I got this camera, (along with four other film cameras), from an old friend who visited us in May 2014 (see: Cameras Galore). She knew I was into camera collecting and thought I would like them.
I put a film (or so I thought – more on that in a bit) in it, took a few shots outside our house and then put it aside. I mentioned in an earlier post (see: Back to film – Fuji GS645S) that I’d made a New Year’s resolution to try to use one of my film cameras every month. I was thinking about what camera to use for February when I remembered that this one already had a film in it. Might as well use it I thought.
Out it came. I turned it on…nothing. Dead as a doornail and yet I remembered that it had worked when I’d tried it before. Maybe the battery died? It took me a while to get a new battery, but eventually I found one. In went the new battery. I pressed the on/off button…still nothing. It seemed like it was for the garbage, but I left it for a while next to my computer perhaps hoping for divine intervention. Every so often I would press the on/of switch to no end and then suddenly after another press…click! whirr! the camera turned on, lens extended and the flash popped up. Maybe I was right about that divine intervention. I turned it off again and pressed the on/off switch once more…nothing. Obviously a dodgy on/off switch, but at least I now knew that, under the right circumstances, it would turn on. Eventually I figured out that if I pressed the on/off switch in a certain way it would turn on. I can now reliably turn it on after on a couple of presses. Interesting it always turns off after a single press.
Off I went to take some pictures. Nothing special. Just a few shots around our lake. I got up to the fifteenth exposure and then…Click! Whirr!, Whirr!, Whirr!, the camera rewound. After it had fully rewound I opened the back and took the film out. What on earth…Black’s Astral ISO 200, 24 exposure. I’d never heard of the brand and I never use ISO 200 film. I ‘googled’ it and discovered it was the store brand of a now defunct chain of stores in Toronto. That made sense as my friend is Canadian. I thought I put the film in the camera, but I now realize that it was in there when she gave it to me. Moreover, she hasn’t lived in Toronto for quite some time so it’s possible that this film dates back to a time before I met her, and I’ve known her for over 25 years. Anyway the film is going off to be processed. I’m not optimistic about the results.
Once I got past the dodgy on/off switch the camera worked fine (or at least gave the appearance of doing so). It feels solid, if a little chunky. The lens is a 28-70mm (f3.5-f8.9). It’s a pretty simple camera to use. There’s a rocker switch for the zoom and a series of small buttons on the top. On the left there’s a button to set the flash options (auto; red-eye reduction; manual fill-flash; and flash). The next button to the right activates the self timer; the optional remote control; and the continuous drive mode (the manual explains that with the flash off the shutter will fire every 1.2 seconds.). Then comes a button to select from the various programme/scene modes (auto; macro; night portrait; and landscape/night view). Mine is the date model so there are really tiny (you need a pen or something like it to press them) buttons to set the date and time.
The camera was called the Minolta Explorer Freedom Zoom in the US so mine seems to be the European Version. There’s a fairly extensive review of it on 35MMC entitled Minolta Explorer Freedom Zoom (Riva Zoom 70W) – Guest Review by Benn Murhaaya. It’s not very positive
What I disliked most about this camera is that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, particularly what aperture and shutter speed the camera had chosen. All you see in the viewfinder (which in my example has a small scratch and a lot of dust) is a green light (indicating that focus has been achieved when you half-press the shutter release) and a yellow light (steady light indicates flash is on; flashing light indicates too slow a shutter speed; rapid blinking indicates flash is charging) I suppose that’s true of pretty much all, inexpensive point and shoot cameras.
I now realize that the only reason I chose to use this camera was that when I got it it already had a film in it. I probably won’t use it much (if ever). When I get the processed film back I’ll check to see if the results suggest the camera is working well. I’ll also check to see if any poor results are a consequence of using antediluvian film rather than other factors (e.g. lousy photographer). If the former is true I might give the camera another chance with a fresh film.