Early Days of the Point and Shoot Camera

Recently I have been burying myself in the world of the point and shoot. It is a bit much, so many various models with very similar features but different names on different continents. So I am trying to break it down and make some sense of this mess I have got myself into. This post looks at very early point and shoots, when they were rather fancy devices made at least partly of metal. Just a general note that AF was literally brand new back then and not as sophisticated as it is now. Also, a lot of these cameras (espcially the earlier models) only work with 100, 200, and 400 ASA film. Some have DX support and some don’t, although you might be better off without so you can tweak the exposure a little using the ASA. Also these are generally pretty loud cameras, not stealth. Most of these have a distance icon/indicator in the viewfinder so you can see what the autofocus is up to. Finally, when dealing with electronic cameras this old you gotta get a little lucky to get a properly working one.

Konica C35 Automatic (1977)
38mm lens, 2.8 f-stop
(4 elements in 3 groups)
This one is included because it was the first autofocus camera! Yay! It uses the then popular “passive” Honeywell autofocus system. You see various versions of the C35 around a lot, people do like ’em and I am sure they are decent cameras. The autofocus version is more fragile is my guess but it is important historically. The related non-autofocus and higher end Konica Auto S3 is supposed to be great. The Zone focus C35 EF3-with a five element lens-is also a favorite,
Really nice review (Jim Grey)
Matt Denton’s reviews are really useful
Wikipedia page on 35C AF
This Flickr pool is for the whole 35C series, not just the AF one
Konica C35 AF
Photo by Ted Kappes on Flickr
Canon AF35M (1979)
38mm lens, 2.8 f-stop
(four elements in 3 groups)
This is the first Sure Shot. Quite a lot of offspring from this baby. People seem really fond of this camera and the pictures it takes. Active (IR) autofocus system.
Camera page on wikipedia
Some useful notes on this forum page
Nice set of photos taken with the AF35M by Colin Peddle
Photos tagged AF35M on tumblr
Canon AF35M
Photo by flitser01 on Flickr
Yashica Auto Focus (1979)
38mm, 2.8 f-stop
(4 elements in 3 groups)
Yashica joins the autofocus rage. I think maybe the “S” version of this camera stands for silent? Apparently all the various “Auto Focus” cameras have the same lens. The indicator showing where focus is set on these is on the front of the camera rather than in the viewfinder.
Nice review by BKS picture
Wikipedia page on the whole Auto Focus line
Auto Focus S (1979)
Photo by Captainchaoz on Flickr
Minolta Hi-Matic AF (1979)
38mm lens, 2.8 f-stop
(4 elements in 3 groups)
Minolta adds autofocus to its popular Hi-Matic line (the AF was apparently a Hi-Matic S2 with autofocus added). For whatever reason, there seems to be more about the slightly later Hi-Matic AF2 out there. I have an inkling that the real gem is the nice Hi-Matic AF-C.
Wikipedia page on whole H-Matic line
Nice series of pictures of the camera (The Chens)
Photos taken with the Hi-Matic AF
Flickr pool for HiMatic AF
Photo by patch1707 on Flickr
Canon AF35ML (1981)
40mm lens, 1.9 f-stop
(5 elements in 5 groups)
The lens is the real attraction on this one, although reports indicate the autofocus may be hit or miss sometimes? This is a noisy camera. 1.9 f-stop on a point and shoot is really something to get excited about as there are very few point and shoot cameras this fast!
Comprehensive review, good photos of camera (Jim Grey)
A funny review w/ some nice photos!
Another review here, some issues with battery door? (D2 Gallery)
AF35ML Flickr group
Canon AF35ML
Photo by vhf/victor felder on Flickr
Nikon L35AF (1983)
35mm lens, 2.8 f-stop
(5 elements in 4 groups)
This was Nikon’s first autofocus camera and by all accounts it was a big hit with a sharp lens. Seems like a copy of the Canon AF35M but maybe with a fancier lens?
Great rundown about the Nikon compact film cameras, nice info about versions of L35AF

Review at D2 Gallery
Flickr pool for L35AFNikon L35AF
Photo by Alfred on Flickr
Pentax PC35AF (1984)
35mm, 2.8 f-stop
(5 elements in 5 groups)
No DX detector, works with ASA 25-400
Pentax entered the autofocus game with this camera. It is hard to see from the front but this one comes with a manual film advance (the M version does have a motor). Of all of these this one (and that 1.9 f-stop Canon) are the cameras that really got my attention.
Camerapedia page for PC35AF
Some info near middle of page
Flickr group for the PC35AF
Pentax PC35AF
Photo by K. Medeiros on flickr
Whew. I think I will leave it at this for now. I wanted to included a Ricoh, but I will cover a mid-80’s Ricoh FF-90 in later post–a camera that I own and can post my own photo samples from. The idea here is that if you can get a a working model of some these early autofocus beasts, with their various limitations, the lens will outperform later models. Later budget autofocus cameras also tend to use smaller ranges of the aperture or have very limited shutter speeds. Simpler plastic lenses also become a part of the deal as time passed. The market changed a lot as point and shoot cameras became a normal (and much cheaper) commodity. Now of course cell phone fill this role to a large extent. These early point and shoot examples were built for a more discerning and higher-end market, which is why they can still hold their own.