Minolta AF-S Quartz Auto Focus D Review
Don’t Get Fooled by Its Crummy Looks6 min read by
Minolta AF-S doesn’t look like much at first glance. It’s on the bulky side for a point-and-shoot, and it has a plasticky feel, reminiscent of the late eighties that doesn’t inspire confidence. But underneath this janky exterior sits a nice lens, accurate autofocus mechanism and film transport automation that can give other, nicer-looking cameras a run for their money.
Minolta AF-Sv cameras are known for their “Talker” model that blasts pre-recorded messages in a cheerful, gravely high-pitched voice. Thankfully, mine does not. You can avoid those little monsters by ensuring that there’s no “v” next to AF-S on your model.
Quartz date and alarm clock. What else can it do?
This camera was first released in 1984. Curiously, its makers never expected this piece to last or be useful past 2009 — the date functionality on its back have no years going past that number. Thankfully, it can be disabled with the “mode” button.
Minolta AF-S is a beacon of retro gadgetry. It shoots film, dates it, and has an alarm clock! Modern me does not need any of that, of course, but I can’t deny the fact that the designers who made this camera did a good job laying out the controls for all of this rather nicely. The buttons and switches I’d never use seem to add to the camera’s appeal, and their functions are generally easy to understand without any instructions. Though I am fuzzy on the toggle for “COLOR” and “COLOR 400/1000 B&W” modes — it’s possible that the dating tool may have different projection modes depending on the emulsion type.
The camera also has a self-timer button — the orange knob to the top-right of the lens — and a pop-out flash gun. My flash didn’t work though I appreciate how easy it would be to disable — it’s off by default; you can muzzle it by pushing it down into the body (to enable it, you can pop it up with a latch on the back panel). Very similar to how Pentax PC35AF works. This is in contrast to most ‘90s point-and-shoots that would have you go through the menu after each power cycle to prevent unexpected bursts of light.
Lens and image quality.
I’m not gonna lie: I expected much less from this camera.
The 𝒇2.8 35mm Minolta lens is unexpectedly sharp with little aberrations and distortions. There’s no vignetting and little falloff in the acuity in the corners. Admittedly, I tested this camera with a rather grainy and fairly sharp Kodak Ultramax 400 film. Nevertheless, this camera managed to pull all the detail the film could render.
However, some vignetting does become evident when the camera opens up its aperture in low light. But the results still look fairly sharp when in focus, and the bokeh looks nice:
The lens isn’t perfect, of course. It’s not G-Rokkor, but it’s remarkably close in sharpness and contrast. And for the price, this camera is a winner.
Other than its decent rendering, the lens has a near focus of .85m (2’9½”). Its leaf shutter fires between 1/8s to 1/625s, and the autoexposure mechanism accepts film ISOs between 25 and 1,000.
This camera tends to under-expose slightly, which is why you may want to set the ISO on your Minolta lens to a slightly lower value than your film’s.
The autofocus on Minolta AF-S is fairly accurate — out of 36 frames, I had only one that missed focus. It’s an active multi-step mechanism that selects one of the pre-set three zones, which I found good enough for most pictures. It’s fairly fast — there’s a less than a second of a delay between pressing the button and the picture being taken — and is fairly quiet.
Minolta AF-S in-use: operation and ergonomics.
This camera is actually decently built. It doesn’t use any fancy materials, but whatever it’s made of, it’s done fairly well. The battery door isn’t falling apart — as is the case on some cameras of a similar build. Most components continue to work well, despite their age. There are even helpful grip lines around the edges for easy one-hand operation. That is not to say, however, that you won’t have any awkward moments with your AF-S.
The camera has a lid cover that needs to be maneuvered over the lens to preserve the glass and save some battery power. It also needs two sets of batteries: two AA for the main camera operation and a single LR44 button battery for the back with the clock and the alarm. The latter can only be replaced once the film back is open (there’s a small round black door in the door itself).
I appreciate the pair of film counters — the digital one on the film cover and the analogue one on the top plate. Both reset as they should when you load your fresh roll of whatever 35mm goodness you’ve planned for it.
Overall, I think this is a decent camera, especially considering its price, which today is around $30-150. I’d keep it if I didn’t have twenty more awaiting reviews. So off to the shop, it goes!
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