Testing a Minolta AF-S

2015-MinAFS-001-014Today’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 Camera

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.

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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.

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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.

Sunset

Test Results

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).

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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.

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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 :

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24 thoughts on “Testing a Minolta AF-S

    • Thank you Ashoke! That would be the underexposed effect I think, though perhaps the film did not survive the freezer quite as well as I expected.

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  1. Reblogged this on burnt embers and commented:

    This is my 27th post at 52 Rolls, which means I am more than half way through the project. It is the companion to my other post from this morning, and for the next few days as well. Over here at Burntembers I am running black and white conversions of images from the same test roll, even though it did have some luscious blues and greens in the underexposed originals.

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    • Thanks Peter. These camera accidents do teach me things that I might not otherwise learn with normal experimenting. I like those blues too – they are quite reminiscent of the ones I get with my polaroid pinhole camera next to the ocean. I think that perhaps I am under exposing those a bit too much as well, though I might just stick with it for the blues.

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  2. Agree on the colors! They’re just great, they’re “film colors” and “Minolta colors”. Exactly why I love such little thrift store point and shoots! If your meter is underexposing consistently, you might have one of the only small point and shoots capable of making use of Delta 3200 😉

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    • Hi, nice to have a comment on this old post which for some reason gets quite a lot of traffic. Someone must have linked to it somewhere.

      That is an intriguing idea. Might be fun just for the heck of it. I should get another of these – they obviously have a lot of potential when working properly.
      I was surprised to see the other day that my Olympus mjuii will read DX coding to 3200. So it is on that short list you mention.

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    • Hi Anna

      Try the following:
      1. Check the batteries to make sure they are good – it takes 2 AA batteries.
      2. Check that the good batteries are inserted properly – they go in opposite ways from each other and there is a diagram inside the battery compartment to show how they go.
      3. Close the battery compartment and open the back of the camera. Close the back of the camera – does the camera make a whirring sound as if advancing film? If so, then there is power getting to the camera. If not, then there is a problem in the battery compartment or the connections to the battery compartment.
      4. Open the battery compartment and look into it. Is there any green or grey grunge/corrosion products in there – either on the contacts in the battery compartment or at the other end inside? if so, then you will need to clean them which involves (a) using a small amount of vinegar on a cotton swab and wiping at the corrosion products to loosen and dissolve them. Then use another dry cotton swap to wipe them dry. You many also need to get something like a fine screw driver or knife blade to clean the contacts by scraping at them. Once it is cleaned and dry (dont get it too wet, only damp) reinsert the batteries (2) and try again (3). If still no response from camera when you open and close the film door, then either the contacts are still not clean enough (redo 4), or a wire connecting the battery compartment has loosened or corroded through.
      5. If a wire then you will need to take the camera apart to see if you can reconnect them. This is some thing I have not done and which has a certain risk to it since the flash has a capacitor that may retain a charge and give you a very nasty shock. You should research how to get into the camera safely, there is a variety of information on line for dealing with flashes in these point and shoot cameras. I think that you will need to take the top off the camera to deal with any wires, and thus my caution about the flash.

      Good luck, I hope that step 4 (or earlier) gets your camera going. The glass is nice and they are capable of taking good pictures. Did yours come with the big flat lens cover? If so and you can’t make the camera work, then hang onto the lens cover as quite often you see them for sale without it and those ones should be a lot cheaper as the lens cover is hard to come by.

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      • One other thing to check – on the front of the camera above the lens and beneath the shutter release button is a red/orange button. This is the on switch for the self timer (when depressed) and if it is stuck down could cause the camera to behave in strange ways. It should pop back up when the shutter is depressed, or the back of the camera is opened. If not, then I am not sure how you get it back up, but probably will need to take the camera apart – probably a spring is broken or dislodged.

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  3. Great images. Urban I am sending a Canon Canonet QL 17 on a world tour for blog post by participants. Right now England, Wales, France, South Africa, Canada, US, New Zealand and expanding. Would love it if you would participate. If interested email me mailing address to lasousa@me.com. L.

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    • Hi Lou – see my previous comment. Also, you might want to consider joining 52Rolls for 2017. You will learn a lot about how blogging on WP works and there is a community that is helpful.

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  4. Pingback: Testing a Minolta AF-Sv (aka the “Talker”) | 52 rolls

    • HI Cheppi,

      If by oddity you mean the camera under-exposing, then yes it seems to be a common fault with these cameras. This one under-exposes a lot more than the AF-Sv that I have (see pingback in comments above to a review of it) but both have this problem, and many other recent reviews also note it to be an issue. If you buy one, then you will want to test it by setting different ISO values for different shots to see how your one works. If not too extreme, then you can use the camera set at a different ISO than the film is rated for to get normal exposures.

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  5. Hey — I just bought a talker and it seems like it only sporadically will work. I will press down on the shutter, with the flash engaged, and it won’t take a picture. But then other times, it works just fine. I changed the batteries, but that seemed to have no impact. Do you think that this has to do with the auto-focus function? Have you had this happen? I’m trying to figure out if I need to buy another one or if this is just user error 🙂

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    • Hi Lucy, it could well be the autofocus – if it can’t make focus, or if it thinks there is not enough light, then it might refuse to fire. I would clean all the windows and other possible parts of the focusing system and try again, and try under different conditions such as bright light and lower light, and with hard edges and so on. It could well be that there is something wrong with it and getting another camera would be the easiest option. Keep in mind that the non-talking version is otherwise identical and can often be found for a lot less money. The talking aspect is cute, but not really functional. Speaking of the talking, I suppose if it works you could try turning it on to see if it gives you a clue? Sorry I can’t be of more help than that.

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