I do like ambition from a camera manufacturer. And when you’re one of the top players in the game you can afford to be confident. But when you call your camera the ‘Sure Shot Supreme’ or ‘Top Shot’ you’re really setting out your stall and putting your head above the parapet!
But what brought me to this little lump of 80’s plastic certainly wasn’t its legend. It’s not the camera that everyone talks about. In fact I’d never heard of it.
I had specific requirements I wanted to fulfil for an upcoming self sufficient European bike trip and looking on my shelf, although close, nothing in my collection fully fit the bill. Worth too much, too temperamental, too heavy, too bulky, too precious. This is what brought me to the idea of a compact.
After doing a lot of reading and listening to photography podcasts I knew that the prices for compacts had gone mad recently. In fact I’m way late to the party. Any chance of getting a cheap Yashica T4, Olympus Mju ii or Contax T2 are long gone. But, I thought there must be something out there still that had a nice fixed focal length, a wide f2.8 max aperture wrapped in a tough plastic shell. After all, these seem to be the characteristics people are looking for in a compact of a certain vintage.
So after a few nights looking on auction sites I came across this little beauty. There were numerous examples going around the £20 mark which I thought was a steal. I needed something that was tough, reasonably compact, easy and quick to use and wouldn’t make me cry if I dropped it on my week long trip. This example looked really clean, had a fresh battery, it’s original neck strap and leather hip pouch. Plus the owner had lovingly written a long and detailed description. I was sold.
Ok so it’s probably not considered to be a design classic. But then again, it does have a real 80’s charm about it. And being an 80’s child, that definitely has a certain appeal. It’s solid with its tough plastic exterior (shiny scratchy plastic) and a rubberised hand grip on the right that has perfect ergonomics. The lens has a nice door which flicks open with the push of a button on the front and powers up the camera. And a sliding button closes it again. It feels like a quality piece, and it’s lovely to hold.
It’s not light at around 350g. But for me the obsession with lightness doesn’t interest me. For something to feel like quality and be comfortable to use, I like a bit of weight and this with its massive 2CR5 battery this delivers.
I took a walk with the camera in the industrial areas around where I live purely to put a test roll through as quickly as possible (I am known for taking weeks or months finishing film) and overall I did enjoy using the Sure Shot. Of late I’ve mostly been using and Olympus OM2 SLR and a Zorki 4K rangefinder so to have something you have to put zero thought into using is a joy. Just line up the shot, half press to focus, recompose and fully press to take the shot.
But my experience of the Canon Sure Shot Supreme wasn’t perfect in the real world. You see it does have its quirks. Firstly, whenever you read anything about this camera you’ll see that you can override the flash. This is great for when you want to be a bit more conspicuous or you think the camera might have got the situation a bit wrong. The problem is, to do this you need to press the smallest button known to man situated on the base of the camera. A finger nail will do it but a simple press isn’t enough. You have to press and hold while you focus, compose and then take the shot. And this is a little tricky. You see some of the shots I got back where I’d overridden the flash weren’t the sharpest. I suspect this isn’t anything to do with the camera but is instead due to the fact I was trying to contort my hand around the body in order to hold this button while trying to keep the camera steady for the shot.
Secondly, and this is my biggest issue with the Canon Sure Shot Supreme. The shutter button is very numb. To focus on a subject requires the button to be half pressed and this isn’t too bad. but to then fully press the button to take the shot takes a lot of pressure and sometimes you miss the shot because of it. It’s a real shame. It just has no feel to it.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve only shot one roll with this thing and it has grown on me. I suspect with a little more use I will get used to its quirks and for £20 I didn’t expect the ultimate in analogue picture taking. Overall I do think this is a very solid performer.
So why is it then that the Canon Sure Shot Supreme isn’t commanding mega money? It has that sharp 35mm wide aperture lens. It’s quite nice to use. It’s tough. I haven’t heard any reliability horror stories. Well, I don’t really know. Maybe I’ve just discovered something the rest of the world hasn’t latched on to yet. Or maybe it’s that there are hundreds of the things out there flooding the market. To be honest, I don’t really care. I spent very little money on it. If I drop it and kill it it’s not the end of the world. If I’m ahead of the curve the value will only go up. Either way, I have a simple to use and reliable performer I really quite like that should serve me well while riding on the continent. That, I think is a win / win situation.
Deandent1 – my website is very much ‘under development’ so find me on Instagram as deandent1
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20 thoughts on “Canon Sure Shot Supreme Review – By Dean Dent”
You got good work out of this camera despite the rubbery, blubbery shutter button!
Thanks Jim. It really pains me that it has this issue. Unfortunately I have as many ‘shakey’ shots as sharp ones. ‘Rubbery Blubbery’ perfectly sums it up!
After a recent foray into my parents loft (attic) I happened upon my mother’s old holiday camera, the Canon Sureshot M.
Considering my parents house is hotter than the Sahara on a hot day I didn’t hold out much hope for this shiny little plastic brick to work. I popped a battery in and sure enough it started up just fine.
Not holding out much hope for anything remotely decent out of this 90’s compact with its tiny 32mm f/3.5 I made up a short 10 exposure roll of my usual HP5 and popped the camera in my pocket whilst out shooting my Pentax 67.
Upon developing the roll I literally had to check the roll hadn’t been mixed up with one from a different camera as the negs were very very surprising. Excellent contrast, very good sharpness, ok the very extreme edges were a touch soft, and the exposures were spot on.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what this little thing can do and I’m definitely planning to shoot with it again.
I have one of these, given to me by a relative who found it in a drawer. I think it’s an underrated camera, but the issues you’ve described probably stop it being a great one. I’ve a feeling Canon’s aim with the Supreme was to make a camera with a high-end feel – the solid construction, the leather grip and sculpted leather case, the snicky shutter button, the heft of the thing. The optics are probably more upper-midrange, but I’ve been quite pleased with mine’s reasonable sharpness and pleasing contrast. The metering was solid but like you, I ended up with a few blurry shots in less-than-brilliant light due to holding in the strange flash override. The shutter button isn’t terribly affirmative, but I actually prefer this to the hair-trigger ones on my Olympus compacts, which make focus-and-recompose pretty difficult.
A nice little feature on this camera is the little grey twisting ‘foot’ built into the bottom plate. This allows the camera to be angled upward slightly when placed on a flat surface, for self-portraits. I don’t do selfies, but it does mean you can take floor shots without having the entire bottom of the picture taken up by the floor. Perhaps the Supreme’s biggest tragedy, though, is how close it comes to being a fantastic street shooter. The ergonomic handgrip and shutter release position make the camera really easy to hold and shoot one-handed and, better still, the film doesn’t advance until you release the button. The advance is not terribly quiet, so this increases the camera’s stealth capability considerably. Or at least it would if you could be sure the flash wasn’t going to go off. I toyed with the idea of fashioning a piece of plastic to keep the flash override permanently pressed, but I don’t really use it enough to justify the effort.
Great summary Ken. I too really like the twisty foot feature. Something I forgot to mention but is a really nice and simple piece of design.
Having just accidentally obtained one of these in a bundle of photo-crap Bought for a nice Pentax 50/1.4 & 35-70/2.8-3.5 I’m pleased to have found this review. Looks like it’s an OK camera and finally the ‘tilt’ control makes sense!
Well if you got it in a bundle you’ve prob got a good deal! Hope you enjoy. And yes, the tilt is a lovely touch
Thanks for the review!!! I’m in a similar position- heading to Europe this week and looking for something cheap to throw in my purse when I don’t want to lug my bigger cameras around. Did you end up using this on your trip? Or did you find a camera that better fit the requirements?
Hi Jamie, I didnt. Despite everything I said I ended up taking my more precious more expensive Canon P rangefinder. Thankfully I didn’t bash it! Unfortunately the sureshot has sat in a box. I’m sure it’s day will come again!
Have one of these, it’s in storage at the moment – quite keen to unearth it again! One thing to add to this discussion: That flash over-ride button on the bottom. On the original strap there was a little nub that (hazy memory) either stuck out of the rubber “canon” mini neck-rest, or was on a little rubber slider attached to the strap. Either way, the nub was there specifically to depress the flash over-ride button.
I’m going to check mine now. Great tip but maybe still a bit of a faff. Cheers
Hi Dean, nice review. I picked one of these up at a camera fair a couple of years ago for £4.00! Since the battery was dead, I argued that I couldn’t check it worked, but when I got home I popped a fresh battery in and it did! Side note: The SureShot uses the same battery as the EOS 1 – series cameras when not using the speed booster grips.
Back in the late ’80s I worked in a camera shop, and sold SureShots by the bucketload. It helped that there was a TV ad campaign on at the time, but they were easy to sell because they were easy to demonstrate with very few whistles and bells. Plus not many compacts at the time included a case, which swung a surprising number of customers at the time.
Now to that flash-cancel button, yes it does make the camera a little awkward, but it’s do-able with practice. The “nub” on the neck strap pad is actually for poking into the film rewind button which is even tinier than the flash cancel button. However, your strap should have another rubbery thing on it which you might be wondering about. Its main function is for plugging into the exposure lens (just under the taking lens) so that the flash is forced to come on as daylight-fill flash (also incredibly fiddly). But you can just about use the same rubbery thing to cancel the flash, though it’s probably fidllier than using a finger nail (preferably your own, preferably still attached to a finger).
Basically, Canon expected the typical user to never cancel flash or force it on and the camera is probably best used that way.
Interesting side-note, though I can’t verify this; when the IRA blew up The Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative party conference, only one press photographer had their camera with them. It was, I believe, a SureShot and they got an exclusive pic of Margaret Thatcher being taken away, still covered in dust. I hope that story is true, but it could be my memory playing tricks!
Thanks Tim, I do hope that story is true too. I bet the photographer wasn’t fumbling around for the flash override on that occasion!
I confess I can’t stand the story up, I just remember my newspaper photography teacher telling me it as a lesson to always carry a camera. It was a night shot, so flash would definitely have been used. I don’t think I’d have had the presence of mind to cancel it even if I’d needed to, given the circumstances!
Oh and I forgot to plug my own article on the Sureshot, a mini project featuring portraits of skateboarders and their boards: https://wp.me/p4u8Ob-1AZ
Hi Tim, you’ve got some seriously good results from your canon on that portrait project! i’d be hugely happy with that. Nice review on your site too
Thank you! I do think with good light and careful use, the camera can deliver excellent results. I think black and white suits it surprisingly well too.
I’ve owned my Sureshot Supreme since I bought it new in the 80’s. It has a cracking lens and I had no problem printing 11×14 photos and could probably have gone bigger if I had had bigger trays. I’m taking mine with me when I go on vacation later this year loaded with Ektachrome and I’m confident that this 30 something year old camera will perform faultlessly.
I am halfway through my first roll on one of these I found in an op-shop. I think it could have great potential. I don’t mind the shutter button but agree about the flash-of button. I fact I’ve modified mine with an over-button sort of thing to make it easier to disable. I also found the manual online at butkus, which helps. The min shutter speed is 1/8 which is cool and it has a wide range of DX code reading. (50-1600) Close focus is 55cm and the lens has four elements in four groups. I like that it 38mm not 35mm as well
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