Point & Shoot

Minolta AFZ – a mini review

I bought this Minolta AFZ just yesterday afternoon. First impressions were positive, but then I discovered the fatal weakness that will forevermore relegate a camera to my shelf… It lacks a mode/button to switch the flash off.

This has happened a few times, I’ve picked up a camera, been attracted to some feature or another, but have then discovered some other feature (or lack thereof) that has meant I’m just not interested in going through the process of shooting it. I always I end up in two minds. The first option seems to be to force a roll through, dislike the experience, and write a scathing review.

The second, which has always seemed a little more fair on the poor chunk of (usually 1980’s/90’s) plastic is to just chuck the thing in a box or on a shelf at work until I get sick enough of the site of it to just give it away.

Today, it’s occurred to me there is a third option. I could just write about why I don’t want to put a roll through it… Of course that alone would make a pretty short post…

“This is the Minolta AFZ, it doesn’t have a flash off switch. Cheers for reading, Hamish”

But then, there’s usually a few other observations I can make, and maybe I can find a photo or two Flickr or whatever to link to…?? Still unsure, I asked on instagram for people’s thought on the usefulness of such a post. Some negative response, but many just said words to the affect of “crack on, some will find it useful”

Of course, for all its faults social media can quite often brings outcomes that are different to those that were expected. In this case it was an offer from someone on Instagram to share with me a few of their pictures taken with this camera. As such, I now have a fourth option. I can write about a camera I haven’t shot with, share my thoughts on the functions and use photos supplied by readers of the blog. People are two quick to diss social media, for me it comes good way more often than than bad!

So anyway, here we are, a review of a camera I’ve not shot with… … Perhaps I should just call it a “mini review” of the Minolta AFZ. Hopefully there’s still enough here to be going on with if you’ve just bought one of these for £2 from a car boot sale like I’ve just done.

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The Minolta AFZ

There are a few cameras that Minolta AFZ produced with the prefix of ‘AF’ in the name. The most notable of these is the Minolta AF-C. The AF-C is a well regarded point & shoot camera that looks a little like a piece of shit point & shoot camera. I have for a long time been convinced that I’m going to find one of these in a charity shop or at a car boot. So much so that today when I saw “Minolta” on the front of a crappy mostly disintegrated faux leather case, for one split second I had a glimmer of hope.

Unfortunately is was not to be. I opened the case and found within it something that was only separated by one letter, the Minolta AFZ. It was also dead, it had a battery in it, but it did little more than blink a little ‘0’ on the screen on the top. I bought it nonetheless. It was the first camera I’d seen all day that even had a fixed focal length lens, and the condition otherwise wasn’t bad. There was also a little bit of me that wondered (hoped) it would also have the same 35mm f/2.8 lens that’s contained within the lauded AF-C.

The lens

Sadly, if camera-wiki.org is to be believed, the AFZ has a 4 element lens rather than the 6 element lens contained in the AF-C. Does this mean its bad, no of course it doesn’t, I can think of a fair few awesome 4 element 35mm f/2.8 lenses, but it does mean its also not the secret to getting AF-C photos for significantly less money than an AF-C.

Fortunately it also means it might just be a good way to getting really quite impressive photos out of a camera that can be had for a pittance. These are the images that Brandon Dare (@mrbdare on Instagram) shared with me.

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They don’t tell the whole picture, but they do at least show a good sense of sharpness/contrast. They impressed me enough to do a bit more digging on Flickr.

Now let me just prefix this by saying, not every point & shoot camera I’ve not reviewed comes good on a Flickr search… The Minolta AFZ on the other hand did come good. Have a look here and you’ll find photos taken with one of these cameras by a chap called Henrique Godoy

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Photo by Henrique Godoy

Outside of the understated but in my opinion really nice photography, it’s also more possible to see what the Minolta AFZ lens is capable of. It has that look that I can never find the words for that gives it away as being a little compact camera lens. The character of the vignette is part of it. But outside of that it lacks any obvious distortions, and doesn’t seem too susceptible to flare. By the looks of it, a very nice lens indeed… At least for a camera I picked up for a couple of quid!

Function and form

Photos are one thing, how well it works is the next… It’s also the bit I can talk about first hand.

It’s noisy!

Before I get to anything else, I must first touch on the experience I had when I got some working batteries into it. I got it home and opened the bottom to find one of those odd shaped 6v monsters that usually costs about £13. Slightly irritated, I pulled it out to see if I had a matching beast in my battery draw. I didn’t, but upon closer inspection of the camera I found it also takes something I do have, AAA batteries, 4 of the things.

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They wouldn’t go in to start with, something was jammed, but eventually with a bit of force the cover clicked shut. Having just loaded a film into it before I changed the batteries it jumped into life a wound the film into itself a bit. Quite normal, but the Minolta AFZ makes such a racket that I nearly dropped it in surprise. On Instagram I described it as sounding like a food blender blending a tin can – I’m sticking by that description!

In the hand

In terms of handling, it is what it is. There’s no escaping the 80’s/90’s styling. It’s also quite a big compact; about the same size as a Pentax PC35AF. Fortunately, this means it handles quite well; there is certainly no shortage of camera to hold on to. If it has one downfall it is probably the over complicated mechanism that switches the camera on and off. As well as covering the lens, it also covers the viewfinder in a little corrugated door, in my copy, this has a habit of all getting a little jammed.

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The viewfinder

With the Minolta AFZ to the eye you are also provided with a fairly positive experience. The viewfinder is big, bright and has a high magnification. Though mine is also rather dusty. It also gives a series of varying steady or flashing green or red LEDs to indicate various states of function.

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Autofocus

It’s quite difficult to report on its ability or autofocus, but it’s always worth pointing out active AF I think. Most cameras are passive autofocus, but there are a few that use infrared active systems. My personal experience has been fractionally more positive with active systems, especially in lower light. Which would be great on this camera…. … if you could turn the flash off…

Flash

…which as I’ve already mentioned you can’t! This is quite a big let down for me. To be fiar, I do see this as a bit of an oversensitivity on my part. What does it actually matter? Well, its just that moment – we’ve all experienced it – when a flash fires inadvertently. It drives me mad. Not being able to override this potential annoyance is game over for me. It’s bad enough that most cameras don’t remember the flash off state when they are switched off!

Force flash

Whats even more frustrating is that is does have a force/fill flash mode. Why include this feature and not the opposite? It’s just mind numbingly frustrating!

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Self timer and continuous shooting

Finally, there is obligatory self timer and a continuous shooting mode that allows a frame to be shot at a rate of 1 per second!! And that’s your lot…

Conclusions

So there we are, a camera review with no photos taken by me. Thanks to Brandon for sending me the pictures. Especially as they encouraged me to dig a bit further on Flickr. It’s always nice to find a photographer who uses a camera as extensively as Henrique Godoy, especially when the photos are as nice as his.

So what to do with the Minolta AFZ now. I’m impressed with the lens, but thanks to a functional shortcoming I will never shoot it. I did cross my mind to modify it like Ric did his Contax, and kill the flash permanently. With its active AF and a lowest possible shutter speed of 1/40th, it could make a nice low light snapper. Ultimately though, the noise it makes would annoy me.

Cheers for reading,

Hamish

Finally, I’m going to give this camera away now – let me know if you want it. You don’t have to give me any money, but a voluntary donation to this cause would be appreciated!


Show your support for 35mmc – A message from Hamish

If you found this post interesting or useful, or if it helped you make up your mind about buying one of these cameras, then why not
 
By clicking that link, as long as you buy, bid on or win an auction within 24hrs – at no extra cost to you – I will receive a little kick back from ebay to help keep 35mmc up and running.

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Thanks,

Hamish

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32 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Erik Prestmo
    April 11, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I’ll be glad to pay you $10 plus postage for the privilege og testing this camera thoroughly and then put it on a shelf with some of iy\ts sisters and brothers.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 12, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      $10 all in is more than enough … In fact, considering you donated £5 the other day, you can just have it if you like 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Des
    April 11, 2016 at 9:02 pm

    So, a mini review then. But longer than many folks’ idea of a maxi review 😉
    All good to read though Hamish, as ever. Des

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    April 12, 2016 at 8:57 am

    Hamish, This brings back memories of using my Canon AF35ML with its f1.9/40mm lens in the early 1990’s. It was the only 35mm film AF camera I have ever used and I bought it on a whim to be used as a point and shoot when I was feeling very lazy and didn’t want to use my M6 or R3. It was capable of excellent results, far surpassing what I had anticipated. No flash issue, as the flash head has to be popped up to fire. It has long since been “retired” to my camera collection. I did get it out last year to give it a check over, when I found that the film speed setting ring has become jammed and resolutely refuses to budge, but otherwise it is still working.

    Feedback on this type of review, without your own photographs? Why not, as long as you can dedicate the time. Photography can, and IMO should be, more than just the capturing of images, be they film or digital, Some light relief such as this would be welcome and no doubt many would be interested to learn the foibles of old cameras that they could pick up for peanuts.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 12, 2016 at 9:54 am

      I terry, it’s a funny one that ML – A camera I love to hate, but want to love. I don’t use mine at all, I find the AF clunky and slow. But I know a lot of people rave about them. My favourite of this ilk is the Ricoh ff90.

      Thanks for the feedback on the review. This is how I feel. I actually like playing with old cameras and know how/what to look for to determine their usability without taking a photo. I have no desire for this website to become just a spec sheet for old cameras as some sites do, but sometimes I just don’t want to put a film through a camera… So I’m glad this sort of thing appeals. Some people have complained on social media, but meh, its my site and if some people are happy with this sort of thing than I shall continue with it 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Blinx
    April 12, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Your review inspired me to look through my box of 35mm P&S cameras. I could have sworn I had a similar Minolta, but it would seem not. My favourite of the era is the Pentax PC35 AF-M (I think you have the non-motorised version, Hamish?), 6-element 35mm lens, manual flash and backlight compensation. Build quality is above average, too, but since I used it last summer the frame counter has gone kaput and the camera is reluctant to give the film back, I had to prise mine out with a penknife! Sticky sprung cassette pin (or whatever it’s called) I suspect. The joy (!) of old compact cameras, huh?

    I also have a number of auto flash models, but they rarely see the light of day for the same reason as your Minolta.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 12, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      These a review of the Pentax about this site … Both my biological and adopted father had one. Both were broken, so I morphed them in to one working camera. I should put some better film through it I think, I know the lens is up to more than what I achieved…
      Definitely a joy in this old gear… Give me a hundred Leicas and I’d still shoot with these sorts of cameras

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Blinx
        April 12, 2016 at 9:44 pm

        I completely agree. Regarding the auto flash feature it’s worth remembering they weren’t aimed at people like ourselves, but complete amateurs looking to up their hit rate of shots automated photo-finishing machines would print. The fact the flash came on automatically was a boon, they got a print back instead of a blank.

        I’m currently trying to learn to love AF zoom compacts – bought a box full for a fiver a year or two back – in the hope some of the lenses aren’t terrible. Up to my eyes in Tetenal C41 and a backlog of film, so they may have to wait.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Dagmar
    April 12, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    I love my 12 exp Kodak Gold 200 films. It is just about enough to test shoot a camera (with all its pros and cons)..

    Unfortunately, they are somewhat scarce and I am running out of my little stock too quickly. Next thing I’m trying is to bulk load a shorter strip of film. I have just finished a couple of shots with TMAX400, but I have yet to develop it. I used the Oly OM-1n, which actually should be a pretty safe bet. If this does work out well, I might load short films into some of my cheap point and shoot cams, just to get the full experience..

    Nevertheless, I think it is good to have a summary for some of those cheap ps cams, even without you having shot some frames with it. So we can still make up our minds whether to try it or not. At least we take notice of the existence of certain cameras. For my taste they could be even a bit shorter.. ,-)

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 12, 2016 at 7:29 pm

      I did think this, I would need to do the dev and scan myself if I did that I think… But yeah, it’s a good thought!
      Shorter … Are you suggesting that I waffle on a bit? 😉

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Dagmar
        April 13, 2016 at 12:27 pm

        Hi Hamish, yeah, I reckon develop yourself is the way to go. I’ve recently got a CPE-2, but still have to install it and get all some parts for the drums (tanks).. But it will probably help with developing c-41. So far I only do bw in a Rondinax U35, which is neat, but just one film at a time.

        And yes, mini – might be a bit shorter.. This review here is quite a read, but still good work! thx ,-)

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 13, 2016 at 3:22 pm

          The CP-2 is a wonderful thing – My mate James has one we use for LF
          I shall try a shorter post soon 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Martin Hugh Henley
    April 13, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Damn shame you won’t stick with the AF-Z, Hamish, to run some film through it. I totally concur that this single feature of non-killable flash is a total bummer – but, hey, work around it – drop some Superia 400 into it & shoot in daylight to guarantee flash-free results. And, why not actually do some pix using flash – the results could actually be great. Looking at Henry’s gallery, he seems to have survived ok with the threat of auto-flash ignition hanging over his head.
    Why, you might ask, do I care? Well, I spied an AF-Z online for a song very recently, boxed, paid a tiny amount in the hope that it may be a gem, but have yet to do a session with it as I’ve had GAS lately & have other cameras to try out first.
    One thing readers should know – apart from the obligatory fragile battery door, the AF-Z is beautifully made, all-metal, solid as hell! I just love the extra weight, similar to my Pentax PC35AF-M. And, like the aforementioned Pentax, my example looks almost as new. Sliding back the precision lens cover you can tell this is all quality – I mean, THAT LENS! I’m sure the Minolta AF-Z must have not been a cheap camera when new.
    Anyway, love the site, but . . . hey – IMVHO, you’ve got to at least shoot a roll for a review to be valid – I mean, imagine Clarkson sitting in a Ferrari without turning the key & doing some rapid miles, then dissing the hell out of it: that AF-Z was built for taking photos – maybe not in your style under certain conditions – but at least give it a go! 😉
    BTW – I just scored a Nikon AF600 (awaiting delivery) specifically down to the photos you took that accompany your interesting review.
    Thanks for 35mmc, Hamish – one of my favourite sites to return to while drinking my first day’s coffee. Ciao!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 13, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks Martin … I suppose I feel like I am “competing” for want of a better word with sites like this one https://www.pointandshootfilmcameras.com/. He just details a few specs and makes general observations, and actually I find that site quite useful once in a while. Does his site seem less valid to you?

      The Nikon AF600 is a great camera. I wish I’d kept mine in hindsight!

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Martin Hugh Henley
        April 13, 2016 at 7:20 pm

        I prefer your site over your “competition” by a fair distance – the easily digestible layout, your easy-going writing style, and . . . the photos! A Ferrari is designed to be driven – but how would a reviewer of one of their models successful transmit his / her experiences & emotions of what it’s like to be behind the wheel to online readers? They could mount cameras from inside the cabin, capturing the sound & movement of the car. But would that be enough? A camera is designed to take photos, and, hopefully, also provoke some emotional attachment. In a heartbeat of seeing your pix from the review of the Nikon AF600 I got the message – it is a quality camera. To omit your pix from a review is to miss a big part of why I’m at this site – they are good, honest, & give guys like us the “truth” from the cam in question. Hey, a picture paints a thousand words. Put a few in a review & you can save on a great deal of waffle – only joking 😉 But my Ferrari comparison is for the reason being that to review a camera is 10X easier as you can pop the evidence of it’s quality in a simple JPG or two: a Ferrari ain’t so straight forward. When I do my first shoot with the Minolta AF-Z I’ll drop a few thoughts here & a few photos. A tiny suggestion – I do love to see key specs at the top of an article – saves a lot of additional pfaffing around on other sites. But, that’s just me being lazy. Keep up the good work & don’t be afraid to give the AF-Z a blast – you may be surprised in an Af-600-kind-of-way 😉

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 15, 2016 at 11:09 am

          Specs at the top! I couldn’t possibly make things that easy … You want the specs, you gotta trawl through my waffle to find them 😉
          Otherwise, thank you for the thoughts and feedback! Very much taken on board!

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Ken Hindle-May
        April 14, 2016 at 11:55 am

        One good ‘competitor’ I stumbled across recently was http://austerityphoto.co.uk/

        I didnt’ realise right away, but I was already following him on Flickr because he shot so much with the kind of cameras I’m interested in!

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 15, 2016 at 11:10 am

          Thanks Ken, I’ve invited him to do a post here and he’s accepted 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Dagmar
      April 13, 2016 at 6:24 pm

      Make a thorough one about the CPE-2!! Or let James write a guest post, with details about accessories and processes ,-)

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        April 13, 2016 at 6:29 pm

        I’ll ask him

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 15, 2016 at 11:05 am

          James is working on a CPE-2 post for me, Dagmar 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Martin Hugh Henley
    April 13, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    p.s. re. “the competing” site – just read a review of the Yashica Auto Focus. At no stage is there a mention of the quality of the photos! Likewise for the reviews of the Canonet QL17 & the Ricoh RZ-728. Now I remember why I seldom go there anymore: a site that reviews cameras without zooming in on the key issue: ho good are the quality of photos from said camera? :o/

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Dagmar
      April 15, 2016 at 11:17 am

      Wonderful! <3

      He's got my thanks in advance – and you of course, too ,-)

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        April 15, 2016 at 11:17 am

        🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Norm Church
    May 29, 2016 at 2:21 am

    Hamish, Thanks for posting this review. I just recently found a Minolta AFZ at a local Goodwill store for $2.99. I didn’t realize it also used AAA batteries until reading your article so I tested the mechanics of it. The flash did annoy me also and the continuous mode was broken. I took the AFZ apart to hack the flash like suggested in the reference article but the Minolta was somewhat different than Contax T2 shown. I could not get tape over the actual flash unit so I just clipped one lead going from the circuit board to the flash unit. The result was: 1) the flash didn’t work anymore; and 2) the continuous mode started working as it should. Now – I have not shot any film through the Minolta yet AFZ but I am anxious to try it out to see if it really works. Thanks, …Norm

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      May 30, 2016 at 8:12 am

      Norm, I really want to hear how you get on with it, will you make sure to let me know!

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Norm Church
        June 4, 2016 at 7:42 pm

        Hamish, I got my pictures back from my Minolta AFZ, which I modified by cutting the flash lead. I was disappointed in the results. It was not perfect conditions the day I took the pictures and it was quite sunny and bright. Some of the pictures were washed out and some had too much light. Only a couple came out the way I wanted.

        I think that cutting the flash lead instead of covering the flash unit had some effect on the main circuit board logic. I don’t have any technical information on the camera but it might have needed the flash circuit to be completed in order for it to do the other things it needed.

        Oh well – I learned something from this experiment and am going back to my Nikon 470AF to use for the contest. It is completely automatic and I can turn the flash off, if needed. Thanks, Norm

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          June 5, 2016 at 9:00 pm

          That’s a shame…
          Not tempted to keep tinkering?

          • Avatar
            Norm Church
            June 6, 2016 at 11:45 pm

            Thinking of going back in and wiring in a micro on/off switch and attaching it somehow to the case. I’ll let you know if I get it back to working. 🙂

          • Avatar
            Hamish Gill
            June 7, 2016 at 8:27 pm

            good luck!!

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Fan Lo
          August 14, 2016 at 2:51 am

          I also cut the flash bulb off. While checking for the light leak, i find light can go thru the flash window to the cartridge chamber’s top spool position. I am now trying to re-seal the flash window.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Fan Lo
    August 12, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    Hi all, i just find the manual of minolta AFZ on wiki, and it tells the flash will be fire when EV is below 8.4, means iso100, f2.8 &1/40 . And it also tells the flash can’t operate in sequential mode. Not sure if it is charging time issue / AFZ will off the flash when switch to sequential mode. Bez, mine was just have the flash bulb cut, ^^

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