I bought the Canon SureShot Autoboy AF35M II a few years back, around the time I started reading 35mmc. Hamish was regularly posting articles in search of the perfect camera, and singing the praises of compact cameras in general. I was on the other side of the spectrum really; very happy with my Canon 6D and Sigma Art lenses, and a recently acquired Canon AE-1.
I had begun collecting random SLR’s and other knick knacks when I got it in my head that I needed something more compact. I blame Hamish for this part (haha). I found the Canon SureShot Autoboy in an Oxfam in Surrey on a day off. I had let an Olympus XA slip through my fingers the week before and was on the lookout something similar. My copy was in relatively good condition, was small and compact, and had a nice little 38mm 2.8 lens on the front. And all for £2.99! I expected mediocre results, and I got them, but what I didn’t expect was just how easy and fun it would be to shoot with, not to mention how close to peoples faces I could put it without getting much of a reaction.
The results that I got from the SureShot aren’t particularly interesting by any measurable metric. Almost every other lens I own is probably sharper, vignettes less or has more of that thing you like. Or less, if thats your fancy. What it did produce, however, are the photos I come back to again and again. Photos of friends, important events or just of everyday life.
Shot on Kodak ColorPlus 200.
There’s just something about point and shoot style cameras where people don’t seem to mind you putting them in their faces. They glance, they look away, or they just straight up ignore you. The only thing that would make you more invisible would be a smartphone really. The flash works as you’d expect it to. I’d never really shot with flash before, and wasn’t really a fan of those close-up compact camera flash styled shots, but Canon SureShot AF35M II converted me. I used this camera more nights at the pub than I can count.
Shot on Kodak XX and ColorPlus 200 respectively.
And then just like that, it broke. I was out at dinner with some friends, taking some photos of the group as you do when it suddenly didn’t advance to the next frame after a shot. Initially I thought the battery had gone flat, which made sense as I’d been using the flash a bit, but nope, it was dead. And in the middle of a roll as well!
All the comments on all those forums we frequent ran through my mind;
‘Don’t buy compact cameras!’
‘They break and you can’t fix them!’
‘You’ll never amount to anything!’ etc
But these things don’t really happen. Do they? And if they do, then certainly not to me!? I hadn’t mistreated it at all, it had never even been dropped. And then, just like that, the Canon SureShot Autoboy was gone. Granted, its over 35 years old, but even still, I just didn’t think it would happen. Immediately I could see the value in mechanical cameras, cameras that could be repaired and have non-electronic parts replaced.
Shot on Kodak XX.
Shot on Kodak XX.
And so now the Canon SureShot Autoboy AF35M II sits on my shelf. It’s so dead that I can’t even close its little ladybug-wing styled lens cover due to the fact that they were battery operated. I could replace it…I’ve seen them sell for anywhere between $20-80 USD. But if I did, part of me would always be thinking…how long do I have with it? I’ve been meaning to write this article for a number of years, and I’ve just put it on the back burner, but when I saw Hamish’s recent article I felt like I had a responsibility to share my experience with people who might be looking at spending some serious dosh on a shiny T5/mju etc whose prices have shot up recently.
It’s your money, and I definitely won’t tell you what to spend it on, but just remember that some of these cameras are gambles, and not all gambles pay off in the long run.
Feel free to check out more of my work on my website.
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