Photographed with Superia 200


     Film      Camera Reviews

Introduction


It was sometime in the 1970's when compact autofocus cameras started to appear on the market.  In 1981, Minolta introduced the Hi-Matic AF2.

While it's not truly a "rangefinder" (because it has AF), the Hi-Matic AF2 handles very much like its rangefinder predecessors. 

Since there were so many compact cameras made between the 1960's and 1980's, is there any reason to use a Hi-Matic AF2?  Let's see.


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In This Article



Some Specs

Autofocus

Batteries

Ergonomics

Film Advance

Filters

Flash

Gallery of Photos

Lens

Price / Value

Repair Issues, Common

Similar Cameras


Conclusion



Some Specs


Aperture Range:  f/2.8 through f/17
Bulb mode?:  No
Close-Focusing Distance:  1 m (3.3 feet)
ISO / ASA Range:  25 to 1000
Film Type:  35mm
Flash:  Pop-up type
Focusing:  Automatic
Lens:  Minolta 38mm f/2.8
Light Meter:  CdS
Made In:  Japan
Shutter Speeds:  1/8 through 1/430th sec.
Viewfinder:  Bright-line with parallax correction marks
Years Manufactured:  1981-1984





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Autofocus


This camera uses active infra-red AF.  You can see the IR send/receive windows above the lens. 

It works great for scenery and people pictures, as long as it's not fast action.  The AF mechanism doesn't make any noise that I can notice.

This camera is so easy to use;  they should start making it again.  I looked at some digital photos my wife and I took of us, back when the cameras were a couple of megapixels.  I realize just how much better the pictures would have been if we had just used a simple 1981 film camera like this.  AF, AE, and built-in flash... tremendous dynamic range of Kodak 400 film... for quick snapshots, this is perfect.


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Batteries


This camera uses two AA's.  Alkalines work great.  This is one advantage of this camera:  no weird $7 batteries that your local stores never heard of.  And it doesn't have motorwind, so it won't waste batteries like some other cameras do.


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Ergonomics


One of the best things about this camera is the way it handles.  The Hi-Matic AF2 has a better feel-- less plastic-y or something-- than some of the other cameras that had appeared by 1981.

The camera is just big enough that you can probably deal with it if you have large hands, but it's small and light enough that it's pleasant to handle.  Seems like almost the ideal size for a 35mm camera. 


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Film Advance


It's got that nice lever that many of the compact rangefinder / auto cameras have.  This is one of the things I like the most about these cameras. 

I wasn't going to review the Hi-Matic AF2 because it's been reviewed a bunch of times elsewhere.  But then I recently got the opportunity to try one.  The film wind lever, a seemingly trivial feature, is one reason why I liked this camera enough to review it.  Motorwind or motor-drive had already taken hold by the late 1970's, so it's nice to find cameras that don't have this. 


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Table of Contents



Filters


46mm, same as the Konica C35.  The filter goes over the light sensor, so the camera will correct for darker filters (depending on the filter),

The meter may or may not detect the full difference caused by a filter.  So you might have to set the ASA/ISO selector to a lower film speed as well.  For more info, see this article.


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Flash


It has a built-in pop-up flash.  Flash range depends on film ISO;  with 400 film it's good to 20 feet.

Sync speed is 1/40th sec (X-sync).  This has a "Flashmatic" system, which couples the flash to the AF and aperture adjustment.  It seems to decide how bright to make the flash, based on how close the subject is.  I can't test it, though;  flash doesn't work on my camera.

There is no flash hotshoe.


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Gallery of Photos





More photos here.




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Lens


Minolta 38mm f/2.8, four elements in three groups. 

All the major camera makers had decent 38mm 2.8 lenses;  unlike a zoom or a super-wide, this is not a difficult one to design fairly well.

Any of these Minolta / Konica / Canon / whatever cameras with 38mm to 40mm lenses will all produce sharp enough pictures.  What I've found is that the limiting factor is the flatbed scan;  get your film scanned right (such as with this method), and you might be amazed at how clear a 35mm photograph can be.

With that said, the lens doesn't have perfect corner sharpness from what I've seen.  This was a mass-market consumer camera, although it's pretty good for what it is. 


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Light Leaks


These have the typical foam seals along the film-door hinge and the edges.  I don't know if Minolta used the same seal material for all their 1981 cameras, but I'm assuming they did;  and if so, this stuff has a tendency to work perfectly for decades, then suddenly there are light leaks on a roll of film. 


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Price / Value


If something goes wrong with the metering or AF system, the camera is not usable.  There's no manual override whatsoever.  The autofocus and auto-everything-else can make it potentially complicated to repair.  These keep the camera from being as sought-after as it might otherwise be.

Some of these do go for $100 or $125, but they have to be in mint or near-mint condition.  That means working perfectly, with no dings, dents, or places where it looks like someone took a 100-grit sander to the camera. 

For untested ones, don't pay more than $20.  Avoid the silly ones where someone is asking $70 for an untested one. 

I realize that when a camera gets popular, sometimes the price can inflate, but the Hi-Matic AF2 is actually one of the more common AF compacts of this era.  Minolta sold a lot of them.  This is also not really a good learner's camera, because it doesn't display any of the critical info such as aperture or shutter speed.


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Repair Issues, Common


Battery corrosion in these cameras can be tough, because the battery contacts are down in there. 

Sometimes the shutter button can stick.  And sometimes, either the shutter sticks or the AE is way off, and you get a blank picture here and there.  This seems to happen a lot more with these "auto" cameras than the mechanical ones.

The flash unit on my Hi-Matic AF2 doesn't work at all. 


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Hi-Matic AF2 vs. AF


The AF2 is from 1981;  the original version came out in 1979 and was the first widely-sold autofocus camera, I think from anyone.

The AF2 lacks the autofocus-hold switch that was on the front of the camera.  Now it's activated by a half-press of the shutter button.  It seems like more of an aesthetic move, although I guess some people may have forgotten to activate that extra switch.

Almost everything else is identical.  They moved the placement of the distance pictograms inside the viewfinder, and maybe a couple other slight changes.


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Similar Cameras


There's the original Hi-Matic AF, described above.

By 1981, most of the AF compact cameras had motorized film advance.  Konica AF-2, original Canon Sure Shot, Yashica Autofocus Motor-D, etc., etc.

The Chinon 35F-A and the Yashica Auto Focus S were quite similar to the Hi-Matic AF2.  They have the manual film winder and the same basic design.  I'll be reviewing these when I get the chance.


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Conclusion


There were a lot of Hi-Matic AF2's manufactured, and many still work.  They're not that expensive;  you should be able to pick up a working one and get out there and take some pictures with it.  Just a nice little camera, even if it's all-automatic.

This might not be my "one camera forever" choice, but it's worth having if the price is right.


         

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