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Camera Review: Minolta AF-C

With premium point and shoots skyrocketing in price due to their scarcity, celebrity endorsement, and cool-guy factor, many people are searching for alternatives to cameras such as the Contax T2 (nearing $600, I sold mine for $325 about a year ago) and the also steadily-rising Olympus Stylus Epic with 35mm 2.8 lens (some asking prices near $2-300, but I have found more than a handful at the local Goodwill for under $4).

I frequently (almost daily) come across Facebook groups where someone is asking about the best quality point and shoot for the best price.  Typically speaking, OP is looking for a camera with a sharp f/2.8 lens.  In the replies, I always see the same answers; the Contax T2, Olympus Stylus Epic, Rollei 35, and Olympus XA usually round out the top of the responses.

One camera that I have never seen mentioned (nor did I know it even existed until recently) is the Minolta AF-C: something that looks like the long lost sibling of the Olympus XA series or the Lomo LC-A.

The Minolta AF-C is an interesting camera.  By its looks, it appears as if the Lomo LC-A and the Olympus XA had a love child.  The AF-C has a sliding lens cover and also sports a detachable side-mounted flash.  It’s pretty slick looking, perhaps a bit too Robocop-looking for me personally, but it does remind me a bit of an 80’s Ferarri.

Starting at the top of the camera, the camera is ridiculously simple and minimalistic for better or worse depending on what you are looking for in a camera of this type.  The camera only has a rewind knob, shutter button, and film counter on top.  The film advance is also manual.  To me, this makes the camera feel a little cheap.  It makes me long for the advance tab seen on my Minox 35 EL.  The front of the camera is just as simple.  The AF-C sports a 35mm f/2.8 lens with a self timer switch to the left and an ASA dial underneath the sliding lens cover.  The left side of the camera (looking at the front of the camera) has a small metal loop for a wrist strap while the right side of the camera has a connection for the EF-C flash which looks strikingly similar to the Olympus A11 flash.  Finally, the bottom of the camera has tripod accessibility as well as a battery door and film rewind release.

Loading film into the Minolta is probably my favorite part about the camera.  The take up spool has such a neat little mechanism that grabs the film tab as you load and advance the film through for loading.  Be careful on used/abused cameras, because sometimes this tension clip loosens over time.  My initial roll was compromised because I trusted that the clip was in working order.

When taking photos, the viewfinder is relatively bright.  It has two LED lights at the bottom. A green LED to indicate successful autofocus and a red LED to indicate a low light exposure.

The camera is rather pocketable with the flash on, but much more so without it.  Personally, I do not utilize a flash all that often, so I would probably leave the flash at home anyhow.  I know we are talking about ounces here, but when it comes to portability every centimeter and ounce tend to count.

Shooting the camera is just as simple and as easy as it looks.  Point, press half way down to be sure of exposure and focus, and slam it down for the shot.  The lens is super sharp, and I consider it (and the camera) all too overlooked.  Perhaps this will change as the popularity of point and shoots is on the rise and consumers searching for an affordable and quality camera will start breaking off from the soon to be unattainable Contax-branded cameras.  The only downside I can mention is that you really have to trust the camera.  It’s reliable, but some shooters really value their manual controls. Oh, that and ISO 400 is the highest setting on the camera.  So, you have to adjust accordingly.

In the test shots below, I include both black and white and color film.  The roll of Fuji Superia 400 I shot was a bit dated and wasn’t stored very well.  It came out a bit underexposed, to say the least.  You can still see the quality of the lens through the fade and haze of the expired film, but perhaps not a great representation of color and exposure.  These aspects are seen best in the black and white frames provided.  Those were shot by my buddy who I borrowed the camera from for the review.

All in all, the camera is solid for the purpose it’s meant to serve: to point and to shoot.  It’s quick and produces quality results.  It’s pocketable, and rather inconspicuous.  It also performs rather well in all general conditions, which is nice for a camera you want to have on you at all times.  However, if you’re looking for any manual control aside from setting the ISO, you might not enjoy it as much.

Minolta AF-C // Superia 400

Minolta AF-C // Ilford HP5+

Minolta AF-C // Tri X

Minolta AF-C // Superia 400

Minolta AF-C // Tri X

Minolta AF-C // Superia 400

Minolta AF-C // Tri X

Minolta AF-C // Superia 400 // No Flash v. Flash Comparison

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Camera Review: Rollei AFM35

Recently, I have been trying to offload or sell some of my camera gear in favor of shedding the amount of stuff I have and simplifying my shooting.  I’m really trying to only one one camera for each of the 35mm and 120 formats, but it is proving to be very difficult.  More often than not though, I tend to shoot the same cameras over and over again.

In an attempt to sell a Bronica SQ-B, I was offered to trade for a Rollei AFM35, which is a Rollei rebranded Fuji Klasse.  Now, while I would have to say that the Rollei branding is not as pretty as Fuji’s, it does appear (through a very brief eBay search) that the Rollei version is harder to come by if you’re into the rarity sort of thing.

The camera itself has a substantial build.  I wouldn’t say it is heavy as much as I would say that it is solid.  I have rather large hands so it fits nicely in my oversized grip as a point and shoot camera.  The camera itself is rather straight forward.  Only three buttons across the top for shooting settings and three buttons across the back for date settings.  The knobs are large and easily accessible.

There was something about the camera that made me excited to shoot it.  In quiet environments, I would definitely argue that this camera is not a stealthy shooter.  The shape and color of the camera is rather inconspicuous, but once you hit the shutter the camera is very whiny and draws attention to you rather quickly.  Not sure if this is an issue with all of these cameras and I’m not sure if I am being too tough on the camera, but it was something I definitely happen to take note of.

The best thing about this camera is definitely is it’s quick f/2.6 lens.  I did catch myself a few times not getting a positive focus light in the viewfinder before sending the shutter button all the way down, so I’m not sure if the focus is a bit off/slow or maybe me just being a bit antsy.  On my first roll, I took the camera to both light and dark environments to test out its capabilities.  While I did shoot an expired roll of HP5, the results were still something to celebrate.

Camera Review: Leica Sofort

Over the years, I have tried almost all of the instant photography options out there.  I started out using a Polaroid Land Camera with Fuji (both the 1000c and 3000b) pack film.  Perhaps I just didn’t have the right knowledge, camera, expertise, or vision for instant film at the time.  I guess didn’t know what I wanted out of it.  But now it’s more than five years later; Fuji pack film has since been discontinued and I have since tried many of the Instax, Impossible, and Lomography options that are available since my first experiences with modern instant film.  After a couple years of (barely) using an Instax 8 camera, I guess you could say I pretty much gave up on instant film.

Impossible film was a bit too expensive although I love my SX-70.  The novelty of the Instax Mini wore off quite quickly, and I just felt that the format was too small to produce anything I thought was worthwhile.  I was still comparing today’s Instax film to the original format of yesteryear’s Polaroids 600 and SX-70.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when I was gifted a Leica Sofort.  With a price tag of $300 for an Instax format camera and the above statements, I don’t think I could say honestly I would ever go out and by the camera with money out of my own pocket.  Admittedly though, I was extremely excited that my gifted camera came with two packs of Instax color film as well as a box of the new monochrome film.

Leica Sofort // Instax Monochrome

I’ve had the camera for about three weeks now, but I spent a solid two weeks with the camera while I was still in South Korea.  I brought the camera along with me everywhere I went including the Japanese island of Tsushima and an opening party to one of my two photo exhibitions I had in Busan.

Leica Sofort // Instax Monchrome

Leica Sofort // Instax Monochrome

I think by bringing the camera to an opening party, I was finally able to come to terms with the fact that Instax is a social photography format (read: I need to get out more).  I was able to use it to take photos of all the guests that came in to see my photos and it really broke the ice by speaking through photography to my guests, most of which did not speak much English.  It also gave them a small memento to take with them alongside the post cards I had printed up for the event.

Leica Sofort // Instax Monochrome

Leica Sofort // Instax Monochrome

In my opinion, the camera itself is very good looking, I would even go as far to call it a pretty camera.  It’s clean, sleek, and square (ugh, if only the film format was as well, amirite?) If you want to compare it to the Instax 8 cameras, then you’re looking at a whole new world of (semi) manual controls.

Of course, you could just read the specs on any website, but my favorite features of this camera would have to be the ergonomics and double exposure.  Other positive quirks include selfie and macro modes and a focusing ring (again, semi-manual) on the lens.

Leica Sofort // Instax Color

I think using the black and white film with the Sofort gives you a nice artistic experience.  It actually feels like I am creating an image, rather than just snapping off images that will end up on some Urban Outfitters mobile in a sixteen year old’s bedroom.  I have watched a few videos comparing the Leica (made by Fuji) branded Instax film to the Fuji original and there seems to be some slight differences in tonality and color, but I have yet to spring the cash to pay double the amount per 10-image pack.  Maybe one day, but I am in no rush.

Leica Sofort // Instax Color

Overall, I am extremely pleased with this camera thus far.  The images are sharp , the camera feels good in my hands, and the extra controls are nice.  The controls themselves are definitely the selling point for me, personally.  I think it has changed my view of the format for the better.  So, until Leica makes a camera that is compatible with the new Instax Square film, I will be happily shooting my Sofort until that day comes.

Leica Sofort // Instax Color

Leica Sofort // Instax Color

Squeegee Streaks

I recently picked up a Voigtlander Bessa R3A with a 40mm f/1.4 Nokton.  I think I have finally found my end-game camera for 35mm shooting.  Well, at least for now.  I know many people say that the build quality and shutter sounds between the Bessa and the Leica M series are almost incomparable in the Leica’s favor, but I don’t think I’ll be jumping ship any time soon despite the fact that many people make the jump from Voigtlander to Leica.  I am entirely satisfied with the sharpness of the lens and the comfort of the camera in my hands.  The only issue I have had with the Bessa I picked up was that the film winding lever is a bit loose and flips out quite often.  It ended up getting stuck while trying to advance the film and I ripped the film a bit, creating an accidental double exposure that has become one of my favorite images I’ve taken.  Luckily, I didn’t have any issues ratcheting the film onto the development reel and had a successful development with the first roll from my R3A.

An issue I noticed on my last black and white roll (see photos in my last post) as well as this one, was a sort of horizontal banding that only showed up in my black and white film.  I wasn’t sure if this was a Pakon issue or a development issue, but upon further investigation, it turns out I have been scratching my film pretty bad while squeegeeing it prior to hanging it to dry.  I suppose the color film appears safe from these scratches due to the Digital Ice technology in the Pakon, but shows up on the monochrome film because you can’t use the infrared-based feature with black and white film, this leaving more imperfections than the C41 color film.  Needless to say, I decided to pony up and buy a bottle of Photo-Flo so I do not have to risk severely scratching my film anymore.

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Voigtlander Bessa R3a // Arista 100

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Voigtlander Bessa R3A // Arista 100

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Voigtlander Bessa R3A // Arista 100

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Voigtlander Bessa R3A // Arista 100

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Voigtlander Bessa R3A // Arista 100

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Voigtlander Bessa R3A // Arista 100

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Voigtlander Bessa R3A // Arista 100

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Voigtlander Bessa R3A // Arista 100

The End of an Era: Contax G1

Ever since I got into shooting film, it was like a whole new world opened before my eyes.  Aside from the different formats of film I could choose to shoot, I also had thousands of cameras to research and choose from.  I have been lucky enough to get my hands on many different cameras over the past few years, getting to learn more and more about the nuance and design of each company and model through the time I got to spend and shoot with them.  I also love that fact that each used camera I acquire and pass on has its own story to it.  It makes the experience of shooting film and these older cameras that much more of an intimate experience for me, personally.

This week, I finally decided that it was time to try something new again and I’ll keep that new camera excursion as a secret for now, but today is a bittersweet day as I sold and shipped off my Contax G1 to it’s newest owner.  I bought this camera along with a black Biogon 28mm f/2.8 which very rarely came off of the camera, even after I purchased a 90mm Sonnar f/2.8 to do some more portraiture with the camera.  The 90mm never impressed me as much as the 28mm did; it just wasn’t nearly as versatile or quick, and at 90mm, you really start to see the slow speed of the autofocus that accompanies the G1 through the online community.  One of my other favorite features of this camera was definitely the built-in multiple exposure mode.  Overall, it was also pretty quiet, which made it fun to shoot in the street.  I wasn’t a big fan of the manual focusing system, though.  Pros and cons, right?

But since this camera has traveled quite a bit of land and spent quite a a bit of time with me, I figured I would post some highlights from my time with it.

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