Camera Reviews

Canon Snappy S

In the early 1980s camera makers finally figured out how to make loading 35mm film foolproof. Meanwhile, thanks to the 35mm SLR, 35mm film had taken on the aura of quality photography. These two things finally killed the 126 and 110 film formats and opened the floodgates for 30 years of 35mm point-and-shoot cameras from bare bones basic to highly capable and fully featured. When Canon introduced the Snappy S in 1985, it was among the earliest basic 35mm point-and-shoots.

Canon Snappy S

Canon’s rationale was simple: get Canon quality at an attractive price. On the street these could be had for $50-60, which is about $120-150 today. It offered middling specs, starting with a 35mm f/4.5 lens, a classic triplet of three elements in three groups. Everything from 1.5 feet is in focus. Exposure is automatic, but I couldn’t figure out what kind of system it uses. The shutter operates from 1/40 to 1/250 sec. Flash is integrated, and the camera automatically winds and rewinds film. A red light blinks in the viewfinder when there isn’t enough light. Two AAA batteries power everything. You could get your Snappy S in black, red, green, or yellow.

Canon Snappy S

Mine came to me with the flash broken: plastic cover missing, flash unit dangling. The seller disclosed that, but I didn’t notice it in the listing. The flash even flashed, but I didn’t try it more than once because it didn’t seem quite safe. Also, as I used the camera, the auto-winder got weaker and weaker. The batteries were fresh, so I assume this old, cheap camera is just on its last leg. But it wasn’t objectionable to use that way.

Canon Snappy S

This camera sparked no joy, but there was nothing unpleasant about it. Frame, press the button, off you go. I was a teenager when this camera was new and I would have been perfectly happy with one had I been able to afford one then. It would have been a giant step up from the truly lousy 110 camera that was my main camera.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Canon AF35ML (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), and the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded some Fujicolor 200 into it and took it out into my shrunken world. We were all still encouraged to stay home, or close to home, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent most of my time in the nearby shopping centers looking for colorful subjects.

McAlister's

The Snappy S drank in the color and asked for more.

Wendy's

Everything’s good and sharp.

Denny's

The Snappy S weighs essentially nothing. I wrapped its long strap around my right hand and carried it about easily. In its time, I would have been very pleased to have a camera like this.

Don't order here

All was not perfect with the Snappy S, however. You have to look at the viewfinder perfectly straight on or you will misframe. Here, I thought I had the full Cracker Barrel in the frame.

Cracker Barrel

Here, I thought I had the entire awning over the gas pumps in the frame.

Marathon

Also, the viewfinder is massively inaccurate. I put just the tail end of my car in this frame. Look at how much more the Snappy S actually sees.

VW tail

Also, straight horizontal lines wind up slightly wavy. Notice the line that is the top of this wall.

Meijer

This photo shows it too, especially on the top sill of the garage on the right. Is this a lens aberration? Or does the camera not hold the film perfectly flat?

Utilities

To see more from this camera, check out my Canon Snappy S gallery.

The Canon Snappy S was a pretty good inexpensive point-and-shoot camera in its time. It wasn’t perfect, but I’ll bet most people who bought these neither noticed nor cared.

But because mine has two key issues that spell its imminent demise, I’m about to do something I’ve never done before after reviewing a camera. I’m going to put it into the trash.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

Camera makers tried for decades to create systems that made loading film foolproof. Kodak’s 126 and 110 cartridge formats won the race in the 1960s and 1970s. But 35mm SLR photography took off with pros and advanced amateurs in the 1970s, giving 35mm the cachet of quality. As the 1970s came to an end, camera makers figured there was a big market for 35mm cameras that operated as simply as an Instamatic. They were right. The 1981 Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 is one of the early point-and-shoot 35mm cameras and is a big step toward foolproof operation.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

The Hi-Matic AF2 lacks three key features that came to define the genre: motor wind, automatic film loading, and automatic ISO setting. Lacking these things doesn’t make the Hi-Matic AF2 a bad choice today, however. It comes with a good Minolta lens, 38mm f/2.8, of four elements in three groups. It offers a limited range of film speeds, from ISO 25 to 400. You set ISO by turning the knurled wheel around the lens.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

Its active infrared autofocus bounces infrared light off a subject and gauges distance by how long it takes the light to return. It appears to offer two focus zones, one for closer subjects and one for farther subjects. It focuses no closer than 3.3 feet, and the camera bee-bee-beeps when your subject is closer than that. This is a nice feature most point-and-shoots lack. The viewfinder includes close-focus marks for when your subject is between 3.3 and 4 feet. The focus point is in the center of the viewfinder, marked with an oval. To focus, place the subject in the oval and press the shutter button halfway down. Then compose and press the shutter button the rest of the way to take the photo. 2 AA batteries power the camera’s automatic functions and flash.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF2

If you have earlier Hi-Matic cameras in mind when you pick up the Hi-Matic AF2, you’re in for a disappointment. This camera is nowhere near as well built. It feels light and plasticky in the hand, and it creaks as you handle it. The controls feel flimsy. When you press the shutter button, the camera coughs a sickly wheeze as it stops the aperture blades down and then activates the shutter. The winder, though it has a delightful short throw, feels like it could break right off. When you turn on the flash, thwack! — the strobe pops up.

Film loading may not be automatic but it is foolproof: stick the leader in the slot on the takeup spool and wind. The film takes right up, no fuss. And winding and rewinding follows the 35mm SLR idiom, with all the controls where you’d expect. Press the button underneath the camera, pop the rewind lever out, and crank, crank, crank.

I haven’t figured out how its autoexposure system works. My theory is that it chooses the narrowest aperture it can for best depth of field. When light is low and it can’t do a shutter speed faster than 1/40 second, it beeps continuously to tell you to turn on the flash.

The camera is also large, at 5x3x2 inches. Within a few years, the 35mm point-and-shoot would start to shrink, eventually to pocketable sizes.

If you like point-and-shoot cameras, also see my reviews of the Kodak VR35 K40 (here), the Yashica T2 (here), the Canon AF35ML (here), the Pentax IQZoom 170SL (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

We were still locked down thanks to COVID-19 when I shot this camera. So I loaded it with Fujicolor 200 and took it on walks to places I could get to and back during my lunch hours while I worked from home.

Wendy's

The nearby shopping centers are full of in-your-face color. They make a surprisingly good place to test a camera with color film.

Old Navy

The parking lots are mostly empty thanks to COVID-19, making it easy to approach the subjects. This also makes it far less likely for me to be accosted by shopping-center security.

Big O is Open

Red, blue yellow, orange — the Hi-Matic AF2’s lens rendered them all bold and true on Fujicolor 200.

Qdoba

Look at the lovely dusky colors I got as the sun went down outside my back door!

Evening over the Toyota dealer

I shot the rest of the roll around my neighborhood, starting on my front stoop. The too-close beep really helped me make this photo: I backed up until the camera quit beeping.

Flower pots on the stoop

One pet peeve I have with point-and-shoot cameras is inaccurate viewfinders. I centered this car in the viewfinder, but it is shifted left in the image

Red Matrix

To make this photo, I placed the backboard in the viewfinder’s center oval and pressed the shutter down halfway so the camera would focus on it. Turns out it was unnecessary, as with this much light it chose a narrow enough aperture that everything was going to be in focus.

Goal shadow

The Hi-Matic AF2 was a pleasant enough camera to carry despite its size. It was light enough to be unobtrusive. And these results are fine: sharp and colorful, with no distortion.

Clubhouse

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 gallery.

This Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 once belonged to my father-in-law. I found it in the garage while looking for something else. I shot it with Margaret’s permission. My father-in-law chose a simple camera that delivered reliably good results. But for the collector and user today, many point-and-shoot choices offer equally good lenses in smaller packages with more amenities.

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.

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