The Camera That Follows Me Everywhere

The Camera That Follows Me Everywhere

Early on as photographers, advice you often receive is to take your camera everywhere. I did this as a beginner and have advised others to do the same. That said, this camera is one I carry for a different reason, and here’s why.

I tried taking my DSLR and later my mirrorless camera with me daily, which worked sometimes, but I found they weren’t the right fit for an everyday carry. I wanted to document more of life, yet I found that their nature almost took you out of the moment, focusing more on capturing one photo rather than experiencing the moment itself. I sought something more compact and less intrusive, but still of high quality.

My search continued as I began shooting more film and experimenting with the medium. For a while, I tried carrying around a traditional SLR, which was better and served as a conversation piece, but I found it could still be too bulky, leading to situations where I wouldn't bring it out.

Conveniently, this was around the time when film point-and-shoot cameras started gaining popularity among celebrities and the public alike. I wasn't prepared to spend 3K on something like the Contax TII, but being crafty and budget-conscious, I started hunting.

That's when I turned to thrift stores in search of old cameras ready for a new life. That’s when I found the Minolta AF101R for no more than $10.

The Camera

The Minolta AF101R, discovered by happenstance and persistence, now accompanies me almost everywhere. It’s compact enough to fit in my pocket, very un-intimidating, and still produces great quality images.

After cleaning it and shooting some test rolls, it started working perfectly with just some new batteries. Plus, I’ve learned there's a special feeling about capturing your life on film. The flash works great when needed, and the autowinding is responsive. The only quirk I’ve noticed is that you’ll want to be a few feet away from your subject, as it can focus further, leaving the background sharp but the foreground subject a bit soft.

It also seems to be built well enough to be thrown in pockets, bags, and more without really worrying about damaging it.It may not be the latest and greatest camera. It may not be the digital camera with the body design and profiles of a film camera, but for capturing memories, for documenting life, it’s perfect for me.

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Is the picture of the in guy the street lamp display a mistake with the the focus or intentional?

I think it was probably meant to illustrate the comment above it, re it’s inability to focus on close-up subjects. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have focussed on much at all!

I think it would sell the concept better by showing good me the film cost for snapshots is not worth it.

I started shooting with a DSLR when I was 55. I even ran a film processing lab at a college as an employee. I miss it a bit but I don't miss the amount of time it took. I also processed E6 ten rolls at a time often with 2 runs a day. This required a precision of care even I find amazing now. This all stopped in 1998 with a shift towards digital projection. I took precautions to prevent chemicals from entering my body, so I fail to see the film nostalgia in today's world. I'm 70 now and I enjoy digital and the lack of contamination to the waste water and my body.

I'm a big proponent of carrying a camera with me always but why a camera that is costly to use and not as competent as a smartphone? These days, pocketable digital point-and-shoots are cheap and more versatile than a phone. While phone makers brag about their 70mm equivalent lenses, even the most modest P&S can reach much farther. I've owned and carried a score of compact cameras during hikes, bike rides, and travel and find little cameras perfect. That doesn't mean I don't shoot with one-inch sensor compacts as well as M43, APS-c, and full frame too. Horses for courses.

The Minolta AF101R has a 28mmF5.6. Not a very bright lens.
If you like the experience of shoting film, try to get a Yashika T5 (although it might cost you a bit more than 100$).
It has a 35mmF3.5 Zeiss lens, reliable AF and a second viewfinder on the top plate.
I used it from 1999 to 2003 (i.e. unitl I bought my first digital camera).
PS: For the past 6 years, I use a Fuji X70 as my every day camera.