So I walk into Southeastern Camera…
(The beginning to many a story.)
…and ask, “What do you have in new that is film, auto exposure, with a built in lens and costs around $50.” To which Dennis replies, “I have your next camera right here, Eric.”
This would freak me out, but similar exchanges have become quite common there.
And it was marked at $50 exactly. After a quick flickr sample shot search I was sold. This is not my first film Konica purchased here. Darth Vader’s disco ball helmet (aka AiBORG) preceded it.
But other than being film, AF, otherworldly consistent in image output, and having Konica written on them these two cameras could not be more different. Where the AiBORG is a mash up of 80s form and function oddity born in the early 90s and full blown automation the C35 AF2 (and AF before it) is 70s function and design minimalism birthed in 1980. Where some aspects of the AiBORG beg the question why, everything about the C35 just makes sense. I do enjoy the AiBORGs quirkiness, but I would choose the C35 any day. The only worthwhile advantage the AiBORG offers over the C35 is zoom and that is not worth it. I still enjoy owning (moreso than shooting) the AiBORG, but it has one glaring fault. Its viewfinder is like looking through a hole punched through a potato with a pencil. The one on the C35 is a joy by comparison with it’s big and bright vantage point. It even has a parallax adjusted view box for close framing. In use it feels much like my beloved rangefinders. Which it seems to actually be… but with AF. On to minuses, pluses, and sample galleries and link to more images.
- The only two humans I have located that can adjust/move the ASA ring dial are Matthew and Chris at SE Camera. Other friends and I have tried and failed to budge it. Further, I sheared off every fingernail and dislodged one of the nibs (made up word) on the dial meant to provide safe purchase for one’s fingernail. Nothing. I mainly shoot 400 so they have set it there. If I ever need to shoot another speed film I will have to visit SE Camera. Not a bad compromise.
- Some manner of focus or exposure lock would be nice but, given the price point, this is easily forgiven.
- That is it.
- An all arounder. This is one of the best cameras I have ever used film or digital. I have cameras that are easy to use and I have cameras that output impeccable images. This is the rare camera that does both.
- Accurate focus. I had my hesitations about a rangefinder AF film camera. Unlike my AF Pentax SF10 where I can see what the AF is doing through the lens, the C35 is an exercise in trust. And it earned my trust after 2 rolls. The one out of focus (one!) shot on each roll can be blamed on user error. I was asking too much of early 80s tech by shooting a low light scene with no contrast. And it is not easily fooled often focusing where I wanted it to.
- No wasted automation. Rewinding for myself makes sense on this camera. Advancing the film on this camera makes sense. Things like the self-timer lever are easily decipherable and easily used.
- Quiet. Other than a light pong there is nothing to be heard from the shutter.
- Came with a quite handy combo lens and focus window and shutter lockout cap/cover/monocle thing that is quite handy.
- Looks cheap. How is this an advantage? Draws no attention. Looks like a point and shoot, but performance wise it holds its own with cameras that cost 5 and 10 times as much or more. Easy to pass under the radar which would be especially useful traveling.
- Does not feel cheap. Has some heft in hand and built like a tank. I dropped this camera onto concrete from a couple of feet up… and it bounced. I was certain it had to be ruined. Other than scratches on the bottom the fall had no effect.
- Small with no odd shapes so it easily slips in and out of pocket when not in use.
- Image quality. Stunning image quality. I know this is owing largely to the film, but I often shoot Fujifilm X-Tra 400 (cheap drug store grade that is convenient and I have had good luck with it) and this camera makes better use of that film than any other I have used. On my second roll of film I was reviewing the images on my computer and there was a point where I was certain I must have started viewing a digital image folder by accident. Nope. The C35 is that good.
- It takes two AA batteries. Take that weird illegal air mercury batteries.
- Sharp lens. SHARP LENS! Sharp lens. Did I mention a sharp lens? I will sing the praises of Hexanon from the rooftops.
- Handles its built-in flash wonderfully. And it has a built-in flash. Something the also very wonderful, similarly sized, but heavier and slightly larger non-AF Canon Canonet QL17 GIII I recently fawned over does not. (But that f/1.7 though.) Do not dismay. I prefer the Canonet, but it is a struggle to defend the price difference strictly looking at use and output.
- It cost me $50.
What is not to like? Fan of film? Want to try a quality film camera at a friendly entry price? If you can find one (or any of the Hexanon 38mm f/2.8 compact family with varying degree of features and automation), get one is my advice. Well worth the price.
Below is a sample gallery with some product shots of the camera and here is a link to the ongoing flickr album.