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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Up the steps to the porch

Old farmhouse
Pentax IQZoom 170SL
Kodak T-Max 400
Rodinal 1+50
2020

My subdivision used to be farmland. When I moved to central Indiana a quarter century ago, I occasionally drove out this way and it was as rural as rural can be. Now it’s all vinyl villages and shopping centers.

An old farmhouse lies around the corner from my house. It’s on a parcel that I’d guess covers just a few acres. A family still lives there — is it the original family that sold the rest of the land for this subdivision?

These steps lead to the farmhouse’s front door, but it’s clear that nobody’s used that door in a long time.

The road I stood on to make this photograph used to be a state highway, but not since the 1960s when it was moved to intersect with the nearby Interstate highway. Now this old road is just the back way into my section of the neighborhood, and it dead ends when it reaches it.

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Film Photography

single frame: Old farmhouse

A look at an old farmhouse in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.

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Film Photography

Kodak T-Max 400 in the Pentax IQZoom 170SL

Lounge chairs

I was deeply impressed with the Pentax IQZoom 170SL when I shot some test rolls in it recently. I got excellent color on consumer-grade Fuji films, and its lens was plenty sharp. If it worked the same magic on black-and-white film, I would keep it in my collection. I bought a fresh CR2 battery, loaded some Kodak T-Max 400, and took it on lunchtime walks around my neighborhood.

Toward the shallow end

I shot a lot of film in the spring! It gave me so much to share here that I’m clearing away a big backlog of photos. I made these about four weeks ago. We had an unusually gray and chilly spring. ISO 400 film is just right for days like that, especially in a point-and-shoot camera.

XOX

I developed this roll in Rodinal 1+50 and scanned the negatives with VueScan on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mk II. The VueScan produces smoother tones than the software I was using before. These aren’t quite as good as the scans I get from my favorite lab, but they’re plenty good for every purpose I have for them.

Class of 2020

Our subdivision offers the most affordable homes in what is otherwise a wealthy and expensive suburb of Indianapolis. It’s the only way we can afford to live here. We got excellent schools in the bargain. This year’s high-school seniors will have a very different graduation experience from any class before. These signs are for all of the seniors in our subdivision. It’s one of many visible ways the community is celebrating them.

Village club

But back to the IQZoom 170SL. It handled well. Even though it’s a little chunky, it slid right into my jeans back pocket. And it delivered the goods yet again. I can’t believe you can buy one on eBay for under $50, and often under $20. Other equally capable point-and-shoots go for five or ten times that much. Get one now before everybody else gloms onto them and the prices soar.

NO

Signs proclaim NO all over our subdivision. No soliciting. No fishing, swimming, ice skating, or boating. No digging, because natural gas and petroleum pipelines flow below our ground. We’re the Village of No.

No Outlet at max zoom

I have but two criticisms of the 170SL. First, images go soft at maximum zoom (as above). But that’s typical of long-zoom point-and-shoots.

Aluminum ladder

Second, the camera flashes automatically when it thinks the light calls for it. You can override it, but I found myself caught by surprise every time it happened. Fortunately, in this photo of little aluminum ladder on our deck in mid-renovation, the image retained detail in the aluminum highlights.

My desk

I meant to use the flash in this shot, from the day my wife and I turned our living room into our home office. It lit the scene evenly, which is not always true of the little flashes on point-and-shoot cameras.

This little camera is a winner. If you like point-and-shoots, get one.

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Film Photography

Another go with LegacyPro L110 developer

I’m not loving Arista EDU 200 in LegacyPro L110 developer, a Kodak HC-110 clone. This time, my fixer was starting to exhaust. It affected the whole roll to varying extents. But a handful of photos turned out all right enough, and I’m willing to make my claim based on them. Next time I use L110, I’m choosing a different film.

Tree by the pond

At least I had a good time with my Pentax ME and its 50mm f/1.7 SMC Pentax-M lens. Shooting the ME always brings me a little joy. Before the pandemic and the stay-at-home order, I’d been shooting my 35mm f/2.8 lens most of the time. I work in Downtown Indianapolis and that wider lens lets me get more in the frame without having to step into the busy street. But here in the vinyl village there’s plenty of room to roam. 50mm is perfect.

In the vinyl village

These are the best of the images from several lunchtime walks around my neighborhood. I just shot whatever. The shooting itself was therapeutic. I still have my vinyl-village project in mind, so whatever I shot I tried to grab lots of surrounding context.

What road?

Arista EDU 200 develops mighty fast in L110. Using Dilution B, 1:31, it develops in 3:30. My meager experience tells me that development times of under 5 minutes are not a great idea — there’s so little margin for timing error. Last time I worked around this by using Dilution E, 1:47. I didn’t love the results. This time I used Dilution H, 1:63. To get enough developer into the tank that it wouldn’t exhaust before developing finished, I had to use my 500ml tank rather than my 290ml tank.

Fence

The photo forums say that HC-110 (and I presume its clones) work well with Tri-X, HP5+, FP4+ — films with a traditional grain structure. Too bad I don’t have any of those films on hand. Arista EDU 200, which is Fomapan 200 in disguise, has more of a tabular grain structure I gather.

In the vinyl village

I’m realizing I’m still on my film-developing learning curve. I had only just started to get repeatable, decent results from Rodinal when I decided to plunge into L110. I’m so impulsive. I should have stuck with Rodinal until I mastered it.

In the vinyl village

My goal was to be able to develop a roll of Adox HR-50 I’m shooting. Rodinal is not recommended for that film; the Massive Dev Chart doesn’t even list this combo. After our discussion in the comments on my last L110 post, I ordered the Adox HR-DEV developer that is meant for HR-50 film. That ought to lead to the best possible results.

Pipeline

If you’re thinking, “What’s he bellyaching about? These are fine” — well, I don’t disagree with you. I’m not showing you the ones that didn’t work out at all, however.

2" or More

I need to shoot up some film that’s expired but, since the garage fridge died, I can’t store cold anymore. I have a roll of original-emulsion Agfa APX100 left, and from what I hear that film was made for Rodinal. A reader sent me a roll of Arista Premium 100, which is said to be repackaged Kodak Plus-X. I’ve seen some samples of Plus-X in Rodinal in the forums and I love the look. I also have one last roll of Ferrania P30 Alpha to shoot. I tried that film in Rodinal before but the Rodinal was, surprisingly, exhausted. I’d like to give that film another go in fresh Rodinal.

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Camera Reviews

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

From the 1980s to the early 2000s, camera manufacturers manufactured as many compact point-and-shoot cameras as stars in the sky. Or so it seems. eBay lists billions and billions of them at any moment, at any rate. So many of them are crap, making it a crapshoot to find the good ones. So many are wildly overpriced. A tip: Pentax’s compacts in the IQZoom and Espio series are usually good, sometimes great — and are bargain priced. Like this one, the Pentax IQZoom 170SL.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

The IQZoom 170SL is small: just 4.5×2.25×2 inches. But it packs a long lens, a 38-170mm f/5.6-12.8 SMC Pentax Zoom, of 8 elements in 6 groups. Did you catch that? SMC! Super Multi Coated! Just like all the great Pentax SLR lenses. Not all IQZoom/Espio cameras come so equipped. If you don’t see SMC on an IQZoom’s lens bezel, it doesn’t have an SMC lens.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

The 170SL’s electronic shutter operates from 1/360 to 2 sec. It reads the film canister’s DX code to set ISO from 25 to 3200. Avoid non-DX coded films, as the camera defaults to a not-useful ISO 25. It focuses automatically, using a phase-matching five-point system. At the lens’s wide end it focuses from 2.45 feet; at maximum zoom from 3.9 feet. It sets exposure automatically.

Pentax IQZoom 170SL

The buttons atop the camera control its functions. One is for flash and shutter modes. When you turn the camera on, it uses flash when low light demands it, unless you turn flash off with this button. It also lets you force flash on and choose long shutter speeds, including bulb mode.

The middle button controls the autofocus, including infinity focus lock and spot focus. The next button turns on the self-timer and a wireless remote shutter control. My 170SL didn’t come with the remote, so I couldn’t try it. The right button sets the camera’s date and time. Some 170SLs don’t have this button, apparently. If you set a date and time, it imprints onto the negative.

The viewfinder offers diopter adjustment, a very nice touch. Move the slider on top of the viewfinder pod until the view is crisp.

The camera loads your film, winds, and rewinds automatically. You load the film upside down from the right side, which is a little odd. A single CR2 battery powers all.

This was an expensive camera: $433 when new. You could get a Pentax 35mm SLR kit for about that then!

If you like point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, check out my reviews of the Yashica T2 (here), the Pentax IQZoom EZY (here), the Nikon Zoom Touch 400 (here), the Olympus Stylus (here), the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), the Olympus mju Zoom 140 (here), and the Kodak VR35 K40 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I put a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into the 170SL and took it to downtown Zionsville one evening. Most places were closed thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown, so we had Main Street largely to ourselves. Here’s my favorite photo from the roll.

T-shirt in the shop window

The IQZoom 170SL was an easy companion on this walk. It is very light but feels solid. Every control fell right to hand. It took me no time at all to blow through all 24 exposures on the roll.

Window

The zoom worked smoothly but a little slowly, with a soft whirr. Winding was similarly quiet. I’m impressed with how the autoexposure system navigated mixed lighting.

Curbside carryout

I’m impressed with the sharpness and bold color I got. This camera made Fuji 400 look better than I’ve ever seen it.

Bus by the salon

Next to the viewfinder are green and red lights. The green light glows when autofocus has a lock. The red light blinks when flash is charging and glows steady when flash is ready. In this fading light the flash fired a lot. I knew when I photographed this sign the flash would reflect. So I turned flash off and the long-exposure mode on and shot it again. That shot turned out soft.

Harold's, flash
Harold's, no flash

In dim corners the 170SL gave surprisingly shallow depth of field.

Pink posies

That roll flew by so fast I barely got a feel for the camera. So I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and took the camera on a lunchtime walk through the shopping centers near my home. I was glad for a bright day, as full sun is so often a challenge for point-and-shoot cameras. Not so the 170SL. Just look at that color!

America's diner

I detect a whiff of pincushion distortion here, but overall I find this lens to suffer little from distortion. Again: just look at that color!

Old Navy

I find yellows commonly wash out on consumer color films, but the 170SL brought it in, big and bold, every time. This photo shows a little vignetting which I suppose is to be expected from a compact zoom camera.

We're open

The 170SL even rendered black impressively deep and true.

One way

I forgot to mention earlier that the 170SL has a panorama mode. A switch on the bottom moves masks in place over the film and in the viewfinder.

Panorama

That scene was too far away, so I zoomed in to the max and shot again. At 170mm it’s hard to hold the lens steady.

Close-up panorama

I did manage one decent 170mm shot. For this one, I stood square, breathed steadily, and squeezed the shutter button slowly. It’s still soft, but not due to shake this time. That’s just how maximum zoom goes on these point-and-shoot cameras, in my experience.

Bell de tacos

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Pentax IQZoom 170SL gallery.

I’m impressed with the Pentax IQZoom 170SL. Actually I’m blown away by the bold, rich color I got on everyday color film. I plan to put a couple rolls of black-and-white film through this camera to see how they perform. If they wow me as much as these color rolls did, I might just have a keeper!

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

Pentax ME Super

I reach for my Pentax ME all the time because it’s small (for a 35mm SLR), light, and easy to use. It is an aperture-priority camera, meaning that after you set the aperture, the camera reads the light and sets the shutter speed. I recommend the ME because they are inexpensive and fun to use. If you want that but you simply must have full control over exposure, then the 1979-84 Pentax ME Super is for you.

Pentax ME Super

Its electronically controlled shutter operates from 4 to 1/2000 sec. — different from the ME’s 8 to 1/1000 sec. shutter. Also, if you use flash it syncs at 1/125 sec., rather than the ME’s 1/100 sec. But under use, these cameras feel and work much the same. In Auto mode, look through the viewfinder and twist the aperture ring. A dot glows next to the shutter speed the camera chooses. The dot is green-yellow at 1/60 sec. and above. It’s orange-yellow below 1/60 to caution you of shake if you’re holding the camera in your hands.

Pentax ME Super

There’s just one quirk to setting shutter speed, though. There’s no dial or ring. Instead, put it in manual mode by twisting the dial atop the camera to M. Then press the two black buttons to change the shutter speed. The viewfinder helps you get a good exposure. A red light blinks rapidly next to OVER or UNDER until you choose an aperture and shutter speed that gives good exposure. It works more intuitively in practice than that sounds like.

Pentax ME Super

That’s a good thing, because this Pentax ME Super has a fault in Auto mode: the mirror doesn’t return. The mirror returns properly in manual mode, so that’s how I shot it.

If you like compact SLRs, also see my review of the original Pentax ME (here), the Olympus OM-1 (here) and the Nikon FA (here). If you like Pentax SLRs, see my review of the K1000 (here), the KM (here), the Spotmatic SP (here), the Spotmatic F (here), the ES II (here), and the H3 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I shot my test roll while we were all hunkered down at home thanks to COVID-19. Knowing I’d want to shoot some things indoors handheld, I loaded speedy Kodak T-Max 400 into the ME Super. I developed it in Rodinal 1+50. This is a mug our son often uses for his tea.

Red cup

Our dishwasher is on the fritz, so we handwash our dishes and leave them to dry. The kitchen window is nearby, providing plenty of light.

Drying

I took the ME Super on photo walks around the neighborhood, as well. This SLR is so light that I hardly noticed it hanging over my shoulder.

Curves and lines

The mirror slap jars the camera a tiny bit. The ME Super supposedly has a mirror dampening mechanism that the ME lacked. But I was surprised to feel the camera move in my hands each time I fired the shutter. My ME doesn’t do that.

Callery pear by the fence

I adapted quickly to the ME Super’s manual mode. By the end of the roll, my fingers were finding the two buttons with my camera still at my eye.

Tulips

The ME Super offers everything I love about the original ME plus that manual mode. But I’d hardly use manual mode (if this ME Super’s Auto mode were working). I prefer aperture-priority shooting and use it nearly exclusively on every SLR I own that is so equipped.

Zionsville

If my ME disappeared, however, I could just pick up this ME Super and keep right on trucking. After a CLA and a repair of Auto mode, that is. I might even use the manual mode once in a blue moon.

At Iron's Cemetery

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax ME Super gallery.

It’s hard for me to be objective about the Pentax ME Super because I’ve used and loved its predecessor, the Pentax ME, for years. If you like the ME, you’ll like the ME Super, and vice versa. If you’ve never used either and you are at all curious, hie thee to eBay where bodies can regularly be had for chicken feed.

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