inexpensive but decent P&S film cameras?

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by tomspielman, Sep 15, 2020.

  1. The 35/2.8 lens on my Chinon Bellami was very sharp, I suspect yours has the same lens in AF form.
  2. m42dave

    m42dave Dave E.

    I actually kind of like that angular, 80's plastic look. :)

    Agree with Steve that Chinon cameras and lenses are highly underrated. The 35/2.8 lens should perform well, and the close focusing feature is a plus.

    In the CMC forum, Richard A. has posted some pictures taken with a Nikon One Touch, which also has a sharp 35/2.8 lens.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2020
  3. I guess inexpensive is relative. I bought a Canonet QL 1.7 GIII a few years ago for all of $10 and not long after that someone gave me an Olympus 35 RC for free. Now you're going to spend close to around $100 US or more for working examples unless there's some significant issue with them.

    If she were specifically interested in a smallish (if not compact) and very classic looking camera and didn't mind rangefinder focusing I think they'd be good choices. But neither are light or pocketable.

    Personally I have a soft spot for range finders but they take some getting used to and there are people who never really become fond of that method of focusing.
  4. That Bellami is a cool little camera.
  5. If you're talking about point and shoots you have to include the Nikon L35AF. It has a pretty legendary 35mm f/2.8 lens that has brilliant color rendition and contrast. It looks like a pretty nondescript 80s boxy plastic camera, but underneath it has a metal frame and is very nice to use. It also takes filters and the light meter is within the lens, so it'll meter through whichever filter you attach. And it has an exposure compensation lever to allow you to shoot backlit subjects! It's an amazing camera, but it's catching on and prices are frequently in the $100-$150 range, sometimes much higher. It's definitely one worth considering though. I like it better than the Stylus Epic.

  6. Here's another sleeper p&s camera that I think is pretty amazing...the Pentax IQZoom60-R. It's relatively compact and definitely lightweight, and it has features I've not seen on a point and shoot camera before. It has low-light synchro (night mode on other brands), infinity/landscape mode, backlight compensation, red-eye reduction, the usual stuff. BUT it also has bulb mode, bulb synchro (with flash), dual frame self-timer which allows you to take 2 consecutive shots but at different focal lengths, multiple exposure mode (2 frames), and interval shooting at either intervals of 3 minutes or 60 minutes. With it being a Pentax you can count on the lens being a sharp one and it is. These are going on eBay right now from $25-ish to Around $55. I got mine some years ago at Goodwill for just under $5. How cool is this camera! 004a.jpg
  7. If it were for me I might go for the Nikon but I'm afraid the aesthetics are going to put Ella off. Could be wrong. If it's like a lot of other 80's auto cameras, it's probably also on the noisy side.

    I've seen the Pentax zooms around for not too much $$$ and if the current contenders don't pan out, I might try one. Bulb mode would be a big plus if the camera, again, if the camera were for me.

    So that brings me to what the current contenders are:


    1. Chinon Auto 3001
    2. Olympus SuperZoom 3000 (donated by forum member - Thanks !)
    3. Canon Sureshot 115u
    They represent different eras in modern point and shoots, 80's, 90's, and early 2000's. That wasn't intentional, just worked out that way. They also represent different price points to a certain extent. The Chinon was an expensive camera for its day. The Olympus "Superzoom" falls somewhere under the Mju/Epic in the the Olympus line and I don't honestly know where in the Sureshot line the 115u fits. It was was one their last P&S film cameras.

    The Olympus and the Canon have very similar zoom ranges: 38-110 and 38-115. The lens on the Oly is a bit faster - f:3.8 at 38 mm compared to f:4.6 on the Canon.

    The Chinon has an f:2.8 35mm lens.

    So far in my very unscientific testing I've only run film through the Chinon. I have some 12 exposure Fujicolor 100 film that's good for this because it's only 12 exposures. On the other hand it's getting pretty old (expired in 2010) and you can tell the difference between it and fresh film.

    Anyway, here's some shots from the Chinon:

    Damn powerline. :)

    Chinon AF caught the moving dog that wouldn't sit still for the camera.



    The last was with flash obviously. It wasn't nearly as dark out as it looks but the sun was going down.

    Auto-Focus is pretty good. The pictures might be somewhat underexposed sometimes though it doesn't show up in these examples so much. Expired Fuji 100 and lowish light are a challenge for this camera. For something that was considered high end it has a pretty limited shutter. 1/45 at the low end and 1/400 at the high end.

    I guess on the plus side if you're holding the camera at all still you're not going to get blurry images. But if you want night shots without flash that's not going to work.

    My guess is that Ella will go for the Canon unless it's IQ is significantly worse than the other two. But I want to run film through all of them to be sure they work and I'll do my best to explain the technical merits of each camera and let her decide.

    The two newer cameras do provide some extra features that the Chinon does not aside from just zoom. I kind of wish I had the time to run some decent film through the Chinon though. So far I'm not sold on it but fresh 200 or 400 film might make it shine.

    I'll post shots from the other cameras later this week.
  8. One note: The fact that I'm using expired film does highlight a problem with automatic cameras like this. Normally with 10 year old 100 ISO color film, I'd set the ISO to 50 on the camera. These cameras use the DX coding on the film. I could have attempted to change the DX coding on the film canisters but I didn't think of that and it's already loaded (or shot).

    The Canon does have limited exposure compensation: +/- 1.5 It's not an easy option to find but it's there. Do I use it or does that give the Canon an unfair advantage given that Ella would probably be using fresh film all the time (hopefully)?
  9. I have the Pentax IQ Zoom and have to say it’s quite good, very sharp lens. It doesn’t replace anything but sometimes it’s the right camera at the moment so I keep one in a film bag all the time.

    Rick H.
  10. Hmmm. Another IQ Zoom fan. Maybe I was too quick to pass that one up I saw on craigslist. The specs didn't seem much different from similar P&S zooms from other big manufacturers.

    At this point I don't think I'm going to buy/obtain any more but if I have a future need I'll keep it in mind.

    Maybe I'll start a camera blog and rave about the image quality of these underrated zooms in order to drive the price up. :)
    andycollins4716 likes this.
  11. I've never used that particular Chinon, but those pictures look very nice! That camera is starting to creep up in price for sure but I may have to try one. I've used the SuperZoom 3000 and really liked it and now have the SuperZoom 3500 with its 35-120mm lens (yes, 35mm and not 38mm!) and 4 frames/sec burst capability. It's a great camera to use with a lot of great features and a sharp lens. I briefly had the Canon Sure Shot 115u you have pictured but swapped it for the Sure Shot Z180u which was the top of that line; similar size, maybe slightly smaller but thicker to house the 38-180mm lens. Of course a zoom that long is pretty slow and does best in bright light but it performs nicely and actually focus tracks surprisingly well. Of the three you have pictured though, I'd have to go with the Chinon if the camera were for me. For someone else who might appreciate the ability to zoom, I'd pick the Olympus because of its nice lens, but also because it's weather resistant.
  12. Good to hear you liked the Super Zoom. I tried an Epic Zoom and it had some light leaks which has made me nervous about weather resistant zooms in general.

    The Olympus feels nice in the hand and I like the big on/off lever that covers the flash. It also has the flash on the same side as the shutter button and a nice grip so there's almost no way a stray finger will end up covering the flash.

    The Canon being almost a decade newer is a little more streamlined and has some extra features.

    We'll see what kind of photos I get out of them.

    I make a conscious effort to try and keep my camera inventory low, so eventually these will all end up with someone else. But it's fun to play with them for a bit. I think what I'll learn in the end is that while camera enthusiasts can spend a lot of time, energy, and money on cameras and lenses, sometimes it really isn't so much about the equipment. Maybe these cheap zooms aren't so much worse than than their much more expensive fixed focal length brethren. I hope to find out.
    andycollins4716 likes this.
  13. Preliminary Results

    The negatives are drying as I speak but I've already come to an important conclusion:
    I Suck At Camera Shootouts

    The right way to do this would be to take pictures of the exact same things under the exact same lighting conditions with all 3 cameras. However, I got one camera first and was excited to see what it could do so I shot, processed, and scanned a roll before the other two cameras even came.

    Another important thing would be to use the same film in each camera. At least I had 3 rolls of my favorite camera testing film, - some 12 exposure, expired Fuji 100. The two things that make it good for testing is that it's only 12 exposures, so I can get through a roll quick, and it's expired so I don't care about wasting it on shots I won't keep.

    The problem is that I discovered that I actually only had two rolls of that film.

    So what do I use in the 3rd camera? I don't want to waste 36 frames of fresh film so I reluctantly loaded the Olympus with some Fuji 800 of questionable provenance that I had scavenged from a disposable camera a couple of years ago. That disposable camera had been included with a box full of expired film I had bought from somebody on craigslist. Probably expired too but no idea how long ago.

    This was a set back for sure but I told myself that the real goal was to determine whether the cameras worked or not. I figured that unless there was a significant difference in image quality, it would be features and the way the cameras worked/looked that would be important to Ella.

    After this I showed some semblance of testing discipline by taking both cameras out with me and getting similar shots with each. I also tested the flash, self timer, zooming, etc. I finished up the shooting this morning and took the rolls out.

    At this point I realized that I'm an even Bigger Loser.

    These cameras are all automatic including the fact that they set the film speed based on DX coding. Turns out that the film from the disposable camera was not DX-coded because, why would it be?

    According to the user manual, what the Olympus will do in this case is assume that it's 100 ISO film. Hey, that's only 3 stops off... right? How bad could it be? Well the negatives are a little dark as you might expect. Does that mean the AE on the camera is working correctly? I can't really be sure. We'll see what I get when I scan the photos. Is it wrong to hope they turn out bad?

    The bigger question is whether I need to run another roll through the camera.

    One Bright Spot is no bright spots.

    After my experience with the Olympus Epic Infinity Zoom 80 (OEIZ-80), I now have a phobia about zooms on old weather resistant cameras. I can almost hear the old rubber seals creaking as they weakly attempt to keep out the light while the lens barrels turn.

    But there appear to be no circular signs of light leaks on the negatives. We'll see what I get tomorrow.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
    andycollins4716 likes this.
  14. More Conclusions

    Due to my F*Up, I may not be able to make any concrete statements about image quality between the 3 cameras. I might be able to draw some conclusions between the Canon vs the Chinon, - maybe. I have some scans batched up so it might take until tomorrow for me to post results. In the meantime I can pass on my thoughts on appearance, usability, and features for anyone that cares. If anyone cares. ;)

    Appearance and Form Factor


    All 3 cameras are a product of their eras. Which is the most attractive is really a personal preference. But there are some things that can be said.

    The Chinon and Olympus are plastic and proud. They make no bones about the humble origins of their exteriors. The Canon, on the other hand, tries to pretend it's made of metal. No one is fooled.

    The Chinon and Canon are quite brick like. There's some indentations for thumb placement and ridges to help hold on to them. The Canon is the smallest of the 3 but it's not as svelte as it appears in some of its advertising. It's kind of like a fat Elph.

    If you were to close the clamshell and put a piece of tape over the flash, the Chinon could do a convincing impersonation of a Walkman. The Olympus looks the most like a camera. There's a substantial grip and the lens protrudes even when the camera is off.

    The Olympus and Chinon barely qualify as compacts in my mind. The test is how well they would fit in a pants pocket. They fit but I don't enjoy having them there. The Canon is better but still forms more of a lump than I'd like.

    Features and Controls

    The Chinon's main feature is a lack of features. It has the fastest lens but it's a fixed focal length. It was an expensive camera at the time. It takes the position that you paid good money for it to decide the exposure level and to focus on stuff and by golly that's what it's going to do. You don't tell it when it's time to be in Macro mode. IT tells you that it's in Macro mode.

    It does throw the user a bone and let you force the flash on or off. It also allows you to choose to spot focus. That's it.

    It's control freakishness does not end there. It can't be bothered with long exposures. If a picture can't be taken in a fraction of a second then it's not worth the time as far as it's concerned. Need to keep that shutter open longer than 1/47th of a second? Not going to do it. There will be no mounting it on a tripod in the dark trying to get a picture of a half frozen river. It's not interested. Find a camera dumb enough to sit out in the cold and dark. It's above that.

    The Olympus gives you more options. It has a spot mode, a night mode, a macro mode, a landscape mode, an auto-zoom portrait mode, and of course a zoom. The controls aren't great with one exception. The on/off lever is awesome. But it takes two fingers to operate the zoom and you have to hunt for the buttons.

    Switching flash and picture modes is weird. They are each done with the same rotating mode switch but that switch operates more like a rocker. And it's not activated until you press and hold a separate menu button. Press and hold the menu button, then flip the mode switch to advance to the next flash mode. To change the picture mode, press and hold the menu button again and then use the mode switch to flip through the photo modes.

    Maybe they did it that way to prevent accidental changes, because it's hard to do even on purpose.

    It has one nice feature that neither of the other cameras have and that's a diopter setting for the view finder.

    The Canon is the newest and has the most features. It has virtually the same features as the Olympus plus continuous shooting and "Real Time" shooting, whatever that is. It also has a few of what it calls custom functions that let you turn off the automatic rewind at the end of a roll of film for example as well as some other stuff.

    There is only one rocker like zoom button but you have to move your finger to change from zooming in to zooming out. The mode selection is more sane than it is on the Olympus.

    All of these camera have a small LCD and with the extra features of the two newer cameras, it can get hard to read. None of them illuminate at night.


    I'm talking about the sounds the cameras make.

    The Chinon doesn't have a zoom and it's pretty quiet for a camera from the 80's. Something unique to it among the 3 is that it won't advance the film until you release the shutter button. So you can stealthily take a picture and then scurry off to somewhere where the film advance won't be heard.

    The Olympus isn't really any louder than the Chinon. That's not to say it's super quiet. And it makes noises more often, - like when zooming. Worst of all is when the camera is almost done with rewinding a roll of film. Then it makes sounds not unlike a dental implement.

    There is one very pleasant noise that Olympus makes and that's the click-clack sound of the lens cover as it's opening and closing. This happens when you turn the camera on or off. In fact, I've spent a few minutes doing just that, turning the camera on and off, - just to hear it. It's not unlike the sound of legos assembling themselves into some sort of structure after you've done something right in a lego video game.

    The Canon makes the most boring noises but it's the quietest of the 3. While not silent, the sounds aren't too obtrusive.
    luis triguez and andycollins4716 like this.
  15. Qualified Conclusions on Image Quality

    As I mentioned before I put non-DX coded film into the Olympus which caused the film to be theoretically overexposed by 3 stops. In spite of this gaffe, the images were good enough to make some qualified conclusions about image quality between the 3 cameras.

    Maybe "Conclusions" is too strong. We'll call them impressions.

    Impression #1 - The overall image quality on the Chinon is the best of the 3.

    There are a couple of similar photos I took with all 3 cameras:




    Hah! I just noticed that in the 3 days between the time I took the picture with the Chinon and the other two cameras, stripes had been painted! So they're not the exact same shot under the same conditions. But to me the Chinon seems to show more detail. Again, I'll call it an impression rather than a conclusion. The Canon may be better than the Olympus but that might be due to an exposure problem caused by my film blunder

    Impression #2 - The AF and AE work best on the Chinon[​IMG]



    Again, not taken on the same day or in the exact same spot. Rocks appeared. But the Chinon has everything in focus while nothing is quite in focus on the other two. If I had put them in landscape or infinity mode, the results might have been better. They didn't know what to focus on. But the Chinon figured it out, - or got lucky.

    In fact the Chinon got it right every time, - as long as I stayed within the limits of its available shutter speeds. And those shutters speeds are limited to nothing slower than what's suitable for handheld shots. And that may be fine for this type of camera.

    Between the other two the Canon might be better than the Olympus in those photo, - but that film gaffe...

    Impression #3 - The SureShot isn't always so sure

    The rest of pictures are just comparing the Canon and the Olympus.



    The Olympus did a nice job with this zoomed in pic. The Canon broke my heart. I like sailboats and waste a lot of film taking pictures of them. I figured Ella would prefer the Canon and the fact that it muffed this shot gives me pause. Now, most of the other pics I took with it were just fine. I'm not sure if my boat were moving and that through it off, or I'd inadvertently put it in the wrong mode or what. Maybe it was just a fluke error in its programming. But neither exposure or focus are good.

    Impression #4 - The Super Zoom isn't always so super.





    In the previous pair of photos, it was the Canon that lost its mind. This time it was the Olympus. There were 27 exposures on the roll of film I had in the Olympus. A couple pictures weren't great. This one was way off.

    Final Thoughts

    In many of the comparison shots I showed pictures where either the Canon or the Olympus fell short. Most of the time they took good pictures. Here's a couple of nice ones from the Canon:

    The were other good pictures from the Olympus too but it was hampered by the film so I won't post anymore.

    We'll see which camera Ella decides to go with.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2020
  16. Thanks for the road tests of the three cameras. I've had pretty good results with both my Canon Z180u and Olympus SuperZoom 3500, but the results from your Chinon are consistently very good! I may have to look into acquiring one soon.
  17. It was fun to do. None of the three are a good fit what I'd personally want. If I had to choose one it might be the Olympus because the versatility of a zoom, the ability to do longer exposures, and its lens seemed a bit better than what's on the Canon.

    I have to say though that in my limited testing the Chinon excelled at what it was designed for.

  18. Make fun if you like, but that fruit bowl pic was awesome. :D

    It's interesting. After over 15 years away from film, I got into again maybe 4 years ago but mostly using cameras with manual controls. If a picture didn't turn out, I could always trace it back to something I did wrong. That's what was a a little frustrating with the all automatic P&S cameras. If a photo didn't turn out, how come? It's still possible it was user error, but less obvious.

    The equivalent of those old P&S cameras in the digital world is a phone for most people. If a picture doesn't turn out, you know right away and you can just take another.

    Perhaps part of the attraction for using disposable cameras and the like for these younger folks is because it's a little like gambling. You take your photos into get processed and you're not sure how often you're going to get a winner.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2020
  19. Although I still use film but I must agree with you 100%. The people who switched from P&S 35mm to P&S digital were the happiest people. They got much better results than what they got from the P&S 35mm. Today the cell phone basically replace the P&S digital so the cell phone is best for those who want P&S (that is point and shoot without making any adjustments). I also found that using the LCD screen at a distance from their face helps them compose the pictures much better than the eye level viewfinder. I found that many of those people would have the subject too small in the frame when they use the viewfinder. I am not sure why but perhaps because they see the subject big and clear with the optical viewfinder so they don't get close and fill the frame.

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