I've been in between a lately. In between schools, towns, in between two chapters of my life. Fittingly the Minolta Hi-Matic AF2 is a very "in-between" camera. Recently while browsing through a Facebook sales group within the pages upon pages of baby clothes and old china sets I spotted something interesting. The next day I was driving home with my new prize, an old Minolta camera. And after some cleaning and a fresh set of batteries I was rewarded with a wonderful functioning camera.
Design + Ergonomics
I'm not going to lie, the design of this camera is not exactly the most modern or vintage. In the hand, it feels very good, nowhere near as nice as a Leica, but it doesn't need to be. It is mostly made of plastic however it is very light and solid. Since there are not many controls there isn't much to complain about. The self-timer lever is placed in a pretty standard spot (on the front next to the lens) and the iso is changeable via a dial around the lens.
One of my few gripes is with the viewfinder, it's bright and large enough, but there is no parallax correction, and your settings are not displayed (which can be a bit offputting to those used to shooting manually). Over-all the design is understated and minimalist, and clean.
The way the metering system is designed actually presents another upside to the camera. The electronic "eye" that takes light measurements is right on the lens front, so whatever filter you put on it will meter with it accordingly.
In every camera review, there is always one topic discussed above all else, an "elephant in the room" so to speak, and it is image quality. This camera was considered a premium point-and-shoot in its heyday, and has the image quality to back it up too! The photographs have a very nostalgic and rich feel to them. In my opinion, the lens renders slightly warmer and more contrasty tones, and many of the pictures have a very "street" or reportage feel, most likely due to the camera's circuits mainly controlling exposure my closing down the aperture. But here are some of the images I've taken to judge for yourself how well it performs.
All these images were taken with Kodak Color Plus ASA200
Specs + Features
This little plastic beauty features a f/2.8 38mm lens with a 46mm filter thread, it's sharp and not too wide or tight. It also runs off of the very convenient AA batteries, two of them to be specific. The AF utilizes an infrared system, it bounces and infrared beam and uses that to detect the distance from the subject. The only real disappointment with this camera is that there is no hot or cold shoe to be found, it's even barren of a pc sync port! Although you can use the on-camera pop-up flash to trigger off camera flashes in slave mode, using anything but the built-in flash will be inconvenient.
Overall for the price of between $70-120 I'd say there is fairly good value. As far as point and shoot film cameras go, the Minolta goes above and beyond in terms of usability, its autofocus, and auto exposure system is unrivaled at its price point. Is it the best point and shoot film camera? No. There are many better contenders from the era and class such as the Nikon 30LF, and high-end cameras such as the Yashica T4, Contax G2, and T2, far outpace this camera.
After using this camera for a few months, I can definitely say that this is a well made and fun offering for those who want to shoot film without lugging around a huge camera or dealing with manual controls. However, for the veteran film camera user, the lack of any manual controls, including exposure compensation, may leave them wanting more. For me, the lack of control almost feels like a trade-off for the compact nature and price point of this camera. Personally, I have always been a control freak with my cameras, even when my daily driver was the amazing Canon A-1, I would always be thankful that even in full program mode, the settings were constantly displayed in the viewfinder, so I could double check the settings that the camera had picked. Unfortunately none of this convenience that gave me peace of mind when using the A-1 exists on the Minolta, so, for now, I will stick to my beloved Canonet QL 17 for a compact film option.