Minolta Weathermatic 35 Dual

Back in 1979, Canon came out with its AF35M auto-focus point & shoot, known also as the "Autoboy".  In the early 1980's, the other camera manufacturers were also looking to make an auto-focus, "does it all" compact camera that the average shooter could use.  In other words:  a "point and shoot" that didn't require years of photography experience.  In '83, Nikon came out with with L35AF, and Canon had the Autoboy 2.

Then someone said, "What if we could make one of these cameras and make it water-resistant?" 

In 1986, Olympus produced the AF-1, which Americans knew as the Infinity 1.  I believe this was the first weatherproof AF point and shoot. 

Shortly afterward, in 1987, Minolta came out with the Weathermatic 35DL.  (That's the year we were hearing this and this on the radio.)

It was a natural progression.  Once they had physically small lenses that could be auto-focused, it followed that they could put them behind an outer barrier to make them water-resistant.  By modern standards, the result is kind of blocky and bulky looking.  Back in the day, it was totally awesome. 

Actually they're still pretty awesome, because (A.) they're still weatherproof, and (B.) you get the great dynamic range and tonality of film

The Weathermatic 35 Dual has two lenses, a 35mm f/3.5 and a 50mm f/5.6.  You can switch between them by pressing the "Lens Select" button on top of the camera.   As soon as you switch the lens, the viewfinder also switches to show you the correct view. 

You don't have to pre-press the shutter button.  When everything is working correctly, an infra-red beam from the LED will cause either lens to focus automatically before you take the picture.  I found, with my test camera, that pressing the shutter button lightly didn't activate AF;  it just took the picture.  Maybe there was something wrong with it, but I let the IR beam take care of focusing instead.  

Some specifications:

Lenses:  35mm f/3.5 and 50mm f/5.6
Minimum focal distance:  2.5 feet
Autofocus:  infra-red (constant)
Metering:  Subject-weighted
Exposure Control:   Programmed AE
Film speeds supported:  ISO 100 to 1000 (DX neg. film), ISO 100 to 400 (DX slide film);  non-DX film sets to ISO 100 only.
Flash cycle time (alkalines):  1.8 seconds
Batteries:  4 AAA alkalines
Weight (no batteries):  400 grams (a little less than 1 lb.)

Note that the camera effectively has only two film speeds, 100 and 400.  If you put DX-coded film of less than 400 in the camera, it will rate it at 100.  If you put DX-coded film of 400 or higher in the camera, it will rate it as 400.  You're therefore better off using only 100 and 400 film in this camera.

The active autofocus can work in very low light (or no light at all), and this is nice.  Some situations can make focusing difficult, though.  Surfaces that scatter the infra-red beam can lead to blurry pictures.  The same thing can happen with faraway subjects where there is nothing definite on which the camera can lock. 

Just like many other AF cameras of the 1980's and later, the Weathermatic 35DL has "focus lock".  That means if you lightly press the shutter button, it will autofocus on the subject.  If you keep holding the button down lightly, you can recompose and take the shot.  On my test unit, this doesn't work very well, because it doesn't take much to trip the shutter.  Actually, it seems the AF on my test camera doesn't work at all on the 50mm setting.  It may be sticking or something, but it works fine on the 35mm lens.  I have to run another roll through it to make sure.  This is something to consider when looking for one of these cameras. 

Minolta Weathermatic 35 Dual
35mm lens
Fuji Superia 400

Like many other cameras of this basic kind, weatherproof or not, you have to use up the whole roll of film before it can rewind. 

As long as you know the limitations of the auto-focus, the Weathermatic 35 is good enough to use as a land camera.   Having the ability to switch between 35 and 50mm lenses is really nice.  These are both very good all-around focal lengths for scenery. 

One more caveat when buying a weatherproof 35mm camera is to make sure the film advance is working.  It's not the Minolta specifically, just older cameras in general.  Remember that many of these cameras have been sitting unused for a decade or more, back when "everybody" thought film was done for.  

Overall, this is a really enjoyable camera. It's quite satisfying to be able to bring it along on days when the weather is sketchy.  As long as the seals are good, it's also waterproof down to 5 meters.  That reminds me... make sure the camera is fully closed before getting it anywhere near water.  It's only the seal that protects it. 

You can usually pick up a Minolta Weathermatic 35DL on Ebay.  Here's a direct link.  Or, you can purchase one through Amazon.  It really helps me out if you use these links to buy your camera.   (By the way, make sure you know that the Weathermatic Vectis Zoom is not the same as the Weathermatic 35DL.  The Vectis takes APS film).   You can buy 35mm film through the links at the bottom of this page.

Just remember, when you buy a used camera that hasn't been made since the 80's... make sure you ask the seller in advance if everything works.

I hope you enjoyed this page.  Thanks for reading!


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