Point & Shoot

Thoughts on the Canon SureShot or Autoboy (AF35M II) – by Jeremy Strange

Here it is pictured with a Hyperion strap on it. If you haven’t checked out their straps before, I highly recommend it. They are well made and very affordable. Plus free shipping!

I bought the Canon SureShot 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 SureShot 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 this camera 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, it 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.

And so now it 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.

Shot on Kodak XX.

Feel free to check out more of my work on my website.

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20 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mike Kay
    March 7, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Compact cameras are like people in your life. Appreciate them while you have them, because they will die eventually. And then go and buy another friend/camera that looks exactly the same if you love it that much. lol

    Yes, some of these premium compacts are now ridiculously priced, as are the semi-decent performers, but I’d rather have newer generations get into film photography than see it die out or become retaken over by elitist snobs & dinosaurs. And they’re still around unfortunately.

    People get so tied up to money sometimes. You also can’t take it with you when your CPU/ticker goes. Relax people.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jeremystrange
      March 7, 2019 at 10:39 pm

      I plan on being buried with my m6, so agree to disagree haha! On a serious note, you’re right, I should find another one 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Martin Falcon
    March 7, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I love this little/big point and shoot. I actually own 3 at the moment. I love how black and white looks on this camera. This is a great point and shoot to save some money and really reliable, atleast in my case. I gifted my niece who’s 6 years old and she has a total blast with it. The pictures are pretty sharp as I may add.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jeremystrange
      March 7, 2019 at 10:38 pm

      That’s great to hear Martin. Get ‘em while they’re young 🙂
      And yes they look fantastic with b&w.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Crispin
    March 7, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    That was a handsome little camera. The last shot looks like the reverse of an 80s new wave album sleeve.
    I’m growing weary of my 6D for the same reasons, as people balk at the sight. especially when you throw on a wide-mouthed Sigma lens.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jeremystrange
      March 7, 2019 at 10:37 pm

      Hey Crispin, thanks for the compliment. That was shot down in Brighton, in England. I have a 6D with Sigma art lenses myself, I know the feeling very well.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Richard
    March 7, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    Jeremy – I’ve owned 2 secondhand Canon Sureshots before and both broke down and gave up during their first roll of film too! A shame as I wanted to see the results of the supposedly amazing lens on this model. There must be a fault with this model as other old cameras in my collection like my Olympus Trip and my XA2 never give me any problems at all. They should’ve called this model the Unsure Shot as you never know how the results are going to turn out!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jeremystrange
      March 7, 2019 at 10:36 pm

      How annoying Richard! I didn’t put it in the review as an edit (maybe I should) but I actually bought another autoboy the day after I finished this review. It arrived as a DOA so now I have two broken ones…I suspect an XA is in my future…

      • Avatar
        Reply
        jamesnorthcote
        March 7, 2019 at 10:52 pm

        Yep XA is pure magic – really great article. Good antidote to compact fever.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Alvaro
        March 8, 2019 at 8:24 pm

        XA/XA2/XA3/XA4 all amazing cameras with amazing lenses. Sharp, contrasty, great depth (the fabled 3D look!) and saturated colours

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Graham Line
    March 7, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    Sometimes you just come to the end of the road with a camera. I bought my Olympus XA when it was first available and it went everywhere with me for probably 20 years. Hundreds of rolls of film went through that camera in all sorts of weather. Most of the pictures of my son were made with it. But after the second trip to the repair shop (the red shutter touch pad was intermittent) it was time to say “thanks, have a rest.” The rangefinder patch had faded to almost nothing and it was getting a lot easier to do things digitally. But the XA did a good job for a very long time.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jeremystrange
      March 7, 2019 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks for your comment Graham. I suspect any camera with a manual film advance is a better investment in the long run. My friend @lukepdfreeman swears by his XA and loves it’s results. I always found the shutter a bit strange. I found one for £3 in a charity shop in London once and passed on it as I thought it might not be very good. One of my larger regrets (photographically speaking!)

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Charles Higham
    March 7, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    Nice shots!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Martin Hinge
    March 7, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Nice review. At the moment, I’m going through my first roll in my AF35M II and I have the same experience. At frame 28 mine stopped advancing the film and the lens cover was stuck open. I thought that was it but then, after letting it sit for a while, it changed its mind, the film advanced and I could close the lens cover. This repeated itself for the next couple of frames. Then suddenly, things went back to normal and I’m now at frame 37. I’ve read this model is susceptible to getting weak motors over the years so I guess that’s what happened to mine and maybe yours, too. I’ve bought an extra copy of this camera, just in case.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mike Hinkleman
    March 7, 2019 at 11:25 pm

    Nice photos Jeremy. And they don’t look like digital.

    I agree with Mike Kay and the rest who realize cameras (except for Leica) are not forever. Think about this. The interest in these old mostly unloved cameras results from no new film cameras for sale (B&H still sells an F6, a few leica and a couple Ansco (?) cameras. ) And a T3 is $400-800 and if it breaks, when it breaks, that’s it.

    I use Leica almost exclusively but the little point and shoots are easier. Easier to load film in particular. I had zero interest until reading one “5 Frames with a …” after another.

    Enjoy them while we’re here.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      jeremystrange
      March 7, 2019 at 11:35 pm

      You’re not wrong! I find it so strange that there just isn’t any manufacturers of new SLRs! Imagine if Canon re-released the A1 with a new 50mm, or Nikon with a ‘new’ F3. All with warranties and hardware support for repairs. It just seems crazy that there isn’t anything.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Alan Yahnke
    March 8, 2019 at 12:06 am

    I picked up five of them before I no longer found them on thrift store shelves. As far as I know, they are all still working.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Bob C. Cock
    March 8, 2019 at 11:24 am

    I prefer me a Nikon L35AF. Similar, but also much better lens & filter threads, yay!
    I chuck on a Y2 filter & shoot HP5 @ 800-1000 & it gives me some banging results. I bought an AF3 with the intent of rebadging the film canisters of HP5 to 1600 due to the ISO not being able to be set manually on that model, but I haven’t gotten round to all that fiddlin’ about yet.

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