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!
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.
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.
Here’s the chapel on the cemetery grounds near my house. I found it open and deserted this evening.
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.
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.
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.
Even on a sunny day, shadow detail was poor.
Sharpness and color were good, however, on this stroll along Main Street in Lafayette, Indiana.
The 35mm lens sure was nice for taking in the view, such as down this 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.
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.