5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Canon Prima Zoom 85 – By Andrew Bogard

October 28, 2020

In the midst of the initial corona virus lockdown, I came across a used Nikon F80 film camera (not the camera this article is about). I had scant knowledge about film photography, but was itching for something to spark some creative mojo. The learning curve for this camera looked friendly, so I ordered it. If anything, at it would least temporarily take my mind off the current situation.

I had a blast shooting with it. Having to wait to see the results was oddly gratifying, and I found a new appreciation for “straight out of the camera”  images. Naturally, GAS started building up quickly. To my surprise (and annoyance), I found that many of the film cameras I wanted seemed ridiculously priced. Meanwhile, a DP Review article popped up on my news feed: “The $20 film camera challenge“.

Bargain hunting + photography? I’m in.

This wasn’t my first rodeo with sites like eBay, and I eventually came across my preferred kind of ad: No description, blurry photos, and a cheap price tag. “Canon Prima 85 for 10€”. That’s all I had to go on, so I researched the specs and reviews and arranged a meeting with the owner.

I took the S-Bahn (subway) to a nearby suburb and walked to the prescribed address. After ringing the doorbell, someone cracked the door open and a withered hand extended out of the darkness holding the camera. I took the camera, it seemed practically new, and deposited 10€ into the disembodied hand. It retracted back and closed the door. Not a word was spoken.

Slightly creeped out, I shuffled over to a nearby bench, inserted a new battery, and loaded in a roll of trusty Fujifilm Superia 400.

Article article

This is my first blog post so I didn’t think to take better pictures of the camera before I sold it!!

“KRrNklick”! It was ready. I had no idea if it was focusing or metering correctly, but it seemed to be taking pictures when I wanted it to. I was especially entertained by how loud and lethargic the zoom mechanism was. It had four focal lengths: roughly 38, 55, 70, and 85mm. Especially the 55 and 70mm shots turned out sharp.

How ’bout them apples!

The camera did a nice job metering this tricky situation.

Over the next few days I powered through the roll of film then dropped it off at the local film developer. The results came back, and although the images won’t win any awards, I think the photos turned out marvelously. For 10€, I had got a surprisingly practical, sharp, pocketable, fun little camera.

The opera house on a cloudy day. At 85mm the lens wasn’t very sharp, but I still enjoy the classic 90’s rendering.

Joey posing regally.

One of the great things about a compact is that it only mildly annoys my girlfriend when I’m skulking around with it.

 

The photo challenge proved that money doesn’t buy love, or necessarily, a better photography experience.

 

Thanks for reading my first ever blog post!

Find me on Instagram here.

 

 

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Eric Norris
    October 28, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Nice shots! I’ve learned to love 1980s point-and-shoots (see my review of the Pentax Quick Shooter). Point-and-shoots were working hard to keep up with the growing SLR market and there were some very fine cameras produced that can be bought now for a fraction of their original price. Buying them won’t break the bank, so have fun experimenting!

    • Reply
      Andrew Bogard
      October 29, 2020 at 12:09 pm

      Thanks Eric! I’ll look for your article :)!

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    October 29, 2020 at 2:03 am

    Very well done. Really good photos, and nice restraint in the writing

    • Reply
      Andrew Bogard
      October 29, 2020 at 11:19 am

      Thank you Kurt!

  • Reply
    Matthias
    October 29, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Stuttgart? Stuttgart! Where did you took the downhill photo? Looks familiar 🙂

    • Reply
      Andrew Bogard
      October 29, 2020 at 11:19 am

      Yes! The hill is out in Esslingen — about halfway between the Sbahn stop and the airfield 🙂

  • Reply
    davesurrey
    October 29, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    I bought a job lot of old film cameras a few months ago, mainly because it included a couple that I was particularly interested in, but also 3 cameras similar to your Canon. Specifically they were a Pentax Zoom 70X, 90 and a 105R.
    All of them work perfectly, as a bonus they are in great cosmetic condition and the results have been surprisingly good. And the cost was similar to what you paid for your Canon if not less.
    It just goes to show that one doesn’t have to throw money at a Leica, Rolleiflex, Hasselblad…..to have some fun and get good results. Very different to the World of digital.

    • Reply
      Andrew Bogard
      November 1, 2020 at 8:01 am

      Sounds like we went on a similar journey — one thing I love about getting these cheap compacts is it encourages me to take more pics because I’m curious how they will turn out. Glad you got some good ones!

  • Reply
    Sean Benham
    October 29, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    I have the US version of this camera (Sure Shot Zoom 85) and have some mixed feelings on it. The zoom buttons in the front are a bit strange at first and on the left, which is a bit unusual. I found myself trying to find the buttons when I need to take a quick shot but failing to do it correctly at times. I do like that you can override the flash and literally shoot in non-flash mode. Many cameras like this usually force you to select a temporary button to shut it off, so this feature is really nice. With the right lighting it can take some very sharp photos but I have fired a few out of focus ones. I might have rushed the shots though. Nonetheless it’s so tiny and I don’t notice any difference between the focal points. I have two of them in silver and black and paid literally nothing.

    • Reply
      Andrew Bogard
      November 1, 2020 at 7:58 am

      The buttons are odd! Kind of a funny design/placement. I missed focus most when I was too close to the subject (probably my biggest complaint was the lack of decent close focusing). But I still enjoyed toting the little camera around — I’m glad you scored two for nothing!

  • Reply
    Scott Gitlin
    October 30, 2020 at 2:19 am

    A fun article and fine results . . . especially those apples. I think film applied just the right touch.

    • Reply
      Andrew Bogard
      November 1, 2020 at 7:48 am

      Thanks Scott — I totally agree! Film adds that authentic touch (imho)

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