In this article, we will be offering our Canon AF35M review (click to check for prices on the camera) although some people still call it the “Sure Shot by Canon” but realistically, it is the exact same camera.
Although the AF35M has been a mainstay for camera collectors for a long time now due to it holding its historic place of being the first 35mm autofocus compact camera from Canon, it has seen a recent explosion in popularity recently. Although the exact reason for this popularity increase is hard to know, we would speculate it is due to it now being considered trendy to have a retro or vintage film camera.
Due to more and more people wanting to get their hands on a Canon AF35M, the price has actually started to increase recently due to demand increasing so much for a camera that was initially launched way back in November 1979. Although during 1981 around 110,000 AF35M’s were being produced every single month the vast majority of them have been lost to time.
What’s Under The Hood
Provided you can source a working Canon AF35M then all you have to do is put in some suitable Canon AF3tM film, two AA batteries (some of the later and rarer models of the AF35M actually use a single 2CR5 battery for better performance) and then you are ready to go. The autofocus system on the AF35M was near-revolutionary at the time of the initial release of the camera. It works by using a near-infrared diode system with a pin photodiode that would allow the camera to detect the position of the target of the photograph.
Due to the system being so reliant on light levels and the fact that something as simple as having glass in the photo can throw off the autofocus, you could rest assured you are probably going to end up with some interesting and unique photos when you get your film developed but this is all part of the charm of using a vintage camera!
The built-in lens of the AF35M offers a thirty-eight-millimeter focal length with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, although considerably less than basic for the modern lenses of today, having all of this in such a cheap camera at launch was almost unheard of.
The AF35M does not come with the Canon film quick load feature that some of the other cameras at the time had. This means that if you choose to pick up an AF35M for yourself, you will have to manually thread the film into the camera spool to get you started. After that though, the camera will take care of itself with automatic film transport after each photo to keep you snapping. The image below shows you exactly how to thread the film in the Canon AF35M.
The AF35M also comes with a very basic self-timer as well as a pre-focus included that you are able to use for taking some retro selfies or group photos if that’s your thing.
The AF35M also comes with a pop-up flash that is located on the top left of the camera. The flash is not automatic and will require manual release via the catch located on the front of the camera. Once done, you gently push the flash back down into its storage location within the camera.
Due to the AF35M being almost forty years old at the time of writing and that the flash was a little flimsy, it is no surprise that finding a serviceable camera that also has a working flash can be difficult (click here to check to see if there are any fully serviceable AF35M’s currently available). Especially, one that is owned by someone who is willing to sell theirs as many camera collectors have clicked on to the current supply and demand issues steadily increasing the price of the camera.
If you do manage to find a Canon AF35M that takes the 2CR5 battery rather than the standard 2 x AA batteries our recommendation would be to either keep it or look for a collector to sell it too. Due to so few of these initially being made they are very rare these days and are only going to get rarer so we would not recommend that you risk damaging it walking around the streets with it.
That said, you are sometimes able to find a damaged 2x AA battery AF35M in thrift shops for relatively cheap but these have little to no resell value as collectors are usually not interested in damaged cameras but they can serve as your retro camera if that’s all you are after.
So Whats The Performance Like
At the time of initial release almost forty years ago, the canon AF35M actually had a very high build quality that resulted in a pretty rugged camera other than people being careless and leaving the popup flash exposed resulting in damage.
The AF35M is a pretty loud camera with it making a fair bit of noise when both focusing its lens and when actually capturing the image. Additionally, the auto scroll on for the film after the photo has been taken is very loud even by camera standards of the seventies and eighties.
Tips And Tricks For Unique Photographs
You are able to trick the camera into focusing but not actually taking the photograph. Simply point the AF35M in one direction and depress the image capture button halfway until you hear the lens autofocus. Keeping the button pressed down halfway change what you are pointing the camera at to the image you actually want to camera for some unique images with unique focusing.
Another trick you can play on the camera is to adjust the ISO dial found around the lens of the AF35M. You will need to know the exposure type of the film that you put in your camera for this to work but essentially, you set the ISO dial to different exposures to what your 35mm film has been designed for. When you take your photos with the camera set up like this you can get some unique images.
The final trick that we are aware of that you can play on your AF35M is to cover the light meter found just below your lens on the front of the camera (look for a small hole). This will have a direct effect on how the camera’s autofocus works giving you some interesting Canon AF35M photos.
You are also able to attach a regular modern lens hood, polarising filter or neutral density filter to the Canon AF35M allowing you to mess around with the camera and take a whole range of different types of photograph.
The video below has a number of good examples of the type of photographs that you can expect to take when using the Canon AF35M.
Advantages Of The Canon AF35M
Considering that the AF35M is a forty-year-old, plastic-based point and shoot camera with some very basic autofocus technology, most people report that they are happy with the image quality that it is able to produce. We have seen a number of reports of poor image quality but from what was said in the report, this sounds more like they picked up a damaged AF35M and that was the cause of the issue.
Another thing that can have an effect on the quality of the image the camera captures is the type of film that you use with it. Always be sure to use a high-quality compatible 35mm film with your AF35M to get the very best results possible!
If you are into the whole original vintage look of real photos rather than the filter of some app then you will love the Canon AF35M. Various lighting conditions can also have a unique effect on the end product of the image due to the autofocus slightly changing due to lighting conditions.
As we mentioned, prices of the Canon AF35M are steadily increasing but if you know what you are looking for you can sometimes find some bargians on sites like eBay and in local thrift shops. Keep in mind that many of the people selling in places like these will not know the value of the camera allowing you to try and get it for a much cheaper price than it is actually worth.
Although this is not an advantage of using the camera, we have seen the odd report from someone who picked up a 2CR5 battery variant of the Canon AF35M without knowing it and then were able to instantly flip the camera for fifteen to twenty times what they paid for it by selling to a collector. As we mentioned earlier, we feel that the price of the rare variants of the camera will only keep increasing over time but that kind of profit for a quick flip is very good.
Disadvantages Of The Canon AF35M
Moving on with the review, we will now be getting into some disadvantages of using the Canon AF35M. As we have touched on a few times now, the price of the camera can fluctuate widely for no apparent reason.
One common complaint that we see people make is that the AF35M can be hard to focus depending on how you choose to position the camera and the lighting conditions that you are taking photos in. In all honesty, you have to remember that this camera is almost forty years old and most people are expecting the performance of modern cameras with a retro or vintage story behind them. We are sorry but this is just never going to happen and you have to accept the limitations of the technology from back then if you want a vintage camera.
Next up is the viewfinder and again, we feel that this is due to people just being used to modern digital viewfinders that are crisp and clear and easy to use. We don’t feel that the viewfinder is actually that bad though and is very easy to use once you get used to it. After all, the AF35M is a simple to use point and shoot camera so just quickly line your image up and capture the photograph.
Next up is that the AF35M will often hang on an exposure for an extended period of time sometimes up to fifteen to thirty seconds. Although we would like to put some of this down to the age of the camera and all of the knocks they have taken over the years. The AF35M has always had this extended exposure problem but in reality, it’s only a couple of seconds and it is rare that it happens.
Next up is the noise the camera makes and as we have already mentioned earlier in the review, the AF35M is a VERY loud camera. The thing is, the noise it makes seems to split users with some saying it is annoying while others say that they love it and it just adds to the vintage feel of using an old school point and shoot film camera.
Well, that about wraps up our Canon AF35M review! We hope that you have found it helpful and that that our article has helped you to decide if you want to pick up this vintage point and shoot camera or not. No matter if you are just after a quick and easy retro bit of kit for some unique photographs or if you are a full blown camera collector, we feel that the Canon AF35M will make a nice addition to anyone’s collection!