When I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end in 2008, I stopped to photograph this abandoned schoolhouse near Middlefork, where State Road 26 intersects. The building faces SR 26; it’s actually on a short segment left behind when the highway was improved.
It was in sad shape, but it was intact. It was much the same in 2013 when I stopped to photograph it again. The upstairs windows were gone.
In the years since, every time I drove past here the school was in worse shape than the last time. When I drove by a couple weeks ago, I finally stopped to photograph it again. It’s not pretty.
I’m surprised this building hasn’t been razed by now. I wonder how much more of it will collapse before someone finishes the job and carts the bits away.
Don’t let it bother you that the Canonet name is nowhere to be found on this camera. It’s a Canonet, all right, made in 1978 but based on the 1971 Canonet 28. The two cameras share a 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. Adding the flash led to a revised film transport with a shorter door.
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.
The SLR reigned supreme by 1978 but there was a growing market for capable compact cameras. 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 slipped a zinc-air 675 battery into the A35F; it made contact and worked well enough. An alkaline PX625 battery would have done the job too.
I took the A35F along on a trip to Chicago, but this was the only photo from there that I liked. This lens delivered rich color onto workaday Fujicolor 200, but all through the roll shadows were mighty dark. I’m sure I could have brought out a little more detail in Photoshop but I liked the mood the shadows created.
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; read its story here. 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.
Heres another shot of that school. This lens really delivers.
I imagine that whoever owns the farm behind the school also owns the school. Dig the great blue in that sky, and the rich pewter of those silos.
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.
This camera’s fatal flaw is that its film door is hard to open. I wrestled with it to put the film in, and again to get the film out. The door doesn’t pop open when you pull down the open lever. It was a pain in the butt to pry it open each time. And that’s why I pretty quickly sold this camera on.
But I was very happy with the sharpness and color I got. Maybe I should give the Canonet 28 another try.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.