Point & Shoot Technical knowhow Thoughts on Cameras

Olympus AF-10 Super or: Pushing the functional limits of a crap point & shoot.

Olypmpus AF-10 Super

There isn’t a great deal to say about the Olympus AF-10 Super. It’s about as basic a camera as they come. Yet as I’ve expressed in a previous post, there is something about it that I liked, enough at least to attempt to make it better still through a modification. So has this been the start of a life long love affair with an apparent underdog…? Well, I’ll save you the time of reading the whole post to find that out, and say no, it definitely hasn’t – it is a very basic point & shoot with not that much going for it. But the camera isn’t specifically what I want to write in this post. What this over simple camera provides me with is a very good opportunity for quite nicely illustrating something I really enjoy about shooting with compact cameras… Even – and sometimes especially – extremely simple cameras like this one… And that something is seeing just how far outside of a cameras intended functional limits it can be used.

Olympus AF-10 Super

Before I get to that though, a quick run through of just how limited and more importantly limiting this camera is…

Olympus AF-10 Super’s Flash

Firstly, as demonstrated in a my previous post – ‘Flash switch hack for the Olympus AF-10 super‘ – this camera has very basic flash settings. Though they can be fairly easily modified to be completely manual.

Focusing and speed to photo

One of the best things about this camera is how responsive it is. Half press activates the camera to be ready to shoot near instantly, and when you press the button its response feels very eager. Maybe I was just lucky with first my roll, but despite this speed, it didn’t miss focus on a single shot of an entire roll. And that included shots where I had half pressed to focus, reframed and then shot. 

Olympus AF-10 Super

The photos 

It actually takes a half decent photo. Ok, we aren’t talking quite the same quality as its relative the mju-ii, or any other premium or advanced compact camera for that matter, but it’s pretty bloody impressive for such a cheap camera. And it’s certainly good enough for happy snaps! I certainly wasn’t disappointed at all, or in anyway wished I had taken any of these shots with a different camera! Results are sharp, reasonably contrasty, vignette a bit, and sometimes perhaps look a little veiled, but overall they are good!

Olympus AF-10 Super

Other features?

So it takes passably decent photos, it takes them without any fuss and quickly… All sounds pretty good then? Well not quite; if you are looking for feature packed, it might be worth while going elsewhere. Other than the flash switch, and of course shutter, the only on button on the camera is for a self-timer. It doesn’t even have a button for rewinding the film before then end. Even the little lights in the viewfinder are low on function. Admittedly, the flash activated light illuminates when it is going to use flash, but the AF light illuminates every single time the shutter button is half pressed. It has never once reported missed focus even when I put my hand over the all of the sensors and lens to test it. Basically it’s just a half-press-light.

The biggest limitation…

The lack of user controllable features isn’t even its biggest limitation. The real cap on function is the light meter shutter/aperture limitations. The cameras light meter spans 6ev. Ev9 – Ev15 (100iso), which means – or is a product of – the mechanical limitation of the camera – 1/45th at f3.5 to 1/400th at f9.1

… that actually makes the camera actually quite useable 

Although this latter specification is limiting, it is also where the real joy of shooting a camera like this comes in for me. The enjoyment becomes about working with these limitations rather than letting them be a hindrance. 

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog now that I have a distaste for cameras that given a slightly lower light situation will err toward using inappropriately long shutter speeds in preference to their widest aperture. The result of this is obvious, in low light these unpredictable and often unnecessarily slow shutter speeds result in photos that suffer with motion blur. Well this camera out-craps and out-does those cameras simultaneously. It doesn’t have the slow shutter speeds available to it to use, even if it is programmed that way. It’s lowest shutter speed is only 1/45th, which is plenty fast enough for hand holding a 35mm lens… Well, at least as long as the subject is relatively stationary… …

Olympus AF-10 Super

Now clearly this limited range of function is designed to be inexpensive, and I suppose help the entirely uninformed take a better photo. But my point is that it can also be helpful if you know what you are doing. 

Compare it for a second my Pentax Espio Mini having put 400iso film in both cameras and then using them in my living room in the evening. My living room is about 6ev, s0 at 400iso with the 3.5 lens – which both of these cameras have – this should result in a shutter speed of around 1/20th. Which – being as it is a much higher spec camera with a much wider light meter and shutter speed range – is exactly what the Pentax will do. But of course the slowest shutter speed this Olympus can muster is 1/45th, so that is what it will use. Of course this would be a whole stop under exposed. But assuming I am taking a photo of a person or something else that moves around a bit, that 1ev of underexposure might in fact be preferable to the slower shutter speed, especially if I am shooting the likes of XP2 which has plenty enough latitude to cope with 1ev of underexposure. The point being, given this fairly specific circumstance, I actually have more sense of control over the lesser camera. 

Shooting the Olympus Af-10 Super in very low light

Now clearly the above is quite a specific circumstance, but actually it could, given the inclination, make this camera quite fun to use in much lower light. A little bit like the Olympus trip 35 (skip to the end of the post to read what I’m talking about). Since this camera has no possibility of taking a photo at a slower shutter speed than 1/45th with an aperture of 3.5, the control of the camera in low light is put into the hands of the photographer by means of the film speed. And since the cameras DX code reader doesn’t go above 800iso, and more importantly seems to default to 50iso given no DX code, in low light, it is pretty easy to manipulate the camera into always selecting those f/3.5 and 1/45th by either taping over the DX code on a film or putting out of range film in the camera. 

For example, if I were to go out shooting with this camera loaded with 3200iso film, the camera wouldn’t be able to read the DX code, and so, in lower light, would use f/3.5 and 1/45th. f/3.5 and 1/45th with 3200iso film is EV4. EV4 is what you might expect shooting in a well-artificially-lit city centre at night, a reasonably lit bar etc. Since it’s film, a bit of overexposure doesn’t hurt, so there is room for error if there is more light than EV4. And actually, if you go through with this sort of experiment, you’re also probably the sort (like me) that doesn’t mind a bit of underexposure in your low lit shooting… A little bit of underexposure won’t hurt either.

All these following photos were taken with Ilford HP5 (with the dx code taped over) shot then deved in DD-X using times for pushing it to 3200

Olympus AF10 Super

Olympus AF10 Super

Olympus AF10 Super

Olympus AF10 Super

Olympus AF10 Super

There is one last thing that this camera has going for it above many other compact cameras like it. And this is the autofocus system. Because it’s Active and therefore works by means of reflected infrared beam, it works in the dark too… So you should get a sharp photo… as long as the subject stays still…!

Olympus AF10 Super

Of course, you might – as many people would – ask yourself what’s the point in all this? Why not just use flash, or a camera with a faster lens that can actually be controlled manually…? Well, it’s as simple as this, if you are reading this and asking that question, there probably is no point! Alternatively, if you are reading this and thinking “that sounds like a bit of fun”… then crack on and give it a go! It might not be for everyone, and most of the time, in truth, it’s not for me… But once in a while, messing around with a camera like the Olympus AF-10 Super, outside of its specified functional limitations, just gives me quite a sense of satisfaction… Especially when a few of the photos come out so well … And I bloody love HP5 pushed in DD-X!

Cheers for reading

Hamish


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28 Comments

  • Reply
    ehpem
    January 11, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    Great write up Hamish. Now you give me ideas for my one of these, which I had pretty much parked thinking it was too limiting to use. I did not think through the implications of the design for doing something interesting with it, though I had appreciated them for their simplicity. It is a camera that works, and takes OK pictures. That is saying a great deal more than many of the other point and shoots out there.

    I suspect the design limitations are justified as much by likelihood of taking a good picture when in inexperienced hands as they are by expense. They could even be done solely with that purpose in mind since camera shake must be the most common source of out of focus pictures.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 12, 2015 at 11:19 am

      Yeah, I’d tend to agree.

      You will have to send me a link if you do something similar with yours … It’s funny how such a basic camera can have just the perfect balance of slightly crappy features …

      Good luck with it!

  • Reply
    ehpem
    January 11, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    And by the way, I like that pushed HP-5 as well – what terrific grain and tones!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 12, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Lovely int it?!

  • Reply
    JR
    January 18, 2015 at 4:46 am

    So.. I’m a bit like you: I’m a total sucker for compact cameras. For me, if it has a 35mm lens, I’ll give it a look.

    I thought I’d ask you to clarify something about the AF-10: How does the shutter/AF lag compare to the Stylus, Stylus Epic, and Espio Mini? I have these cameras as well except for the Epic (yet), and one major disappointment was the shutter lag. It’s just not good enough to capture the moment. I’ve been looking for a budget knockabout AF compact with 35mm lens and fast AF. So… is this it? And can you tell if it moves the focusing mechanism into place upon half press (as opposed to upon full press)?

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 18, 2015 at 10:40 am

      The lens moves at the point of full press, but it’s very fast indeed. It feels more responsive than the Espio Mini.

      They can be had for so little money, I’d just give one a go… You have very little to lose!

      Just don’t expect miracles …

  • Reply
    Shah
    February 21, 2015 at 4:38 am

    Everytime I try to load the film and close the back the camera would just wind it back. Have you had this kind of problem?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      February 21, 2015 at 11:16 pm

      Have you tried opening and closing the back without a film in?

    • Reply
      Lester K.
      March 5, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      I have the same problem! Have you found the awnser yet? 🙂

    • Reply
      IronStar
      April 20, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Most of these autorewind cameras are determining if there’s more film left by the current draw. If it requires too much power to pull the film, it guesses that it’s done for and rewinds it back to cartridge. The problem appears because of the nature of alkaline batteries – voltage drops as they get depleted. At some point in their lifetime, there will be enough power to turn the camera on, but less than the camera requires to advance film. This effect is more notable with cheapo unbranded batteries as their discharge curve is worse than the one decent stuff has.

      TL;DR version is – replace the batteries. 🙂

  • Reply
    Nick
    March 1, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Hi,

    Great find stumbling across and seeing your write ups – very personal and informative. I’m a student looking for a point and shoot for street photography, capturing every day life with friends. Therefore I’m looking for a point and shoot that feels very responsive, so shots on the go will be sharp and in focus. What would you recommend between the AF 10, Pentax Espio mini and the mju II? (There is also a very big jump in price between these cameras!) AF 10 being the cheapest.

    Thanks in advance,
    Nick

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      March 1, 2015 at 11:06 am

      I’d go for three Mju-ii if you can afford the extra pennies. It’s the best of the bunch if you can cope with the auto-flash re-activating every time you turn the camera off and on again.

      • Reply
        Nick
        March 1, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        Any idea where I can get my hands on one?! ebay is lacking and prices are well up

  • Reply
    Christos Theofilogiannakos
    October 14, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Great piece on the AF-10. I really like this little camera for its fast AF, good VF, availability and cheap price. I ‘ve used mine with slow B&W film in daylight and the lens is surprisingly sharp and contrasty for a 3-element. Many of my flickr buddies have been surprised by good results in low light with the AF-10, the same way as with the Trip 35 and for the same reason obviously (ie the relatively “fast” lowest shutter speed). I haven’t used it in low light but your piece sure sparked my interest. Very nice blog by the way, I stumbled upon it while researching a Voigtlander Vito B which is on each way from Germany. I like the in-depth approach and the writing style is very engaging. Keep it up!

  • Reply
    Yassine
    January 11, 2016 at 10:27 pm

    The baseline Olympus AF-10 (the version which didn’t even have a flash switch, it’s always on “auto”) was my first camera I had when I was a kid, it was somewhere around 1993…
    I still have it, and while I’m in the process of rediscovering film photography with a Canon EOS 300X (with around 10 rolls dones but only a few like 2 or 3 photos from them posted on Flickr as I lack a competent scanner), I also decided to give it another try, loading up some Ilford “C41 process black and like” inside. I think that with its easy operation and fixed 35mm focal length, it might be an interesting camera for street photography, enabling the photographer to concentrate solely on composition and never missing a moment.

    Your photos with it gave me a lot of inspiration and motivation to get that oldie back into action, along with some other “dumb cameras” from the nineties I collected, thank you very much !

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      January 11, 2016 at 10:32 pm

      No problems! Always fantastic to read such a positive response to one of my posts, thanks for commenting! And feel free to report back with how you get on!

      I completely agree about the ability to focus on just composition. I’m convinced that modern cameras must ruin the learning experience for youngsters these days. My first camera was a similarly basic camera bought for me in 1994, the Nikon RF10. I think I must have learned more with that camera than I can possibly imagine!

  • Reply
    chris chinnock
    February 13, 2016 at 12:13 am

    I just bought an AF-10 Super and immediately hacked it as per your other blog – thank you!! looking forward to experimenting with it – your images shot on HP5 and pushed to 3200 look great – am gonna give this a whirl too, cheers 🙂 Chris

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      February 13, 2016 at 9:28 am

      Excellent! You will have to show me some results when the time comes! 🙂

  • Reply
    Matthew
    February 5, 2017 at 7:33 pm

    Good read and great blog! I like the Olympus AF-10 super for it’s simplicity. Here’s a few I’ve taken with it.

    Cheers

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/kitschiguy/albums/72157631130431988

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      February 9, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      I love that Buster hill shot!

  • Reply
    Jerome Yeats
    February 18, 2017 at 8:10 pm

    Why on earth call it a crap point and shoot? What’s crappy about it? It is what it is, and is beautifully made.
    Why not term it a stripped down compact camera? Almost any camera can be made to provide good photos within its limits.
    Why the faded grey text for replies? Now that is crap.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      February 18, 2017 at 8:21 pm

      I’m calling it crap to fit with the expectations of people who would think it is crap… Surely the whole post goes on to point out just how much it isn’t crap.
      The whole point of the post is that “Almost any camera can be made to provide good photos within its limits.” – this is one of the messages I am always talking about on this blog.
      Have you read this blog before, I am always talking about how good this sort of camera is, see here
      “Why the faded grey text for replies? Now that is crap.” – I have no idea what you are referring to here?

  • Reply
    Ned
    June 29, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    Hello! Very impressed by the low light pictures, the Ferris Wheel/library shot is so great. When you tape over DX coding, what does the camera rate the speed of the film as? Wondering if you shot it at 3200 and also pushed it in processing as well. Also, how does the size of this olympus rank against other compacts you’ve used? Easily pocketable?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      June 29, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      The camera rates the film at 100iso – but this becomes irrelevant buy the fact that this forces the camera to use the widest aperture and the slowest speed. I simply over developed it by 3 stops. There was no metering, so there was no rating of the film. Does that make sense?
      In terms of it’s size, its a bit fat – but still pocketable

      • Reply
        Ned
        June 29, 2017 at 10:12 pm

        Ahhhh, i see! Gotta love that HP5. Thanks, Hamish! Ever since i lost my Ricoh GR1, i’ve decided to stick to (very) low budget compacts, this one seems great.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          June 29, 2017 at 10:15 pm

          It’s quite often the case that the shitter the camera the more control they give – thats the beauty of this camera!
          And your right, HP5 is king!

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