Camera Reviews

Minolta AF-Sv (Talker)

Check distance! Too dark, use flash! Load film! This camera barks orders and warnings at you when you’re about to screw up. It’s the Minolta AF-Sv, also sold as the Minolta Talker.

Produced in about 1983-85, it was the first camera to include a voice chip. It called you out when there was no film in the camera, when you needed to turn on the flash, and when the subject was too far away to be lit by the flash. Its voice is female, quick, clipped; I can’t place its accent. It’s supposed to say the three things I listed in my opening paragraph, but “Too dahk! Use flash!” is all I could make it say. And then it let me take the picture anyway.

This is a pretty reasonably specified 35mm point-and-shoot camera, beginning with its 35mm, f2.8 lens. It takes film from ISO 25 to 1000, which you set by rotating a dial around the lens.

It includes a pop-up flash and self-timer, as well as a lens/body cap attached to the bottom by a cord. It winds and rewinds the film automatically. It’s all powered by a common AA battery.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, I’ve reviewed several others: the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), and the Olympus Stylus (here). Or you can just check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded some good old Fujicolor 200 to test this camera that talks with a sharp accent.

And I was impressed with the results. Sharp! Colorful! But dark. Some of that might be because every time I shot it, I was on an evening walk. But even in full sun, there was a darkness about the images. Fortunately, easy adjustments in Photoshop brought out the shadow details and deepened the colors. Wowee wow!

Golden fence

Just look at how this camera resolved the light and shaded areas in this photograph! Yes, the shaded area was darker before I processed the scan, but the shadow detail was all there.

Fairway

Autofocus worked great. Whatever I aimed it at within its autofocus range, it resolved perfectly. I gather that the AF-Sv has three focus settings, and it uses phase detection to determine which zone to use. It’s fast and silent — so much so, you might mistakenly think the AF-Sv is a fixed-focus camera.

Flowers

Here’s the chapel on the cemetery grounds near my house. I found it open and deserted this evening.

In the chapel

And here’s the church on the main road across from my subdivision. Everywhere I aimed this camera, it returned good color and clarity and sensitive resolution of both light and dark areas. My only complaint is that highlights were sometimes a little blown out.

Eastern Star Church

I reach the cemetery by walking through the church’s parking lot; the two are adjacent. A replica of the Liberty Bell is on the cemetery grounds, under this housing.

Bell housing

On another outing with this camera I loaded Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, thinking it would give the AF-Sv more room to breathe. Then I took it out on a gloomy day and got the same dark results.

Artsgarden

Even on a sunny day, shadow detail was poor.

Downtown Lafayette

Sharpness and color were good, however, on this stroll along Main Street in Lafayette, Indiana.

Lafayette Theater

The 35mm lens sure was nice for taking in the view, such as down this alley.

Down a Lafayette alley

The trick with the AF-SV, then, is to give it really good, even light. If you think you can always give it that, by all means, pick one up when you find one.

Your face here

See more from my test roll in my Minolta AF-Sv gallery.

The AF-Sv is a mixed bag. When it hits, it hits big, rivaling some of my big rangefinder cameras for image quality. Yet it struggles so in the shadows and in dim light.

But nuts to the AF-Sv’s useless voice. Fortunately, there’s a switch on the back that shushes it.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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19 thoughts on “Minolta AF-Sv (Talker)

  1. How wonderfully 80s! I believe that it was a Chrysler LeBaron that tried to introduce the voice chip to cars. Equally annoying, and no off switch. A consumer product that talks to you must have seemed like the greatest idea ever for a short time. Until they became reality.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Nice looking photos, and really great looking ‘snap’. I was never much of a Minolta guy, except for the Autocord (Rollei knockoff). But I’m always impressed when I see something from the lenses. I buddy of mine that shoots M 4/3rd’s, got a Minolta to M 4/3rds lens adapter so he could use all his old SRT era lenses, and the results are always very nice and better than I would have imagined…just one of those brands I never concentrated on…

  3. These images remind me of the ones I get from my Hi-matic AF. Although I haven’t had the underexposure problem. I tend to think that these Minolta’s from that era are much under-rated.

  4. Hey Jim, excellent shots! Colorful, crisp, and with great dynamic range as you’ve shown. Many times I’ve kept this camera on my eBay “watch” list just for that talking feature alone and I don’t know why I never got one. Maybe it’s because I saw quite a few of them every time I looked so I figured I could always get one, but I never did. But excellent post, gotta love those Minolta lenses!!

  5. JMAJ says:

    I bought a Minolta “Talker” way back in 1984. It was my constant photography companion for over 20 years. A Canon A75 Digital camera replaced it for everyday use. But, I still have the Talker stored in a closet at home.

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