These stories usually all start out the same. And of course they rarely know anything about what it could actually be. Thanks guys! In my case, the people were the parents of my best friend, and the camera turned out to be this Canon AF35M.
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These stories usually all start out the same. And of course they rarely know anything about what it could actually be. Thanks guys! In my case, the people were the parents of my best friend, and the camera turned out to be this Canon AF35M. In my journey collecting cameras, I had come across these before, but due to their modern, fully automatic list of features, I never considered one, but I was excited to see what it could do.
To say that the AF35M is a modern camera comes with a pretty big caveat. For one, this camera was first introduced in late making it almost as old as I am.
In terms of historical significance, the AF35M was the first camera in the world to offer a modern automatic focusing system. An ad from for the AF35M hyped the frustration free simplicity of the camera. In addition to defining what an auto-focus system could do, both the Konica C35 AF and the Canon AF35M set the standard for design of what a point and shoot camera would look like.
Upon closer inspection, the Canon AF35M is rather large. The body design resembles a plastic brick with mostly 90 degree corners and a size that would not fit into jean pockets or a small purse. Thankfully, the entire body is made of plastic, so the weight is kept to grams including the batteries.
The overall design of the body is very similar to a rangefinder camera like the Canonet series. To someone not familiar with this model, the windows on the front of the camera could trick someone into thinking it actually had a rangefinder.
The ability to accept filters and auxiliary lenses was a feature that was soon lost on most point and shoot cameras as the target customer would rarely have a need for this feature. There are projected frame lines for the 38mm focal length along with a second set of parallax lines for close focus, although this is not an automatic parallax correction.
You just have to know which lines are correct. This scale goes from left to right across the bottom of the viewfinder. A moving needle will move to the position that the camera has deemed is closest to accurate focus.
The CAFS system is only engaged moments before firing the shutter, so there is no way to get a preview of which distance the camera will select without firing the shutter. There is a small oval in the center of the viewfinder to indicate the area in which the CAFS sensor will focus on. To use this feature, you move the self timer lever all the way to the Pre-Focus position and then compose your image so that whatever you want in focus is in the center of the viewfinder and then press the shutter release all the way.
This will actually begin the 10 second countdown for the self timer. You now have about 10 seconds to recompose the shot and either wait for the self-timer to expire, or press the shutter release a second time to fire it immediately while maintaining the original focus distance.
If you are interested in how early auto focus systems like CAFS worked, see this article from the December, issue of Popular Science. It goes into greater detail comparing how 4 different auto focus systems worked. In practice, the CAFS system is clunky, and I could never get used to not really knowing if my images would be in focus. Comparing the Canon AF35M to a modern auto focus camera, you have to put a lot of faith in the camera to get it right as you have no way of knowing for sure.
The Canon AF35M with the flash popped up. The rest of the camera works fairly predictably. It has a manually activated popup flash that is flash synchronized at all speeds.
It can be used as either a fill flash in high contrast outdoor scenes, or as a regular flash up to about 5 meters in the dark. To use the flash, you must manually release it so that it pops into position at which point the flash will begin charging. The recycling time for the flash is a painfully slow 8 seconds. I would have assumed the cheap alkaline batteries I was using were causing the flash to be so slow, but the AF35M manual confirms the 8 second recycling time.
The top plate features the large and easy to use shutter release, the rewind switch, and frame counter. Speaking of batteries, the camera uses two regular AA 1. The batteries load via a plastic flap on the bottom of the camera. The flap feels rather flimsy, but thankfully showed no signs of failure.
I would guess that at least a certain percentage of these cameras would have broken battery compartment doors after all of these years. The camera has a motorized film advance and rewind, although strangely when reaching the end of the roll of film, you must still press a release button on the bottom of the camera like an old school manual camera, and then activate the rewind motor via a switch on the top plate.
It will not automatically rewind the film upon reaching the end of the spool. All of the motorized functions of this camera like the focus motor, the film advance, and the rewind are loud. The noises this camera make basically negate any chance at being discreet.
Anyone in a 20 foot radius will hear the camera any time you take a photograph. Loading film in this camera is similar to pretty much every other camera of the era. You can also see the film transport indicator on the back. Loading film into the camera is relatively simple, although not quite as automatic as those with a Quick Load feature. You still need to thread the film leader into the take up spool, and upon closing the film door, you need to press the shutter release a couple of times to advance the film to frame 0.
The Canon AF35M does not automatically advance a new roll of film for you. It also cannot read the DX encoding on the film cassette.
You must set the film speed manually via a plastic ring around the lens of the camera. Once you have film loaded into the camera and have advanced it to frame 0, you are ready to go shooting. Here is where things got interesting. While out shooting with the AF35M I really had no idea if the camera was working properly.
Sure, it made a bunch of noises, and the flash seemed to work, but with no real way of knowing if anything was in focus, or what aperture or shutter speed the camera was selecting, you really have to just throw caution to the wind and hope for the best. This is definitely not a camera for someone with OCD or control issues! My Results After finishing my roll and sending it off to the lab for processing, I was on pins and needles waiting to get my scans back.
As I said before, the Canon AF35M gives you no information about the focus, aperture, or shutter speed while shooting, you just have to hope for the best. Taken indoors with the flash, the scene is well lit, even the backgrounds. The fill flash works wonderfully outdoors. Another shot with the fill flash on. This high contrast outdoor scene is not only sharply in focus, but also exposed correctly.
Another great interior shot. Although this was taken outdoors, it was in full shade and the meter handled it perfectly. I was extremely pleased with the results from the AF35M. The CAFS system worked perfectly in all but 2 shots. Strangely, a relatively simple head shot of a baby came out blurry, but almost every other shot was perfectly in focus. The accurate focus highlights the sharpness of the 4-element 38mm Canon lens. The picture of the tree shows tremendous detail in the bark.
Colors in all of these shots are bright and cheerful. It is clear that in the early days of point and shoot cameras, companies like Canon still put some high quality glass in them. I was also impressed with the auto exposure system. I tried to trick the camera by shooting outdoors in bright sunlight both with the fill flash on and off.
The last two shots above are with the flash on and the scene is nicely balanced without blown out highlights or a muddy background. The two interior shots above also look great.
There is still some detail in the background without making it look like the subject is standing in front a black wall of darkness. It would appear that this plastic brick of a camera is actually pretty great. It uses regular AA batteries, so if they die while out shooting, you can replace them anywhere without needing to worry about a charger or silver-oxide replacements. They should get just as great of shots from this camera as you can.
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Zujind And shoot it did. Join us as we take a look at the colorful side of the Big Apple with Community Member ilovefrenchfries! Please login to leave a comment. Af35mm, this is not the kind of camera you would want to use for some stealth street photography. Available in our Shop.
Canon AF35M (1979)