Canon A35 Datelux (1977) features pop-up-flash and date stamping

Canon A35 Datelux rangefinder film camera

Canon A35 Datelux (1977)

I liked the look of this camera the moment I first saw it in a second-hand goods store. It looks cool in black. The construction of the Canon A35 Datelux is mostly of metal with just a few plastic parts. It weighs 540g so has a reassuring bit of heft to it. The plastic extension to the film wind-on lever was broken off but otherwise, the camera was complete and in good condition. The rangefinder image is very bright making quick and accurate focusing very easy. The frame lines in the viewfinder together with the split-image are yellow making them easy to see. I paid just $10.00 for it.

The Canon A35 Datelux is the same as the A35F, which came out in 1977, but with the added date stamp feature. Personally, I don’t like photographs with ugly date stamps on them so would not use this feature at all. With today’s modern digital cameras the date, along with a great deal of other extra information, is included in the EXIF data, but back in 1977 date stamping was a useful addition for many photographers.

Canon A35 Datelux back of camera opened.
Rear view with a film partially loaded. My thumb is covering the area where the AA battery for the flash is housed.

The date stamp feature is still functioning as it should. The date stamp can be turned on and off with a sliding switch on the front of the camera body. The year, month and day are changed by turning three small wheels on the side of the lens. There is a date unlocking button on the bottom of the lens which must be pressed when making date adjustments. This is to prevent the date wheels from being turned accidentally while handling the camera. With the date switch set to on, and the shutter cocked, you can see the chosen date setting light-up at the bottom of the viewfinder by partially depressing the shutter button. The date range for years is: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 78,79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, or you can leave the year blank. If you open the camera back you can see the little window on the top left of the film plane for the date. The date is printed in the bottom right corner of the negative.

The old Canon A35 Datelux was originally powered by two 1.35v PX-625 mercury button cells that are no longer available; the use of mercury in batteries having been banned in most countries years ago. The modern equivalent for this camera is the LR9, an alkaline cell, which has a slightly higher 1.5v output. This can result in underexposure by as much as two f-stops. You could compensate for this voltage drop by adjusting the camera’s ASA setting downwards. For example, if using ASA400 film you could set the camera to ASA200 or even ASA100. Keep in mind though that the voltage of alkaline batteries drops as the battery runs down. In reality, there is a stop or two of leeway during the C41 development process of a negative film. In other words, just use the LR9 button cells without compensation and you should be fine.

This is a program auto exposure camera only. There are no manual controls at all; no aperture ring, or means of setting the shutter speed. You can see the aperture the camera has selected in the viewfinder; but there is no indication of the shutter speed selected other than it must be within the range of 1/60 to 1/320. This limited shutter speed range is sufficient for most users shooting outside in daylight. When light falling on the CdS cell, on the front of the lens, is outside the range of the camera’s automatic exposure system the shutter locks to prevent you from wasting film on shots that are incorrectly exposed (too light, or too dark).

The black Canon A35 Datelux camera.
The lens is on the Canon A35 Datelux is excellent, the range-finder is very bright and easy to use, and the automatic exposure system works surprisingly well, as does the built-in flash which automatically adjusts the aperture depending on the subject distance.

For shooting indoors, outside in poor light, or at night, the only way to take a photograph is by using the in-built pop-up flash. Thankfully the flash never pops up on its own. It is turned on when needed by sliding a switch on the back of the camera. There is a separate battery compartment housing a single AA battery used only for the flash. The Canon A35 Datelux was Canon’s first camera with a built-in flash. In Japan, it was known as the “Nighter” due to its popularity among spectators at night-time baseball games. The built-in flash was called the CAT system by Canon (Canon Auto Tuning).

The Canon A35 Datelux has no on/off switch for the built-in light meter. Unless you keep the light cell on the front of the lens covered the meter will be switched on running down the batteries. Keep it covered with a lens cap unless taking a photograph. If you don’t intend using the camera for a while it is always better to remove the batteries to prevent the possibility of their leaking and causing corrosion to the insides of the camera.

An orange light on the rear of the camera illuminates when there is sufficient charge to fire the inbuilt flash. The flash system runs off the AA battery independently of the small two small batteries used to power the light meter for normal daylight use. The “flash-meter” adjusts power output automatically to compensate for the distance to the subject as set by the focusing ring. The aperture needle moves up and down in the viewfinder as you turn the focusing ring with the flash switched on. This is a very cool feature. The shutter speed with flash is 1/60 of a second.

Canon A35 Datelux with the flash in the raised position.
Canon A35 Datelux with the flash in the raised position.

Overall this is a well-built camera from a leading Japanese manufacturer. The lens is excellent, the range-finder is very bright and easy to use, and the automatic exposure system works surprisingly well, as does the built-in flash which automatically adjusts the aperture depending on the subject distance. Its big advantage is its fail-safe point and shoot automatic operation. All you have to do is focus and press the shutter. If there isn’t enough light to take a correctly exposed photograph the shutter locks giving the user the option of switching on the flash.

The Canon A35 Datelux is quite modern in appearance.
The Canon A35 Datelux is quite modern in appearance.

On the downside, there are no manual controls for creative flash-free photography in poor light or at night. There are no means of setting the shutter speed or aperture at all. Without batteries, the camera is completely useless. Within these obvious limitations, it is none-the-less an excellent rangefinder camera that takes great photographs while at the same time being very easy to use.

The overall feel of the Canon A35 Datelux is very similar to the Canon Canonet QL17 GIII and QL19 models. It is the same size, with the same excellent rangefinder, but lacks the faster lens and manual modes.

Specifications:

Lens: Canon 40mm, f 1:2.8, 5 elements in 4 groups. Filter thread: 48mm.

Aperture: f2.8 to f20.

Focusing: Double image coupled rangefinder. Minimum focusing distance 0.8m.

Viewfinder: Bright frame, with parallax correction marks, over and under exposure warning marks, and battery check zone.

Shutter: Programmed Automatic Exposure

Batteries: two Varta V625U batteries; which are the same same as LR9s. The original battery was a PX-625 1.35v mercury cell. Battery for the flash: One AA.

Film Seed: ASA range: 25, 50, 100, 400.

Sample Photographs

These 14 photographs have been taken with the Canon A35 Datelux on Fuji ASA 400 negative film.

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