Earlier this year I decided to start taking analog photography more seriously. I work in Television (for money), and independently, I produce documentaries and short films. I was looking to analog photography as a way to sharpen my eye for composition and to broaden my understanding of exposure. For years I’ve taken snaps with my father’s Canon AV-1 which he bought new in 1979, but I was never very rigorous in my approach to photography.
A few months ago, however, I began shooting photos more regularly and have been working to hone my craft. In so doing, I found the Canon AV-1 lacking a bit. Namely, the absence of a manual shutter speed control made shooting in certain conditions difficult (The AV-1 offers only aperture priority and full program mode). Thus I began my search for a fully manual camera.
I shoot lots of video (and occasionally stills) with a Sony A7, and I regularly use a set of Pentax K-mount lenses that I inherited from my grandmother. So, with a few solid Pentax lenses already on my shelf, I decided to look for a Pentax body. I’ve always been a sucker for the design aesthetic of the late 80s and early 90s, so when a near mint Blade Runner-esque Pentax P30t (with a flash) came up on Ebay for just $60, I had to buy it.
I shot with the P30t and a Pentax SMC-M 50mm f/1.7 for a few months. I carried it with me most places I went and even lugged it and the flash along with me to parties, which was fun, but it became a bit cumbersome. I decided I’d rather opt for a point and shoot that I could easily slip in and out of my pocket and be ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.
So, I began to consult the internet for suggestions, and the immediate thing I was struck by when doing my initial point and shoot research is how damned expensive they can be. Any of the models that had piqued my interest all sell regularly on ebay for a minimum of $150, which is significantly more than I was willing to pay.
I live in New York City, and I was planning a trip to Ohio to visit my parents and my sister. My mother and my sister both love second-hand shopping, so I knew that I would be visiting at least one thrift store during my trip. So, rather than shell out a couple hundred bucks for an Olympus Mju-II or Konica Big Mini on Ebay, I figured I would roll the dice and see what I could pick up at a second hand store for a few dollars.
What I found was the Minolta 35AFR QD (also known as the Riva 35 AFc) for which I paid $5 not knowing whether or not the thing was actually going to work. I tossed a couple Double A batteries in the camera and it seemed to be working alright, so I loaded a roll of Portra 400 and hoped for the best. The results were surprisingly good.
I had never heard anything about this camera and a quick google search yielded few results. But for my needs it’s perfect. The 35mm f/4.5 lens is fairly sharp and the autofocus seems to work pretty well. The camera feels good in the hand and is small enough to fit in a pants pocket, provided your pants are fairly baggy.
I shot a couple rolls with the Minolta in Ohio, and upon my return to New York, I took the camera with me to a party. I fired off a few shots at the party but then, a (very) drunken friend of mine, knocked the camera out of my hands and broke it. The camera still functions but there’s a bit of a light leak and the images no longer come out quite as crisp. The fall also knocked loose some debris that was inside the camera which can be seen in a couple of the photos.
So, now I’m in the market for a replacement for the Minolta AF35R QD. I’m not looking for technically perfect photos from a crazy sharp lens, just a dependable pocket shooter. Having a camera that’s small enough and easy enough to carry with me at all times has the tendency of prompting me to observe my surroundings as they would appear through the lens of a camera. As I walk through the city I’m framing up shots in my mind before I’ve even lifted the camera up to my face, and I like that feeling.
I really appreciated the simplicity of the AF35r. I’m considering the Minolta AF101r as a replacement. I like the idea of a small very simple camera with some built-in restrictions like the 28mm f5.6 lens fixed at infinity focus and constant shutter speed of 1/125. I also like the the 28mm focal length corresponds to directly to a lens that I use quite often in my video work, a Pentax SMC-M 28mm f/2.8.
If anybody has better suggestions for a (relatively cheap) replacement, please let me know.
You can see more of my photos and videos at taylorervin.com