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Canon AF35ML
Super Sure Shot (July 1981)
© 2009 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

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Canon Super Sure Shot AF35ML

Canon Super Sure Shot AF35ML (40mm f/1.9 lens, 48mm filter, 16.2oz/460g with film and batteries). bigger. Found at better garage sales, and sometimes eBay and the used sections of Adorama and B&H. It helps me keep adding to this site when you use these links to get your goodies if your local garage sale circuit is slow. Thanks! Ken.


August 2009      More Canon Reviews 


Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations


Ritz Camera

I personally buy from Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H, Calumet and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.


"Each Feature Fully Automatic — Every Picture Your Own Masterpiece."

"No confusing little red lights blinking at you."

"...leaves you free to concentrate on your subject and composition."

These are Canon's promises from their sales literature, and they meet them. I've already published a much higher percentage of shots from the first to rolls I ran through this Canon AF35ML Super Sure Shot than I ever do from any digital camera.

This was Canon's second Sure Shot camera, which is an all-in-one fully automatic RealRaw 35mm camera. It automatically loads and advances film, focuses, sets exposure, sets flash exposure, shoots and has power rewind. All you do is point it in the right direction to get perfect photographs.

The AF system uses a linear CCD array for passive triangulation just like the Contax G2, which is quite different from the active IR system used in newer point-and-shoots.

Canon AF35ML Super Sure Shot Logo

The Super Sure SHot stands out because it has a fast five-element 40mm f/1.9 lens, probably the fastest lens ever put on any fully automatic fixed-lens point-and-shoot camera. This leaves Leica and Nikon in the dust.

There are three LEDs in the finder, each showing an icon for distant, group shots or close-up focus distances. If the appropriate LED lights up, you're assured of perfect focus. If no LED or the wrong LED lights, you don't have focus and need to try again. The AF system is balky; it only gets AF half the time, and the other half of the time you have to try again. Unlike newer cameras, the AF35ML prefers sharp, contrasty subjects in bright light.

The viewfinder is ho-hum, with marginally visible yellow frame and AF lines. There is no auto parallax correction; you need to look at the second frame line when closer.

There is an obnoxious beeper to warn of low shutter speeds, which can't be turned off. This eliminates the use of the Super Sure Shot for most low-light stealth applications, although at ASA 400 you're OK in normal indoor lighting. The same beeper beeps for the self-timer operation and lets you know you've hit the end of the roll.

The film wind is moderately noisy. It's probably better than average for 1981, but still relatively gritty and uneven sounding compared to a modern Nikon F6.

it runs at one frame per second, and with its integral waffle-pattern action grip, always ready for anything.

Unlike some kludgier cameras of the time, the Canon Super Sure Shot has a short-throw electronic shutter release, not the goofier long-throw mechanical releases of lesser automatic cameras.

The Super Sure Shot features full program automation.

Unlike newer Canon, Nikon, Leica and Contax point-and-shoots, this Canon AF35ML Super Sure SHot has a filter thread for serious photography. It also has no start-up or put-away delay: the lens is always erect and ready for action.

The AF35ML was made for a few years, my date code reads W618 which probably means it was made in 1982.

The Canon AF35ML QD added quartz date imprinting in September 1983.

Ryan in bed

Ryan in bed, 22 August 2009. bigger. The Super Sure Shot AF35ML is always ready for action with no start-up delay.


Specifications with commentary         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations


40mm f/1.9.

5 elements in 5 groups.



Filter Thread

48mm, plastic.


Close Focus

3 feet (0.9m)



0.5x Albada (silvered single-window).

85% coverage.


Exposure and Metering

Averaging meter. The meter window is below the lens and read through the filter.

Program exposure from EV 4 to EV 17 (f/1.9 at 1/4 to f/18 at 1/400).

ASA range: 25 ~ 400. Later models went from ASA 50 ~ 1,000.

There are only two blades, which serve as both shutter and diaphragm.

Film advances at about 1 frame per second.



Flash, Super Sure Shot

The flash pops-up on your command.


Exposure range at ASA 100: 3 ~ 19 feet (0.9 ~ 5.7m).

Guide number rated 36 feet (11 meters) at ASA 100.

Guide number rated 18 feet (5.5 meters) at ASA 25.


Batteries and Power

Two alkaline AA.

Avoid "heavy duty" batteries, which won't last very long.

Canon says DO NOT use Ni-Cd or Ni-MH batteries.

Rated: 30 rolls of 36 exposure without flash, 5 rolls with flash for every shot.

Power drain (measured):

None if shutter not pressed, 100mA with half-pressed shutter.



Rated 4-3/16 x 2-7/8 x 2-3/16 inches WHD.

Rated 121.5 x 72.6 x 55.3 millimeters WHD.


Weights (measured)

16.240 oz (460.4g) with film and 2-AA alkaline batteries.

15.460 oz (438.3g) with batteries but no film.

13.725 oz. (389.1g) empty.

The strap weighs an additional 0.680oz. (19.3g).

NiMH cells weigh the same as alkalines. Throw-away lithiums weigh less.

Rated at 15.5oz (440g) without batteries or film.


Japan List Price (1981)

47,800 yen, 2,000 yen for the dedicated case.


Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations


There is no AF tracking for moving subjects. The AF35ML focuses and locks.

AF only hits (lights an LED) half the time. The other half of the time, it doesn't see anything.

Even when it's happy, many of my shots weren't focused on my subject. They often were focused slightly behind my subject when I shot in lower light at larger apertures. This suggests my sample is misadjusted. If I really was going to shoot this camera seriously, I'd learn to step back a little after focusing for the best focus in low light or at close distances. Far distances or shooting in bright light is fine.



Since the lens doesn't retract, you never have to wait for it to erect to get ready to shoot. Likewise, you never have to worry about erectile dysfunction in later years, which is the leading cause of death in other point-and-shoots.

The power switch is poor: it's easy to knock it while carrying the Super Sure Shot around your neck. It's OK to leave it on all the time since there is no battery drain until you tap the shutter, but it's likely that the switch will get knocked to OFF, or BATTERY CHECK which turns on a continuously beeping beeper.



All my print film exposures were perfect.

I didn't try slide film.


Frame Counter

It starts at S, has three ticks, and then starts at 1.

There are two more ticks,, and then it shows all even numbers from 4, with ticks for odd numbers.

The counter is reasonably easy to read. It counts up.

12, 20, 24 and 36 are in orange. There is a tick for 37 in orange, too.



This is no LEICA: the framelines are often hard to see. it helps to move your eyes around to see them best.

A LEICA uses a separate window to gather light just for the frame lines; this Canon AF35ML simply uses half-silvered lines and hopes for the best.


Film Economy

You can shoot every frame; it doesn't force you to advance past 0 and 00 or rewind early.

I get 27 perfect frames on a roll of 24; I'd expect to get 39 perfect frames on a roll of 36.



inauguration of Presidet Obama

Inauguration day. bigger. Shot on Fuji 400 as processed and scanned at Costco.

Ryan and train

Ryan and the Animal Train, 22 August 2009. bigger. Notice the excellent delineation of the narrow depth-of-field at the larger aperture at which the Super Sure Shot must have shot in the low light.

Sharpness is fine. The biggest limitation to sharpness is your ability to get perfect focus, not the limitations of the lens itself.



At 1:60 (about 8 feet or 2.5 meters) there is a little pincushion distortion, correctable with about a setting of -1.5 in Photoshop's Lens Distortion Correction Filter.


Power Rewind

Rewind takes about 20 seconds for a 24-exposure roll.


Usage         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

Top, AF35ML

Top, AF35ML. bigger.

Strap and Case

The strap fooled me: it only uses one buckle!

Canon says to poke the end of the strap into itself with the steel buckle on top of the strap pad. I prefer to add a second buckle and use it more traditionally.

The included strap is the perfect weight, and uses an ingeniously movable strap pad that can slide up and down the strap as you desire it if you use two buckles. It then stays where you put it.

If you use one buckle as suggested by Canon, the AF35ML can move around the strap as the pad stays put on your shoulder, also ingenious.

If you opt for the optional case, it slides up and down the strap. The case also has a space for a spare pair of AA cells.



Rear, Super Sure Shot

Rear, Super Sure Shot. bigger.

Pop in two alkaline AA batteries. Crummy "heavy duty" batteries won't last long, and Canon says DO NOT use rechargeable Ni-Cd or Ni-MH cells. Check them at the B. C. switch position. You should hear rapid beeping at about 8 bps. If the beeping is slower or erratic, change the batteries. Canon says take out the batteries if you're not going to use your Super Sure Shot for three weeks or more.

When the batteries get weak, the film winding gets slower.

Pop open the back, draw the film leader to the red mark, and close the back.

Set the film sped by pressing the release button on the lens ring and rotating until the ASA is set on top of the lens.

Hold the camera in front of you and look at the red and silver bars. They should wiggle if the film advances. If they don't wiggle as the film winds, reload the film properly.

After loading, blow off a frame. Shoot a second one, which now has the counter at two ticks before #1. You can shoot these two free frames.




The focus uses a passive system that actually looks at the subject though a traditional rangefinder, and then looks for correlation.

The lens moves only after focus is locked and the shutter is completely pressed.

It needs a reasonably bright subject, and it wants to focus on a distinct vertical line.

It cannot focus on a blank area, and cannot focus on horizontal lines or on fine or repetitive details.

Focus locks with a half-pressed shutter.

AF is instant, if it finds the subject. The lens doesn't move until after you press the shutter button.

Look for one of three focus distance LEDs. If you see one and it's the right range, you're OK. If you don't see one, that means the AF system didn't get focus, so try again. If you see the wrong one, try again.

An advantage of this AF system over the infra-red beam used in newer point-and-shoot cameras is that the Canon Super Sure Shot easily focuses correctly through windows.



The meter reads a wide area. It's a traditional center-weighted meter without any sort of evaluative cleverness.

Exposure never locks.

For exposure compensation, change the ASA setting.



The meter reads through the filter, so you never need to worry about filter factors for any filter except grads. With grads, you need to dial in different factors depending on through which part of the grad the meter is seeing.

There is no need for circular polarizers. COnventional linear polarizers work great.

You can use a 48mm to 52mm step-up ring to use more common 52mm filters, but it will tend to block a little of the lower right of the finder. Your photos will be fine.



The flash always fire at full power. It takes a while to recycle after each shot.

The Canon Super Sure Shot calculates perfect exposure based on the distance measured by the autofocus system and the ASA setting.

The AF35ML doesn't do fill flash or slow-sync. All it does is set itself to about 1/60 and set the aperture based on the distance and film speed, regardless of the ambient light.

If it's dark, the AF system is useless. It simply gives up and sets itself at about 9 feet (2.5m), and you won;t see any AF range LED in the finder. The flash system sets exposure for this range, too. Either be sure you're about that far away, or point the camera at something well lit about the same distance as your subject on which to lock focus.

Don't leave the flash up because it will drain the batteries Push it back down when done.


Self Timer

In self-timer mode, the focus doesn't lock when the shutter is half-pressed.

If you want to lock focus in self-timer mode, you have to focus, press the shutter all the way down to start the beeping, then recompose and be sure the camera stays put as the timer counts down.

In other words, even though the focus locks with a half-pressed shutter in regular shooting, it doesn't lock until the shutter is pressed all the way in self-timer mode.


End of Roll

Bottom, AF35ML

Bottom, Canon AF35ML Super Sure Shot. bigger.

The Canon AF35ML beeps when it hits the last frame.

With the power ON, press and hold the silver rewind button on the bottom while sliding the black plastic rewind switch. The film starts rewinding, and you can let go of the switches.

Watch the red and silver film wiggler, and if you're fast, you can turn off the rewind in time to stop rewind with the leader out just as the wiggler stops wiggling. The frame counter also regresses while rewinding.

Slide the black plastic rewind switch back to the position nearest the battery cover when done rewinding. it doesn't stop automatically.


Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Recommendations

Canon says the best thing you can do for your Super Sure Shot AF35ML is to take it out and use it regularly. Have fun!

It works great, although the lack of tracking autofocus makes it impractical for moving subjects. I also found that I got too many frames out-of-focus. I'm unsure if the problem is me in not getting the AF frame properly positioned, a need for adjustment after 27 years, or simply the limitations of the camera.

It's rarely the limitations of the camera, and even with my inability to get every shot in focus, I still got more great shots from the the first few rolls shot in this camera than I ever do from any digital camera. With film, you only take the good pictures.


More information: The Canon Camera Museum.

More Example Photos: See my kid's website, 22 August 2009.

Acknowledgment: Many thanks to Jack Clarfelt for cleaning out his closet and sending me this unused camera.


Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help to me. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!


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