Olypmpus AF-10 Super

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

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


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35 thoughts on “Olympus AF-10 Super Review, or: Pushing the functional limits of a crap point & shoot.”

  1. 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.

    1. 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!

  2. 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)?


    1. 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 …

    1. 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. 🙂

  3. 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,

    1. 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.

  4. Christos Theofilogiannakos

    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!

    1. I really must get mine out again! I’d be interested to see some photos you’ve taken if you’d like to link to some…?
      Glad you like the blog! 🙂

      1. Christos Theofilogiannakos

        Here are two of my favorites, from a time when I outsourced B&W developing (I haven’t been able to control grain that well since I sterted developing at home):



        The film used is AgfaPhoto APX 100 and I have applied some cropping, so don’t go pixel-peeping for corner softness. I find the images very sharp for such a cheap underdog.

  5. 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 !

    1. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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.

    1. 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?

  8. 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?

    1. 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

      1. 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.

        1. 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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  13. Cool write up Hamish! Your flash fix is gold. Ive just put a roll through my AF10 and Im surprised how much I enjoyed it (this is the first roll Ive put through a non-SLR camera).

    Are you aware of any way to manually adjust the exposure counter? My counter was set at “28” when I loaded a fresh film… it correctly rewound to 1 when I finished my roll, but when I opened the rear door it again reset to 28 instead of “S”.

    Im guessing the last owner had a battery drain issue or removed the film without an automatic rewind, but I cant work out a fix :S

    1. Sounds like it has gone out of whack to me. someone like ppp camera repairs could probably fix that for a fairly nominal fee

  14. Alastair Wilson

    Used to travel a lot with work, I suppose my AF10 served the same job as a Smartphone back then. Really didn’t want cart my Pentax around with me.
    Used to shoot a fair bit of B&W with it and got good candids of people on my travels.
    Just found some colour shots taken on it – surprised how good they are.
    Planning on shooting some film through it – still haven’t kicked the film habit.

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