at a good bargain” list. I would expect it to perform like my Canonet 28 given they share lens and basic body.

      I’ve been blogging for five years — it has taken a lot of persistent effort to build a following here! It doesn’t help that I blog about several disparate topics, as my camera/photo audience isn’t necessarily excited about my road-trip posts, and the road trip fans aren’t excited about my faith posts, and so on.

      1. Richard

        Jim,

        I wonder how many of “our” readers have ever built a website and written 100 thoughtful blog posts? We can’t be all things to all people but we are always glad to receive visitor feedback.

        Most of us blog for pleasure because we don’t make much money at blogging (Google AdSense, selling a few books, etc.). Blogging is a hobby, especially when its blogging about film cameras.

        So keep on writing your camera and road trip stories. Let the chips fall where they may. And have fun.

        Richard

  8. Richard

    My Canon AF35ML

    Every camera has a story to tell.

    Yes, the Canon AF35ML makes the loudest film advance sound I have ever heard. So loud that when I “secretly” took a photo of a man choosing fruits and vegetables in a little store, the manager came up to me and said:

    “Can I help you?”

    She asked why I was taking pictures. What could I say? I was pretending to be Cartier-Bresson? That ended my taking secret photos on private property phase (thank goodness).

    For some odd reason I photographed a huge shoe factory going “condo” in my neighborhood. One year later my daughter would buy a condo in that building.

    That 1.9 lens can do amazing inside work even without the flash. And the results are very sharp. It’s just so noisy I can’t imagine anyone using it for street photography or family photos. Kids would have been scared with the noise after every shot.

    1. Jim Post author

      Given that autowinders were very uncommon at that time, that this camera had one at all was certainly novel. But I’m betting every AF35ML user ditched this camera when newer, quieter models came out.

    1. Simon

      I absolutely loved this camera. The images it produced were so sharp in low light for a point & shoot that it stalled my conversion to digital for quite a few years. That, together with my Yashica FX-D. I owned Nikon, Minolta & Olympus models (still have them)similar to the AF35ML but they just couldn’t replicate the colours or the sharpness. Produced some wonderful forest shots in Tasmania. But yes, the winder noise made the birds fly, the heart skip a beat and the tourists flee!

  9. Pingback: Early Days of the Point and Shoot Camera | 6500K

  10. Pingback: Roll 14 – more point and shoot fun | 52 rolls

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,399 other followers

%d bloggers like this: