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

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Golden fence

Golden fence
Minolta AF-Sv
Fujicolor 200
2016

The golf course behind my house, which has not been in operation the past couple years after its owners went bankrupt, has been purchased! Hopefully by next season golfers will once again tee up here. When a golf course doesn’t get constant maintenance, it deteriorates quickly (as my photos from last year show; see them here) and it takes considerable effort to restore the fairways and greens. As I type this, I’m looking out my sliding-glass doors onto the 14th fairway. It looks like a normal lawn. That’s not how a fairway is supposed to look!

The upside, if there is one, is that I haven’t had a single broken window in the two seasons the course has been shut down. I’ve had a few broken by wicked slices over the years.

This fence is inside the golf course, and I shot it last year on a Minolta AF-Sv, which is a surprisingly capable point-and-shoot camera.

 

Film Photography

single frame: Golden fence

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Camera Reviews

Minolta AF-Sv (Talker)

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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.

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

Close shots suffered from my point-and-shoot pet peeve: a viewfinder that shows less than what the lens sees. For this shot of the crying angel, I cropped out the top and side to get what I remember seeing when I framed this.

Crying angel

I never wandered far from home with the AF-Sv. This is the golf course behind my house.

Cart path

And 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

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

The AF-Sv performs impressively. I think it gives the most satisfying results of any of the point-and-shoot cameras I’ve reviewed. I see qualities in these photos that I’m used to from my Minolta Hi-Matic 7 and from the fine lenses for my Minolta SLRs.

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


Do you like old cameras? Then check out all my vintage gear reviews!

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