The Canon New Sure Shot (known internationally as the AF35M II or in Japan as the Autoboy 2) was the third camera in Canon’s long running Sure Shot series of “Point and Shoot” consumer film cameras. I have just finished writing about it and you can get the technical details there.
This was a tough picture for an automatic camera. The scene is strongly backlit and the trees are in deep shadow. The small window/lens for the CdS cell does not allow for spot metering and there is no way to take the exposure reading and then recompose the image. As a result the image, except for the sky, was underexposed. However, the film is excellent and I was able to bring detail out of the shadow.
My copy of this little camera appeared to be fully functional so I loaded it with a short roll, 15 exposures, of Ilford HP5 and shot it at ISO 400. I wanted to try out this 35 year old camera and compare it to a more modern shooting experience. It compared very well, indeed.
The camera itself feels very solid and well made. Once loaded with film the process is fully automatic. It sets exposure automatically and self focuses. In fact, you cannot control anything manually except film speed.
Other than the noise the film advance makes, you hear nothing. You are left wondering if the camera is working at all.
I went to a local park near my home early one morning last week and took these outdoor pictures in a period of half an hour. The camera is certainly easy to use.
Backlit scenes are a bit tough but for your average photograph the negatives are consistent and properly exposed. And the focusing appears to be excellent.
There is only one focus point so if your intended subject is not in the center of the image in the view finder you have to use the lever (it is actually the self timer lever) on the front of the camera, aim at the subject you want in focus, press the shutter and then recompose and press the shutter button again. It may sound complicated but it actually works very well. I got used to this and used it several times to good effect.
Now I am getting impressed! This camera is easy to use. I just pointed it and pressed the button. The point of focus is in the center of the image. Being a semi wide angle lens focus beyond 15 feet becomes pretty irrelevant, especially if your camera is designed for snapshots and not exhibition quality prints. But this is pretty fine picture!
The lens is a fixed 38mm’s with four elements in four groups. Playing with it you can make out the iris as a crude diamond shaped affair which probably gives a poor bokeh but it seems to control exposure effectively
What is interesting becomes apparent when we zoom into the image which I have done on the left here. Focus is good and the lens shows excellent sharpness. I did not expect to find this quality in the image detail. Once again Canon lenses show their quality!
The next test was to see how the flash worked and to test focus at a much closer distance. Adjusting exposure when using the flash is a much more complex calculation for the camera. There is no through the lens metering so I assume that the exposure is based on a calculation of flash guide number and the focus distance as given by the camera’s IR focusing system.
I asked my co-worker Christy to let me take her picture which she consented to and I took two pictures. Looking at the negatives they were both properly exposed, maybe a little over exposed, and well focused. Below on the left is one image and on the right is the same image at greater magnification.
This image of Christy is not the full image. It has been cropped slightly. You can see from this example that this camera is capable of taking a good flash picture. And it was as easy as using my cell phone: I just popped the flash up, pointed the camera and pressed the button. Et voila!
Zooming in to the image on the left we can see that the focus is excellent and so is the overall sharpness of the lens. In fact, this is a pretty impressive little lens considering it is on a simple “point and Shoot” from 35 years ago! Christy is backlit by the window behind her but that was no problem.
So what can we take away from this little experiment? Well, this camera is easy to use. Really easy to the point you wonder if it is working at all. It is not a small camera but it will fit in a big shirt pocket. It is solid and feels well made. And it takes really fine pictures. If you wanted to try some old film photography but did not want to spend a lot of money, one of these cameras could be found for around $10.00 at a garage sale or swap meet. Inexpensive but still capable of serious photography.
If you are already a seasoned photographer you would probably find the lack of features on the New Sure Shot compared to modern cameras a bit disconcerting. But if you love to tinker with cameras, as I do, this is a great little camera.
And one last thought: this is a cheap camera today. A throw away item often when cleaning the house. And yet it is capable of fine photography. The art in photography is not about the camera. It is all about the vision of the photographer. In our rush to get ever better equipment it is easy to forget what we are really about.
I am currently shooting with a 5D Mk II. It is two generations behind the current 5D available. And yet, how many pixels do I need? I doubt I am photographer enough to get the full potential out of my Mk II camera. Yes, it has features that let me do things the New Sure Shot cannot do, but the features it has go beyond my meager ability. And so I have to tell myself constantly to concentrate on the art and not the gear.
And yet ….. and yet ….. Canon will be coming out with a new mirrorless professional grade camera. I am probably not man enough to resist the temptation. It would not make me a better photographer but … I would be a happier one. Happiness is good.
This is the New Sure Shot of which we speak. The camera in this photo is turned on, which opens the lens cap automatically, and the flash deployed ready for action. Normally the flash is down flush with the top of the camera. The Canon brochure on the right describes this little camera and its features in considerable detail. Read my write up on the this camera and you will find a copy of the user manual.