Today’s post for my 27th week includes frames from a couple of rolls of film used to test a Minolta AF-S. I picked it up for a few dollars in a thrift store and it turned out to not work as expected due to significant under exposure, but I have worked out how to use this camera if I choose to run more film through it.
The AF-S is the quiet version of this camera, and by quiet I mean it does not speak to you like the AF-Sv or “Talker” (the ‘v’ stands for Voice – see my later review of the Talker at this link). This is a good thing in my books, though I think there is more of a market and thus higher value for the AF-Sv just for the curiosity factor. The AF-S is distinguished from the AF-Sv by the blue stripe on the side (vs red on the talker) and the letter “v” under the Auto Focus label on the front and beside the AF-S label on top as well as a switch on the back to turn the talking off (they must have known the novelty would wear thing very quickly). There was also a date version of this camera – the AF-S Quartz, with a D on the front below the Auto Focus label as well as various controls on the back to set the date. The Minolta AF-S (and Sv and SD) was released in 1984 and changed the year later with a more traditional lens cap arrangement. This is the 1984 model with the large rectangular lens cap that covers the lens, viewfinder, self timer and so on. I like the idea of the front cover on this model as it protects a lot of important aspects, but it is awkward to use and I am sure it’s easy to lose, and impossible to replace, the cap. When it is attached, it deactivates the camera by pressing a tiny button just above the orange self timer switch and light.
The Minolta lens is glass, f2.8, 35mm with 4 elements in 3 groups and is threaded for a 40.5 mm filter size. It has an active autofocus good between 0.85m and infinity which supposedly indicates in the viewfinder when focus is too close, though in my one it does not appear to work that way. The focus is via phase detection that determines an appropriate (one of three) zone-focus setting – it is the focussing which is responsible for the quiet sound that one hears as soon as the shutter is pressed.
The lens is what decided my purchase of the camera as I thought it should be a pretty good, fast enough to be useful in lower light and probably with quite good optics based on Minolta’s reputation. Another aspect that decided my purchase was that it takes two AA batteries – cheap and uncomplicated to power up unlike many of its contemporaries.
The self timer is activated by pressing an orange button on the front of the camera prior to depressing the shutter release and operates for about 10 seconds. Once the timer button is pushed you are committed to a self timer shot; even replacing the front cover does not stop it from working. After pressing the shutter button, a steady red light above the switch indicates it is on for the first 8 seconds and for the last two seconds the light flashes with a beeping sound.
The shutter varies from 1/8 to 1/625th second.
Film speed is set manually with 1/3 stop increments from ISO 25 to 400 and then jumps to ISO 1000 with two, presumably even, increments in between.
The light meter is on the front of the lens where it can meter through any filter used – I can’t find any information about the light meter but assume CdS. When the light is too low, a red light appears in the viewfinder, accompanied by an annoying beep that can’t be turned off. Other recent reviewers have found their cameras underexpose, though perhaps not as much as this camera does.
Film is loaded, wound and rewound automatically and somewhat noisily (though I find it quieter than some of the comparable cameras of this era like the Canon Sure Shots and Yashica AF-M). If you keep the shutter button depressed after shooting, the film rewinds only when you let go, so that can be good for street photography as the shutter/autofocus is reasonably quiet. There is a little button on the bottom that allows you to activate the rewind mechanism. I am not sure if it rewinds all the way when this is used, or just while holding it. Film loading is facilitated with a little transparent flap that falls over the film leader and helps prevent incorrect loading.
The flash is turned on manually via a switch on the back which pops it up when active. Flash charge is indicated by a green light next to the view finder. It has a maximum range of 4.80 m at ISO 100 and an out-of-range warning beep (did I mention it was annoying?) with green flashing LED in the view finder.
So, does the camera work? I used some expired, but freezer stored, Fuji Superia 400 to test the camera. Everything seems to work well except the light meter, which underexposes quite a lot. Since the results from the first roll of film suggest that the lens is a nice one and otherwise this camera is capable of taking good pictures, I decided to run a second roll of the same film through at different ISO settings, partly to ensure that it was the light meter at fault, and partly to determine how to compensate for the deficient meter.
I shot tests in similar settings to the first roll and made sure that they included full sun, mottled sun and full shade. I shot each test at ISO 25, 50, 100, 200, 400 and 1000 settings and include them below – I have scanned these strips a bit bigger than usual, so clicking on them a couple of times will give a much better view of the scans. You can see that the 400 ISO setting, which is second from the right in the images below, is seriously under exposed. I would say that the best exposure in all three tests is at ISO 50 for ISO 400 film. This suggests that I cannot use this camera with film slower than ISO 200 (metered at ISO 25).
Even though the camera underexposes by three stops or so, the first roll did produce some interesting images which I have worked on a bit in Lightroom to pull more information from the scan. I have included some of them in the gallery below. Most are of the storm drain, which I photograph often, and nearly always use to test cameras. Also, the single shot below of View Towers is a location I often use for testing – if you want to compare this to other camera tests then I have posted many examples here.
Some of these shots are well suited to a black and white conversion, and you can find some in today’s post on my blog; more will follow in the next few days and should be linked below in the comments section below with a pingback.
To see larger versions in the gallery below, click on any image and then navigate with the arrows to see the rest.
Some links I found useful when preparing this post for this model and the Talker :