This is the last of the Canonets.
Don’t let it bother you that the Canonet name is nowhere to be found on this camera. It’s a Canonet, all right, based on the 1971 Canonet 28. It shares the Canonet 28’s 40mm f/2.8 lens, of five elements in four groups. Like the 28, it accepts film from 25 to 400 ASA. I wouldn’t be surprised if it also shares the 28’s rangefinder mechanism.
It differs from the Canonet 28 in three key areas, however. First, its range of apertures and shutter speeds is different, running from 1/60 sec. at f/2.8 to 1/320 sec. at f/20 (versus 1/30 sec. at f/2.8 to 1/620 sec. at f/14.5 on the 28). Third, and most importantly, the A35F offers a built-in flash. When you slide the flash button on the back, the flash pops out of the top. The mechanism made it necessary to revise the film transport, which resulted in a film door that doesn’t span the back.
The flash made it necessary to move the film rewind mechanism as well. A little crank pops out of the top. The focus ring also differs from the Canonet 28, as does the way you set ASA. But when you hold this camera in your hands, it feels and acts like any Canonet.
Rangefinder cameras were on the wane in 1978 when Canon issued the A35F. The SLR had caught fire and there was no going back. But there was a market for compact cameras that offered casual photographers lots of features, easy usability, and good lenses. Canon probably figured that if they added a built-in flash to the Canonet 28 they could have a sales winner, at least until they could roll out their first autofocus and autoexposure camera with built-in flash, the similarly named AF35M. You might know that camera better as the Sure Shot. It came out in 1979.
The A35F needs two batteries – a dreaded, banned 625 mercury cell to drive the light meter and an everyday AA battery for the flash. I have a bunch of zinc-air 675 hearing-aid batteries here – they aren’t as big around as the 625, but they’re almost as thick and the voltage is close enough. I slipped one into the A35F, and glory be, it worked. A couple of times during my test roll (Fujicolor 200) I found the shutter button stuck, meaning the battery had lost contact. I popped the battery out and pushed it back in, and I was good to go. This wouldn’t do if I were going to shoot this camera all the time, but it was fine for my test roll.
I took the A35F along on a trip to Chicago, but this was the only photo from there that I liked.
I had better luck on an early-evening drive along the Michigan Road. This is my favorite shot from the roll, from Sycamore Row near the little town of Deer Creek. This is an old alignment of the road, in service through the 1980s. The sycamore trees made for a narrow passage.
This abandoned school sits just off the Michigan Road along State Road 26. I wrote about it a long time ago; read about it here. I hate that it’s being allowed to deteriorate.
I imagine that whoever owns the farm behind the school also owns the school.
Here’s the obligatory shot of my shed. Speaking of deterioration, the hole at the bottom of that one door is getting worse. Compare it to past shed shots here. I really need to do something about it.
I slipped a double-A battery into the A35F and took a couple of photos inside. The flash system is smart enough to read exposure and the set focus distance and set the flash voltage to match. I was lukewarm about its performance, though. Here’s my dog Gracie. On the shelf you can see two of my folding Kodaks, the Monitor Six-20 and the Junior Six-16 Series II.
Maybe I was too close to my subjects. Maybe this flash does better lighting up group shots. This is the desk where I write this blog. My everyday camera, a Canon PowerShot S95, is always on my desk ready to go. My giant No. 3A Autographic Kodak is in the corner on one of my two Kodak Metal Tripod No. 1s.
See the rest of the photos that turned out in my Canon A35F gallery.
If you told me the A35F was the only camera I could own, I could deal with it. Its usability isn’t quite as flawless as my Canonet QL17 G-III, but I’d adapt to it after a few rolls. The flash would be fine for what I’d use it for: birthday and Christmas photos indoors. My biggest complaint with the A35F is that the film door latch is hard to work. But I was very happy with the sharpness and color I got, and that is the bottom line for me with any camera.
Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection.