St. Paul's

Meet the camera that scolds you. Check distance! Too dark, use flash! Load film! It’s the Minolta Talker, aka the Minolta AF-Sv.

Minolta AF-Sv

This camera came to me from the father of an old friend. He sent me his entire collection, and this was in it. I didn’t expect much from it, but on a sunny summer day Fujicolor 200 delivered slightly underexposed but soulful results.

Golden fence

As a result I’ve been looking forward to this camera’s turn in Operation Thin the Herd. When that turn came it was late November and early December, and the days were dismally gray. The voice in my heart said, “It’ll be fine! Great pics ahead!” while the voice in my head said, “This isn’t going to work out well.” I loaded Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, thinking I’d need the extra exposure margin. Even so, this camera underexposed consistently, to muddy and mottled result. I should listen to my head more.


Let’s get it out of the way right now: that the camera talks is a useless gimmick. “Too dark, use flash” is all I can get mine to say, and that message would be more effective as a beep or a light. I shut the voice off. Speaking of flash, I’m not sure the one on my Talker works.


The camera does work all right inside with enough ambient light, though. This was our Thanksgiving table. The china is Rosenthal from Germany and has been in my mother’s family for three generations. The purple water goblets are from Walmart, because this family knows better than to be too uppity.

Thanksgiving table

The AF-Sv handled all right. It’s a chunky camera so it doesn’t fit satisfyingly into the hand. But it’s easy enough to frame in the big viewfinder and the shutter button is where my finger expected it to be. It slipped right into my winter coat’s big front pocket. I had appointments all over town and up in Lafayette, and it went along on all of them.

Lafayette Theater

I did get about thirty minutes of sunshine in Lafayette, and it made all the difference to this camera. I had bright light when I shot the church door that leads this post, too. The shot below shows the sharpness this lens can deliver.

Your face here

Every last photo needed a hit of Auto Tone in Photoshop to be true to color though — especially shots I made on a drizzly day in Downtown Indianapolis. Here’s where an auto-everything point-and-shoot shines: this ’70s truck came along and I was able to capture it lightning fast.

The heartbeat of America

Lesson learned, though: shoot this camera on a sunny day, and overexpose by a full stop. The only way to do that on this camera is to dial in the appropriate ISO to get that net result, such as ISO 200 for ISO 400 film. The ISO dial is around the lens.


This camera also struggled to focus close in anything other than great light. I wanted the fellow in front of this strange sports sculpture to be the subject. He’s farther away than the camera’s close-focus limit. 

Out of focus

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta AF-Sv (Talker) gallery.

I was disappointed in how this camera performed on this outing. Maybe I expected too much of it. It’s got to be hard to make an auto-everything point-and-shoot that gets everything right every time. But I can’t imagine shooting this camera ever again.

Verdict: Goodbye


15 responses to “Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta AF-Sv (Talker)”

  1. Mike Avatar

    Brings to mind Francis the Talking Mule and Mr. Ed the Talking Horse.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Except with a tinny accent that sounds vaguely Asian.

  2. Photography Journal Blog Avatar

    This reminds me of a time I was driving some children around with GPS on and one of the children told me he didn’t like GPS because it was “too bossy”. I couldn’t take a camera telling me what to do.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Fortunately, there’s an off switch on the camera’s back.

      1. Photography Journal Blog Avatar

        I’d have used that switch :)

  3. Dan James Avatar

    I’ve had a couple of versions of the non-talking AF-S versions and found them very capable. I would agree that they respond best in good light, which is much the same for all film compacts, indeed all film cameras! I remember a number of occasions going out with film loaded, knowing it was too overcast and dull to get any images where the colours would sing. Then being disappointed, inevitably, when I got the images back. I eventually learned and generally stuck to b/w on dull days, keeping the colour film for a special occasion, like the sunshine appearing.

    Your shot of the graffiti girl is as sharp as most of us would need or want from a film compact. Who could ask for more?

    One example of the AF-S I bought for next to nothing, knowing it was broken. I dismantled it and played around with the lens on my Sony NEX with a makeshift adapter and copious amounts of blu tac. I did a similar thing with a little Ricoh film compact that was broken –

    Amazing how sharp many of those little lenses are, and how much character they have…

    Oh by the way, one thing I loved about the Minolta was that little transparent inner film door that you close on the film then it winds it on, so you can see it’s loading properly. Genius!

  4. Jim Grey Avatar

    I will say that this camera underexposes a bit even in great light. The woman I sold it to, I advised her to always set ISO at half box speed, to give an exposure boost.

    I had no idea that the inner door would trigger the winding! Now I wish I had tried it before I sold the camera.

    1. Dan James Avatar

      So did yours have the clear film flap? That, and the lens, I thought made the little AF-S stand out a little amongst the sea of 80s film compacts with 35/2.8 lenses…

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        I’m pretty sure it did, but I assumed it was like the Canon Quick Load system and just pulled the film all the way out and shut the film door, sandwiching the film under that flap.

  5. Bart Avatar

    Wow, Jim, I can’t believe you still have brick streets in Lafayette!

    It seems like every town I know got rid of them a long time ago — if, like Chicago, theirs weren’t all buried under half a dozen layers of concrete and asphalt. I love the sound of tires on brick pavement.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh! The brick street photo is Indianapolis. One block of the four streets leading away from the big circle in the middle of town are brick for the aesthetics of it.

  6. Sam Avatar

    Happy New Year Jim! Great post with great pics but this one was an easy predict!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, it kind of was, wasn’t it. Thanks!

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