Whether you are new to film photography or not, the allure of a point-and-shoot camera remains. As the name suggests, a point-and-shoot only requires you to do just that - point at your object, and shoot. It's an undeniably quick, hassle-free and easy way to take some shots.
On the flip side, many point-and-shoot cameras will not be able to deliver the impeccably high-quality results that you'll see with an SLR. With a built-in lens and no option to interchange, point-and-shoots may also limit your shots as there is basically no option to zoom in or out on an object.
So how do we find the middle ground? Which point-and-shoot camera should you go for to get the best of both worlds? Could the Olympus AF-1 be it?
Let's find out.
Olympus AF-1: Cold Hard Facts
The Olympus AF-1, A.K.A. Infinity in the US, A.K.A. "Nurepika" (wet flash) in Japan, was the world's first weatherproof fully automatic 35mm camera. It comes fitted with a Zuiko F2.8 lens, and also features a built-in auto-flash that is powered by a CR-P2 lithium battery. The camera allows for automatic film-loading, advancing and rewinding. Among its features are also a 12-second delay electronic self-timer, and a 'focus lock' button for autofocus.
Aperture: f/2.8, four elements in four groups
'Focus lock' button for autofocus
Auto-exposure with a shutter speed range of 1/30-1/750 seconds.
Built-in auto-flash (1-1.5s recycling time)
Automatic loading and rewinding
Requires 1pcs of CR-P2 Lithium battery
225g in weight (without battery)
As you can see from the photos above, the camera has a lid that slides open and close to protect the lens. It's got an all-black/grey look with a sturdy build. It also comes with a short strap that could come in handy for some handheld actions.
Olympus AF-1: Ease of Use
Most people, pros or casual photographers, find point-and-shoots appealing for their ease of use. So it wouldn't be right to talk about the Olympus AF-1 without discussing its ease of use.
And it really doesn't get any simpler than this when it comes to film cameras. Pretty much all basic features are automatic with the Olympus AF-1, which removes a lot of the issues with film cameras. I always feel anxious when I have to load and rewind a film, but with the Olympus AF-1, it's super easy and straightforward. You only need to insert the film and make sure that it's attached properly to the take-up spool. Once you close the back lid, the camera will start whirring automatically and you'll see the exposure counter turning to "1", which is when you know that it's ready to use. When the film is finished, the camera also automatically rewinds it, so it's ready for you to take out. And did I mention that film advancing is also automatic?
To take photos with the Olympus AF-1, simply find your object, use the viewfinder to frame it, and press the shutter release button. Since the camera runs on autofocus, you'd also want to place the most important part of your subject in the small center brackets (autofocus frame).
You also have the option of using the 'focus lock' button to better set your focus. To do this, you'd have to hold the lock button, press the shutter release button halfway down, recompose your view, and then press the shutter release button fully. However, this operation does take quite a bit of an effort as you'd need both hands for it, which is quite an unnatural feeling when taking photos. You'd also need to get a good feel of the shutter release button to understand how hard to press it, not to set off the button prematurely. So you might need some practice before you can master the function. Otherwise, you can also stick to the norm, which is what I prefer.
The automatic flash also means that you wouldn't have to make a judgment over the lighting condition, as it will go off automatically. This makes it easier and more practical to shoot, however, this might not work so well for you if you're looking to get creative and shoot under different lighting conditions without flash.
Another noteworthy item to mention here is linked to its viewfinder. Like most other point-and-shoot cameras, the Olympus AF-1 has a field of view that is not exactly 100%, which means that what you see in the viewfinder is not what exactly will be captured on film. It's definitely much closer to 100% compared to many other point-and-shoots out there, but still, it has taken me some time to understand how a picture will likely come out depending on what is seen on the viewfinder.
Olympus AF-1: Image Quality
It's really hard to complain about the Olympus AF-1 with it being so easy to use and all. Not to mention, it produces good quality images with sharp resolution and good tonal balance. Its resulting images also do not soften around the edges and instead maintain somewhat the same level of sharpness throughout. You also barely see any vignetting effect that may be prevalent in lower quality point-and-shoots or reusable cameras.
The image quality resulting from the Olympus AF-1 may not necessarily be comparable to that of premium SLRs, but you are definitely getting some of the best point-and-shoot grade quality with the camera.
Olympus AF-1: Final Verdict
The Olympus AF-1 is hands down one of the most reliable film cameras imaginable. The camera really hits that perfect balance between a seamlessly easy shooting experience and great image quality. It's perfect for beginners who want to learn more about film and composition, as well as any who is keen on the point-and-shoot experience.
Not to mention, it also has a great price point! I actually got mine as a hand-me-down, but you can find it for as low as EUR 60.
Tried the camera yourself? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!