I’ve always been attracted to the half-frame format and have examples of the Russian variants and the Canon and Olympus models. I was particularly interested in the Konica AA-35 due to its very compact format – truly ‘pocketable’ Measuring 112.5mm x 77mm x 30mm (4.4” x 3” x 1.2”) and weighing about 300gm with its 2 AA batteries, it compares very favourably with many of its analogue brethren – not to mention some digital P&S cameras.
The camera first appeared on the market in 1984 and was offered in two finishes – black with a grid pattern printed on it or a gold metallic finish (‘champagne’ according to the brochures!) There are no exposed controls sticking out to catch on the pocket or exhibit vulnerability to damage as is apparent from the illustrations above. Accidental exposure is prevented as it’s necessary to slide the case open before the shutter button becomes active.
The sliding case cover can’t be moved until a spring loaded catch is held down. With the cover slid away to the left, the film speed setting switch on the back of the camera and the film rewind switch on the base are revealed.
The lens and various sensor windows are revealed on the front. There’s also an LED located on the back which indicates film rewind – this is visible through a small hole in the sliding cover even when the cover is in its closed position. A woven wrist strap is very securely attached to the body on the righthand side of the camera.
The viewfinder is bright and clear – there’s only a framing rectangle and an LED which serves as a low light indicator. The low light warning kicks in at EV10 – but it’s just a warning. Unlike some of the Olympus Pen series, the shutter isn’t disabled so you can go ahead and make an exposure. Also, unlike many other half-frame cameras, the viewfinder and frame orientation are in landscape format.
The top of the camera has a flash ready indicator, the frame counter window (with a magnifying lens – nice touch!) and the shutter release. The frame counter resets when the film compartment is opened. As regards the shutter release, a right-handed user will have no difficulty in using the camera in either landscape or portrait orientation. For a left-handed user, it’s possible to access the shutter button if the camera is turned ‘upside down’ – i.e. with the viewfinder at the ‘bottom’ of the camera.
A word of warning is necessary here. As the viewfinder is at the ‘bottom’ of the camera then the greater (and heavier) part of the camera is now at the ’top’. This may make the camera little more uncomfortable and awkward to hold and there’s also the possibility of placing a finger over the flash and auto exposure/focus sensors.
It’s an ‘auto-everything’ camera – auto wind/rewind, auto exposure and auto focus. Exposure is measured with a CdS cell, so should be pretty reliable with a camera of this age. The exposure and two auto focus sensors windows are revealed when the sliding cover is opened. I must confess to being skeptical about the auto focus part of the specification – despite the presence of the auto focus sensor windows! I reckoned it was a bit of advertising hype and any ‘auto focus’ ability was due to the focal length of the lens (24mm) rather than any sophisticated electro-mechanical system. However, on closer inspection my skepticism was proved totally unwarranted…the lens does actually move when the shutter button is depressed. Pretty impressive to get such a mechanism into a space which can’t be much more than about 15mm deep! Focus range is 0.9m (3 feet) to infinity.
Aperture settings (f/4 – f/16) and shutter speeds (stepless from 1/60th to 1/250th) are controlled by the autoexposure system . Film speeds (100, 200 and 400ASA) are set by means of a switch on the back of the camera. The switch has well defined click stop positions – no chance of an intermediate film speed setting. I have found some descriptions of the camera which state that it uses DX coding. I can’t find any sensor tabs in the film compartment on my camera and there’s no mention of it in the manual.
The flash (GN12 @ 100ASA) is controlled by a slide switch on the left hand side of the camera. This switch, in common with the case slide lock and the film compartment catch are all very positive in operation, thus reducing the chance of embarrassing errors! Flash range is 0.9m (3 feet) to 4.5m (15 feet)
Some caution is necessary when changing the batteries as the cover on the compartment must be slid forward fully – otherwise it could easily break. Several of the ‘spares or repairs’ examples of the AA-35 currently on eBay seem to share this problem…
Apart from that, it’s a very solid, well engineered camera – in short – a delight to use.