Lens loupe made from a Canon AF35ML lens

That Time I Hacked a Canon AF35ML to Make a Loupe

WARNING: The following would be sacrilege with a working Canon AF35ML point-and-shoot. But if you happen to stumble across a “trasher,” this is a great hack for turning it into something useful.

The AF35ML (also called the “Super Sure Shot”) is famous for being a nice 35mm compact with a fast 40mm f/1.9 lens. On its release in 1981, reviewer Ken Rockwell called it “the fastest lens ever put on any fully automatic fixed-lens point-and-shoot camera.”  He thought that even Leica and Nikon couldn’t compete. In fact, the only faster fixed-lens 35mm camera at the time may have been 1965’s huge and heavy f/1.4 Yashica Lynx-14 (described here.)

Bad Sure-Shot Luck

As an existing-light photographer, I love fast lenses, and once bought two “ML”s online in sadly quick succession. Why? Because the first unit had an infuriating problem. Its shutter briefly flicked open again after every exposure… adding a faint double-exposed echo to each image. So I tried buying a second one, which suffered the same issue!

I ended up selling both units on the “Bay” for “Parts or Repair,” and didn’t try for a third.

Enter a “Trasher”

But recently, I found an obviously unusable free one at a yard sale. The lens looked OK. But the battery compartment was caked in acid. And the viewfinder, trashed. I thought, though, that I might be able to turn its lovely lens into a high-quality loupe.

As it turned out, the only things I needed for the indelicate procedure were a jeweler’s screwdriver and a hacksaw.

In the Operating Room

I removed the few tiny screws that I could find, and the camera came apart to a point. But it was ruggedly constructed! The lens and circuits were basically encased in what appeared to be a solid block of molded plastic.

Hence the hacksaw.

It took some careful effort to extract the lens,  but it finally came out as a single unit in its own plastic casing (as seen in the opening photo). It’s:

  • High-quality,
  • Small enough to slip into a jeans coin pocket,
  • Relatively free of distortion and
  • Bright (with comparatively large 30mm front and 15mm rear elements).

In other words, I now have a great everyday-carry loupe, and can return my hacksaw to more traditional tasks.

–Dave Powell is a Westford, Mass., writer and avid amateur photographer.

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4 thoughts on “That Time I Hacked a Canon AF35ML to Make a Loupe”

  1. Dave,
    That’s a brilliant re-purpose of a wreck of a camera! Even, if it’s only a part of it.
    PS. I believe it is not a coin pocket, but originally meant as a way to carry a pocket watch.

    1. Hi Jukka,

      Glad you like the idea! And that’s most interesting about the jeans pocket. I’ve never owned a pocket watch, but can see how well that would work… especially with the watch chain anchored to one’s belt. Something like that was probably the norm when Levis were first sold. Fascinating… Thanks!

  2. Hi again Geoff! Hopefully, many compact-camera lenses can be removed as single units, as with the AF35ML. I kinda lucked out there!

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