Retro Reviews are something new for WFLBC.com. I love film, I love old cameras, this is something I’m very excited about. First up, the Minolta Hi-Matic AF2. A 35mm fixed lens point and shoot from 1981.
This camera is very much a film equivalent to the modern Fujifilm X100 series of rangefinder styled premium point and shoots. 39mm fixed f/2.8 lens, auto focus, auto exposure, the only thing manual on this camera is film loading and advance. It has a large, bright, parallax corrected viewfinder with bright frame lines. There are 2 LED’s. one that indicates the need for the built in flash (which beeps like crazy) and one that tells you if you’re focused on something near or far. It also beeps if you’re out of focus which is kind of cool/kind of annoying.
Auto focus is very accurate and quite fast for a camera of this vintage. The lens gives fantastic contrast making it perfect for street photography and black and white film.
The shutter is very quiet, another good feature for a street camera. The leaf shutter makes a weird sound best described as a tiny robot sneezing.
The little pop-up flash is impressive. It does its job well even in bright sunlight. Ilford HP5 loves this camera and the camera loves it back. Dark blacks and bright whites that border on overexposed when the flash is used. I like that look.
Color reproduction is great, even with Fujifilm drugstore film loaded up. I’m blown away by the sharpness of the lens. This camera will probably see some travel miles logged this summer. Montreal, a road trip to Alberta, and a weekend in BC’s Cariboo region.
Unlike a lot of cameras from this era the AF2 takes AAA batteries. Anyone who’s tried to resurrect an old film camera knows the pain of finding extinct batteries or using a modern equivalent that isn’t quite right.
The Hi-Matic line reaches back to the 60’s with some great manual rangefinders. I have a 7s I’ll be reviewing soon. The AF2 is kind of stuck between 2 eras. Rangefinders were all but gone in the late 70’s aside from Leica and a few others. The AF2 isn’t a rangefinder but it looks and feels like one. It adds some 80’s electronics but sticks to manual film advance. It’s a bit of an odd duck but that’s typical Minolta.
Prices for the AF2 are all over the place right now. As more street photographers rediscover this little gem the price will certainly go up. Right now they’re anywhere from $10 to $100+. There are wide and tele lens attachments, just like the X100. It’s like Fujifilm used this thing as a template.
You may wonder why I bother with film. My digital Fuji X Series cameras offer exceptional image quality, the ease of automatic and digital everything along with great manual controls, and all the cool retro looks of film cameras. Megapixels, instant gratification, and the ability to shoot thousands of images just to pick a few good ones have dumbed down photography to the point where it is losing its artistic appeal. Film is magic to me. Film is the unknown in an age where Google makes you think you’re a genius. 24 or 36 chances to create art and you can’t be sure you’ve done anything until the roll is done.
Stay tuned for more retro reviews!