An Hour or So With A Minolta AF-Big Finder…

Todays post is only going to be short I think, and covers a walk that Alex my youngest and I took a few days back.  My wife is still working from home due to the impending zombie outbreak (trust me…) and she was struggling to get on working at the kitchen table with him running around her.  We went off to give her a couple hours peace and so I could try out this camera that i’ve had kicking around for a good long while now.

I give you…the Minolta AF-Big Finder…!

Yeah I know thats a very imaginative name on Minolta’s part there.

So lets address the first part of that – the AF bit.  I am assuming that the AF stands for Auto Focus.  I cannot think of anything else camera or photography related that AF could stand for.  Can you?  If then we assume that it stands for auto focus that would lead the user to assume that the camera could in fact choose points within their composition to focus on.  I dont think im asking too much there?  Well no.  I can confirm that you can ‘focus’ on something 1 meter from the lens or something on infinity, and there is no movement of the lens.  This would therefore suggest to me that the camera should have in fact been called the FF-Big Finder, FF for Fixed Focus.

I mean i’m assuming that you should be able to see or at least hear that ‘All Glass Lens’ shifting about in its housing when it focuses…but I dont really know the technicalities of how they work.  I could be completely wrong.  Or maybe mine doesn’t work…

Either way, it has the feeling of a soft touch, focus and then recompose type button, but there is zero feedback as to whether or not that is a thing or has even worked.  Whatever, we’ll see when the images get developed whether it actually focused on anything!

So anyway the second part of that name: Big Finder.  Well that they got right – it certainly is big.

See what I mean?  The actual viewfinder recessed into that chunky plastic is approximately 17mm x 12mm.  The viewfinders in both my Canon A1 and my Olympus OM-1 are about 15mm x 10mm so about an extra 2mm in each direction and that really makes a lot of difference!  Honestly when you have it up to your eye you almost forget that there’s a stonking great piece of plastic up there as well because the finder feels like its stretching around your line of sight almost.  It’s an odd sensation to try and explain.

So what else is there to tell you about it?  Well its up there as one of the simplest cameras you’ll ever operate.  On and off is controlled via a sliding switch on the front that doubles up as a lens cover – cover closed and the camera is off, open and its ready to shoot.  It takes two AA batteries which is a refreshing change, not having to hunt down obscure sized and/or voltage batteries and converters, and with regards to operation, once you’ve sussed up the really complicated open/close on/off switch you’re pretty much ready to go.  Really.  Theres nothing else to set unless you want to use the timer – in which case there’s a soft button on the top which you press once your tripod-ed up and ready to go.  A light pops on on the front of the camera and about ten seconds later the camera fires.  Or you can cancel it by pressing the shutter release button.

You cant control the flash it just fires if it deems that the light levels require it, and you can rewind the film at any point with the only other button on the camera.  All of that is electronic, and just FYI the camera is not smart enough to leave the leader hanging out.  Not an issue if you send all your film out, or use a leader retriever at home, but when you run a short bulk loaded roll through it there’s not enough film inside the canister to leave the leader in an accessible place.  Out with the bottle opener to open that canister up!

Theres a green light on the back which lights up when the camera is ready to go – presumably when the flash is charged, and a red light that comes on to warn you that your batteries are getting low – after about twenty rolls according to the manual.

Speaking of the manual, it says that its equipped with a three element all glass 34mm f/4.5 lens, which isn’t super fast but equally its not bad I suppose.  This isn’t a camera that I think I’d be wanting to use in low light levels anyway.  You can’t override the ISO, and the DX reader only reads 100 and 400 I believe so my night shooting won’t be done with this one…

Anyway, I’ve got a roll of FP4 sitting in some Rodinol as I type this, stand developing with some other rolls that i’ve shot in other things, so give me a bit and I’ll come back when I’ve (hopefully) got some images to show.


 

Update – there’s negatives that look ok, cameras shutter works at least.  I’ll scan them when I can and see what they really look like.  I’m most interested in the focus if I’m honest.


 

Ok so now’s the time I guess to see some results.

I was actually very pleasantly surprised.  As I write this its been a few days since I scanned the images.  I like to where possible leave a little time like that to try and almost forget about the images so that hopefully when I come back to them I carry a slightly more unbiased view of them.  I’d forgotten the compositions, if I thought at the time “yes that one’s going to be really good” I’ve certainly forgotten doing that now.  Fresh eyes I guess.

Minolta-AFB-FP4-7

Well that little camera in my opinion has actually really delivered.  It was a very sunny day when I shot these, with the sun pretty much overhead.  Usually conditions that I would avoid where possible but there seems to be detail in the shadows and the highlights.  I was expecting a lot of crushed blacks and blown out whites.  These images are all straight out of the scanner, so whatever ‘post’ has been done has been done by the scanner.  Actually thats not quite true, I converted them to black and white – I scan everything in full colour as rightly or wrongly, I feel that I get better tones doing it that way.

Minolta-AFB-FP4-113Minolta-AFB-FP4-111Minolta-AFB-FP4-4

Minolta-AFB-FP4-114

That little lens, whether it actually focuses or not does appear to be pretty sharp.  I’m still not sure if it does actually focus or if it is fixed, but not one shot missed focus so i’m happy either way really!  One comment to make would be that the corners appear to be quite soft, but sometimes it looks to only be the top corner that this happens in,  and in a few of the frames there appeared to be some vignette darkening but really nothing unsightly.

Minolta-AFB-FP4-1

Minolta-AFB-FP4-110

So conclusion.  A very surprising little camera I think.  I don’t know if this is a camera that people already know about and want – for all I know it could have the cult status of something like the Olympus mju-II – although i’m pretty sure I’d have heard of it if it had…!

Its pretty large in the hand, not uncomfortably so, and it will fit in a baggy pocket (sorry but your not gonna be sliding this one nicely into the back pocket of your skinny jeans kids!) and I’d be perfectly happy shoving this in a bag and trying it as a go everywhere camera.  It has lugs for a wrist strap if thats your thing as well.

I had started the day with the intention of film testing it before selling it – my camera collection is just starting to get to the point of silly now – but you know what? I think I’ll hang onto it for now and maybe run another roll through it soon…!

Thanks for reading all, and I’ll speak to you again soon.

N

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