Film photography can be an expensive hobby but there is one very simple thing you can do to offset the overall cost when starting out.
Buy a cheaper camera.
They don’t come much cheaper than this Canon Sure Shot AF-7 I found in a charity shop alongside this one. But if they’re so cheap, are they even worth bothering with? If you have to pay for the film anyway, why waste it in a poor camera?
Poor is subjective though, and the Canon Sure Shot AF-7 might be better than you’d expect for less than the price of a roll of film.
Come see why, and whether you should take the plunge, head to eBay, and spend a few pounds on one yourself.
What is the Canon Sure Shot AF-7?
The Canon Sure Shot AF-7 was released in 1994 under a number of different aliases.
Known as the Canon Sure Shot Owl in the US and the Canon Prima AF-7 in continental Europe, I’m presuming my plain old Sure Shot AF-7 was a UK release.
The names seem interchangeable and can be confusing, but they’re really immaterial. Underneath, the cameras are all the same.
In 1997, Canon released the next version of the Owl. The name stayed the same, which didn’t help alleviate that confusion, although these models can be identified by the control dial added to the front. In Europe, the model was helpfully named the Prima AF-8.
But back to the AF-7…
Canon Sure Shot Owl / Prima / AF-7 technical specs
The Canon Sure Shot Owl / Prima / AF-7 has a 35mm lens with a maximum aperture of f4.5, and a minimum of f11. As you may expect from a point and shoot camera of its time, it’s a triplet lens, meaning it has just the three glass elements.
According to the manual, only ISO 100, 200, or 400 DX-coded film should be loaded into the Sure Shot, which will then automatically set the shutter speed accordingly; between 1/45 and 1/180.
There’s a 3-step autofocus system – hence the AF in the name – and a minimum shooting distance of 2.6 feet, or 0.8 metres.
The viewfinder – which is huge – is a simple reverse Galilean type, which is a fancy name for a simple idea. When you look through a telescope the wrong way, you see things as they are, just a lot smaller.
That’s how the Sure Shot AF-7 viewfinder works, the same way as on countless other basic film cameras.
How to use this Canon Sure Shot film camera
The whole line of Canon Sure Shot cameras – which ran from 1979 to 2005 and was known as Autoboy in Japan – was designed to give the company a meaty slice of the consumer camera market.
If this was to happen, and it did happen, the cameras would have to be easy to operate. The AF-7 certainly fits this bill.
There are no esoteric, expensive, long-obsolete Canon Sure Shot batteries to worry about. All you need is a couple of AAs and you’re set for 47 rolls of 24 exposure film (according to Canon, but really who is going to check?)
Loading film is easy, with a release button on the side of the camera to open it. Once you have your film on the spool and have closed the back, an auto-advance feature will wind it straight to exposure number one.
The default flash setting is automatic with red-eye reduction but it can be forced to fire or forced not to with the two buttons on the front of the camera.
There are two more buttons on top of the camera. One is a self-timer while the other winds back the film before you’ve finished it, should you want to do that.
Everything you need to know about operating the Sure Shot can be found in the manual here.
Street photography with the Canon Sure Shot AF-7
As I shoot street photography, I like a camera that doesn’t get in my way as I try to capture scenes that are here now but won’t be a second later.
A big part of that comes from getting used to whatever camera you have, and I’m happy to say doing that was easy with the AF-7.
There are a couple of ergonomic design features that are easy to miss when looking at the camera but are revealed when it comes to handling it.
First is the recess underneath the word Canon on the front, nicely placed for your middle finger to slot into. Second is a ridge on the back, behind the shutter release button, for your thumb.
Both help keep the camera securely in your grip.
The aforementioned huge viewfinder obviously helps with framing a shot. A green light turns on when you’ve pressed halfway to let you know the auto-focus is locked in, with a second light blinking if the auto-flash is going to fire.
If you see this and don’t want the flash, you can release the shutter button, press the handily-placed no flash button on the front to turn it off, and focus again.
The camera sets your shutter speed and exposure via the light meter on the front, so making sure the flash doesn’t fire is really the only thing to keep an eye on when shooting.
Once you’ve taken a shot, the Sure Shot automatically winds on your film to the next exposure. This sound, coming straight after that of the shutter opening and closing, was weirdly satisfying. Encouraging, even. Like it was saying ‘nice shot, now go get another’.
Maybe that’s just me.
Regardless, all of these elements together – the well-thought out design, the huge viewfinder, the easy point ‘n’ shooting, and the automatic film winding – made this cheap little Canon ideal for distraction-free street photography.
Canon Sure Shot AF-7 35mm film gallery
I could tell you all about the image quality of the Canon Sure Shot AF-7 but I’d rather show you.
This is partly because I find talking about minutiae like sharpness in the corners or whatever really boring and also beside the point when you’ve bought a camera like this. What are you expecting for a basic 1990s Canon point and shoot?
It’s also partly because there are so many variables at play. Was my film degraded? Was the developing bad? Is the camera, which is over 20 years old, in the same condition as yours?
I also used the Sure Shot AF-7 for the shitty camera challenge; a film photography event that was run on Twitter. This was my entry in that.
The shots below are from those posts and so were all taken with the Sure Shot.
Picking up a Canon Sure Shot AF-7
Whether you want to get your own Canon Sure Shot after reading all that information and seeing those example photographs is up to you.
It’s not going to be the most impressive film camera you’ll ever own as far as image quality or advanced features goes, but that wouldn’t be why you bought one.
You’d buy one if you wanted a cheap and simple point ‘n’ shoot, and there’s no doubt it ticks both of those boxes.
You’ll always be able to find batteries for it (probably in a drawer along with some old keys that you don’t even know what door they’re for), getting it loaded is child’s play, and shooting it is fun and satisfying.
It leaves you with almost zero decisions to make aside from your composition.
If that sounds like the kind of film camera you want, then yes. You wouldn’t go far wrong with a Canon Sure Shot AF-7, or Owl, or Prima, or whatever else it may come labelled as.
Take a look on eBay and see what you can find. 😀
… p.s. if you found this Canon Sure Shot AF-7 review useful and think others will too, why not share or pin it?