Collecting Cameras

Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta AF-Sv (Talker)

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.

Artsgarden

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.

Margaret

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.

BBQ

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

Advertisements
Standard
Film Photography, Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

Homes of the Perrin Historic District in Lafayette, Indiana

If you ever drive through Lafayette, Indiana on Main Street, you’ll be surprised by the stunning older homes you pass. I sure was the first time I drove through Lafayette on my way to Purdue to visit my son. I’ve long wanted to stop and explore. My son and I finally made time for it not long ago.

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

It turns out many of these homes are part of the Perrin Historic District, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979. The 173 homes in it were built between about 1869 and 1923 in many common styles of the era, from Italianate and Queen Anne through American Craftsman.

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

One of the area’s distinctive features is its hilliness. Put on good walking shoes when you visit the Perrin Historic District.

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

But as you walk, be sure to keep your mouth tightly closed so you don’t drool. Pretty much every home will stop you dead in your tracks. Many of the homes are lovingly cared for or even restored, while some are in original but rough condition.

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

Remarkably, you can live in the Perrin Historic District for not a whole lot of money. As I check Zillow.com today, I see estimated values of as little as $90,000 and no higher than $250,000.

Perrin Historic District, Lafayette, IN

If you ever visit, the district is bordered on the south by Main Street (the old Lafayette Road, built in the 1830s to connect Lafayette to Indianapolis), on the north by Union Street, on the west by Erie Street, and on the east by 18th Street.

Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A, Fujicolor 200 (at EI 100)

Standard

Lafayette row houses

Row houses in Lafayette
Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A
Fujicolor 200 (at EI 100)
2018

When my son chose Purdue as his university, it brought me into Lafayette, Indiana, for the first time. Sure, Purdue is across the Wabash River in West Lafayette. But coming from the Indianapolis area as I do, and given my love of the old US highways, I always drive in on US 52. And that takes me right into downtown Lafayette, past the old residential neighborhoods and their lovely older homes.

On my way out of town I frequently end up on South Street, passing these row houses by. For a minute I think I’m in Baltimore or New York City.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.

 

Film Photography

single frame: Row houses in Lafayette

Image

You know I love old gas stations. It’s always a pleasure when I find one.

I most commonly find them on old alignments of highways, but I suppose that’s because I frequent those kinds of roads. But many of them remain in cities and towns off the main roads, as well, such as this one on South Street in downtown Lafayette, Indiana.

Standard Oil

This is a “Red Crown” Standard Oil station, built in about 1927. Standard Oil built lots of these through the late 1920s and into the 1930s, mostly in the Midwest. Maybe a couple of dozen of them remain; this page shows several.

Standard Oil

While this one still operated as a Standard station, it was known as Jonesy’s. It closed during the 1980s and was threatened with demolition. The city library, which is next door, used it as a storage building for a time until local businessman Don Stein rescued it and got it restored. It is said that more than 40 layers of paint were removed from the inside walls to finally reveal the glazed brick. Also, the roof had fallen and was replaced with “new original stock” red tiles that Standard Oil remarkably still had in storage.

Standard Oil

The building was a petroliana museum for a while, but was later used as a stationary advertisement of sorts for the city of Lafayette. It’s not clear what the building’s use is now. As I researched this station, I found photos from not long ago that show details that are now missing, such as “Jonesey’s” lettering over the door, a “Standard Oil Products” sign over the plate window, and “WASHING” lettering over the left garage bay. At least the letters pictured above remain intact.

If you’d like to see some of the other vintage gas stations I’ve found, check out all of my posts tagged Gas Stations.

Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A, Fujicolor 200 (at EI 100)

Click here to get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week!
Film Photography, Road Trips

Standard Oil Red Crown station in Lafayette, Indiana

A circa 1927 gas station still stands, unused, in Lafayette, Indiana.

Image
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.

Advertisements

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.

Advertisements

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.

Standard