Nikon L35AF #filmsesh

December 28, 2019
Nikon L35AF point & shoot film camera facing forward on table with potted plant

The most popular film cameras in the current digital age are those of the point and shoot variety due to the simplicity of design and the ease of use. There are a few notable and favorite models out there, but today we will be discussing the Nikon L35AF introduced by Nikon in 1983.

The Camera

Konica was the first company to mass-produce an autofocus camera in 1977. The introduction of the Konica C35 AF created the competition necessary to bring more autofocus cameras to market by demonstrating the value and potential that autofocus technology could bring to amateur and professional photographers alike.

Nikon was a bit slow to get into the autofocus game. In 1983, under increasing pressure to release autofocus cameras, Nikon released the LA35AF compact camera and the F3AF SLR. While the F3AF was a technological break-through, it was bulky and much less successful that the wildly popular LA35AF.

The Nikon L35AF was an instant hit and dubbed the “Pikaichi” which translates to “top notch” and top notch it is - 36 years later the camera works flawlessly.

The L35AF uses a fixed 35mm f/2.8 lens designed by Koichi Wakamiya that is an updated Sonnar inspired formula consisting of 5 elements in 4 groups with a 0.8m to infinity focus range. It’s sharp:

The ASA (ISO) dial which can be set from 50 to 1000 (a setting found on newer versions) and the auto-exposure light meter can be found on the front of the lens. On the side of the lens housing is a lever that can be depressed to compensate for backlighting. The lens housing also uses a 46mm filter thread and it appears that attaching accessories like hoods and filters won’t obstruct the autofocus system or light meter.

The autofocus system works through the two windows found above the lens housing and is controlled by the user through the viewfinder. A single focus point is used to lock focus on your subject and a complete scale.

The viewfinder also features frame lines for parallax compensation! Composing your shot in these frame lines means what you see is what you’ll get. Under the main frame line at the top, there is another used for close focusing applications.

The automatic exposure settings operate from f/2.8 at 1/8 sec. to f/17.5 at 1/430 sec. and the camera automatically uses a popup flash in conditions it deems too dark.

The Session

On the streets, this camera is great for scenic photos, but less than ideal for shooting moving subjects due to the nature of the autofocus system. Ilford HP5+ was used. Photographing the abstract angles of buildings is made easy thanks to the parallax compensations

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The L35AF does well in lowlight, but after sunset the camera is less than ideal and using the popup flash for scenic photos is limited by the range of the flash. Without a steady hand, you will notice blue at the 1/8 second speeds to which the camera defaults.

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The Thought

A camera that can be bought for $6 to $10 off the thrift store shelf is completely worth the investment and the experience. It works well but paying $50-$200+ online is not worth it since similar P&S cameras can be found for less – such as the Konica C35 AF. At that price, you’re paying for the hype of a camera that is limited to specific shooting conditions and likely has a dedicated cult following. However, the autofocus works as expected, the light meter is spot on, and the lens lives up to Nikon’s standards.

If you have this camera, we encourage you to take it out for a shoot and share your photos using #filmsesh wherever you post your content. Leave a comment below and subscribe to our newsletter for more.

Let’s keep film alive and well.

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