Half Frame + Full Fun: Canon Sure Shot Multi Tele / Prima Tele / Autoboy Tele 6

canonautoboy6

I’ve got so many names! But why don’t you call me Mr. Strange?

Introduction

The penalties for doing drugs in Japan are quite severe; nevertheless, the use of recreational marijuana seems to have worked well in Canon’s 1980s design room. Imagine and point-and-shoot camera that could be switched from half to full frame (with viewfinder masking) for two different focal lengths – and a third with a dedicated teleconverter that does not throw off autofocus. Oh wait, throw in an optional intervallometer, time-computer, frame number imprinter back. With Nikon pro-style spatter paint. But while you are doing all of this, build a metering system that only goes down to EV9 and heavily uses flash. There is a business case here, I swear to God!

Half frame! When this camera is in half frame mode, you get a 50mm f3.5 equivalent and a 90mm f/5.6 equivalent. That is very unusual in a space dominated by fast-aperture focus-by-guess cameras (like the Canon Demi), small and unreliable designs like the Konica AA35/Recorder, and bulky “subminiature” systems like the Pen. To say nothing of full-sized cameras that are masked down to shoot 18×24 (Hexar 72, Konica FT-1 Pro Half, Konica Autorex).

By the specs

(from the Canon Camera Museum, whose summary/overview page actually contains some inaccurate information):

Type Fully automatic 35mm Lens-Shutter autofocus camera with two focal lengths
Picture Size 24×36 mm, 17x24mm (not switchable in midroll)
AF System Triangulation system with near-infrared beam. Prefocus enabled.
Lens 35mm f/3.5 (3 elements in 3 groups) and 60mm f/5.6 (6 elements in 6 groups).

* With the optional Teleconverter, a maximum 75mm focal length (110mm for half frame) can be set.

Shutter Electromagnetic programmed shutter and aperture. For 35mm: EV 9.5 (f/3.5 at 1/60 sec.) – EV 15.5 (f/11 at 1/350 sec.) For 60mm: EV 11 (f/5.6 at 1/60 sec.) – EV 17 (f/19 at 1/350 sec.) Built-in electronic self-timer. Bulb provided (max. 4 sec.).
Viewfinder Variable-magnification, direct viewfinder with automatic switch of picture size. 0.42x – 0.63x magnification and 85% coverage. Within the image area are the AF frame, parallax correction marks, and OK-to-Shoot lamp.
EE CdS cell for full-auto program EE. Metering range of EV 9.5 – 17 (at ISO 100). Film speed range: ISO 25 – 3200 (with DX code).
Built-in Flash Guide No. 10.5 (at ISO 100 in meters). Fires automatically in low-light conditions.
Power Source One 6 V 2CR5 lithium battery
Film Loading &
Advance
After opening camera back, align film leader at mark, then close the camera back for auto loading. Automatic film advance with built-in motor. Film advance speed of 0.6 sec. per frame.
Frame Counter Seven-segment LCD on camera back. Counts up. Resets automatically when camera back is opened. Counts down during rewind.
Film Rewind Automatic rewind with built-in motor. Midroll rewind enabled.
Dimensions &
Weight
133 x 72 x 50 mm, 330 g (with battery)

Shooting it

Startup. Startup is instant, in part because nothing really happens until you take the picture. The flash powers up (somehow) almost instantly, and you are ready to go.

Grip. This is a fairly substantial point and shoot, so you will have no problem getting or keeping your grip.

Viewfinder. The viewfinder is reasonable for a camera of this type, and it has a single parallax line and square bracket reticles. It masks down automatically in 72-frame (X2) mode. The finder snaps from one focal length to the other. Little or no distortion is visible, which is nice. There is just a green light that comes on when focus is locked. It also comes on when the focus is not locked. Or when there is imminent underexposure. There is no orange or red light for failure modes, which puts the internal computer at a notch below the usual 4-bit processor in the Stylus Epic/mju-ii, Yashica T4, etc.

Half-press. Pressing the shutter lightly, you get a loud click. Not sure how that classifies as “prefocus,” since the lens is still firmly inside its hidey-hole when you press down. May just be that the AF measures the distance.

Shutter impulse. This camera has something of a lag because the act of shooting it retracts the lens cover, extends the lens, shoots, retracts the lens, and closes the door. This makes it almost impossible to throw a camera with an un-capped lens into your bag. All of this happens inside the teleconverter tube when the teleconverter is on.

Autoboy6-2.jpg

Flash. Get used to it. It is almost always on.

Bulb mode. This is for fireworks. That’s it.

Macro mode. If you get too close, the camera goes to 30mm, stops down, and fires the flash. It makes out-of-focus pictures fairly difficult to achieve. You can still do it. Maybe you’ve met my children.

The date back. The unicorn-like Multi Tele Date, instead of just having a frame counter on the back, has a multifunction back that is not unlike what you would have gotten on a pro SLR (not DSLR) back in the day.

autoboy6-3.jpg

  • Date/time/etc. imprint (good to 2027, which is way longer than any of these cameras are going to last).
  • Frame number imprint.
  • Calculation of time from a fixed point. This will compute the difference between today’s date and a date you input. As such, if your child is 4 years and 6 months old, it can print that in the frame.
  • Intervallometer. When you want to shoot that flower opening, the Canon has your back.

 

Canon AF Teleconverter. The AF Teleconverter automatically turns this into a(n even more) weird and wonderful camera. It screws into the tripod socket, flaps over the front, and snaps over the back. It activates a small rubberized switch that tells the camera to adjust focus. It can flip off almost immediately like an everready case. The 40.5mm filter thread opens things up to a lot of mischief, including special effects and contrast filters.

Having a 110mm-equivalent lens for half frame that actually focuses quickly and accurately makes this a pretty compelling portrait machine. It shoots at f/7, but that’s within easy flash range. Take that, Konica AA35/Recorder!

The teleconverter also has a quite undistorted view (see the architectural pictures below). It is very well engineered.

The pictures

Quite good. Here is a sampling taken with the teleconverter (which makes this a fantastic portrait machine), shot on TMY with an orange filter (hint: tape over the DX code on the film cartridge), and scanned on a Pakon F135 plus:

20170527_21234620170522_00042620170522_00054220170522_00071420170522_00071020170522_000720

Conclusion

This is an oft-overlooked gem in the half-frame world. It is low-maintenance, easy to use, and has a very broad ASA range to work with. It also has unique portrait capabilities in the half-frame space. But wow, 72 frames take a long, long time to shoot.

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