I’ve enjoyed shooting half frame 35mm film photography for quite some time now. Of course, being a broke college student, the thought of 72 photos in a roll is quite intriguing. However, it’s not all about the money; I feel that this “abundance” of shots also provides a new perspective when walking around and shooting. I’m more willing to take “risky” shots when it’s just 1/72nd of my roll, I’m not taking things so seriously, and – while perhaps not portfolio-worthy – I end up with a multitude of fond memories and surprisingly sharp images.
I brought my Canon SURE SHOT MULTI TELE (yes, ALL CAPS) on my trip around Europe as my main “pocketable” camera. Known as the Autoboy Tele 6 in Japan and the PRIMA TELE in Europe, it’s a fully automatic autofocus camera with both full-frame (24x36mm) and half-frame (17x24mm) formats as well as two focal lengths: 35mm and 60mm.
There’s also an optional teleconverter, which converts the 60mm lens to 75mm (this translates to about 110mm for half-frame format).
Of course, I packed my Nikon F90 for more serious full frame work, but I rarely found myself reaching for it over the course of my 3-month trip. The SLR was too big, my lenses were too expensive, I didn’t want to bring a whole bag and risk it getting stolen, etc. However my half-frame never left my pocket; It was by my side in the airport, in the train station, at the flea market, on many late-night adventures to tapas bars and lounge clubs alike.
As the old adage goes: “The best camera is the one you have on you.”
Beyond just the size of the camera, the format itself allowed for more experimentation, more fun, more freedom to just take a shot because it might turn out nicely. I didn’t feel the pressure for every frame to be perfect, and as a result I ended up with a lot of fun memorable shots that I otherwise would’ve lost. This dinky little plastic point and shoot became an extension of me, and the images I captured with it came to reflect me and my experience on the trip more authentically than a larger format might’ve permitted.
My love for half frame might seem a little counter intuitive, since part of the reason I love shooting film is the care and attention to detail when composing an image. However, I’ve found that half frame serves an entirely different purpose than full frame or medium format or of course 4×5. I enjoy shooting these other formats because every image has to be well composed and carefully thought out. As a result, I find that they cater to more deliberate, artistic photography, particularly in a studio setting.
However when I’m just walking the streets I’m sometimes “paralyzed” not wanting to waste film. I’ll see a potentially good image, raise my camera to my eye, then be distracted by that nagging voice asking “is this the best way this image could be composed? Is this worth using a shot on a roll? Are you sure you set the ASA correctly?” And by the time I’ve completed this mental checklist, the moment will have passed and the image has been lost to time.
This Canon Half Frame sits in a nice in between…
It’s still film, you’re still limited to 72 images, and you’re still paying for the materials/development/scanning, so there is still that voice in the back of your head telling you not to waste shots. However, it’s more of a gentle suggestion than a source of anxiety. Anyways, If I have something more serious in mind I still have my full-frame SLR back at the hotel.
I didn’t mean to get so bogged down in the “theory” of my images, but I feel that the mindset when shooting half frame is one of the most important things to convey. I’ve hung prints of my full frame stuff on the wall, but I’ve put my half frame work in a photo book. In this time of self-isolation I’ve noticed that I’m not looking at the “fine art” prints on my wall, I’m looking at my memories, my friends, the objectively bad but highly sentimental images filling my photo books. And of course, there are still quite a few nice images (if I do say so myself) so don’t dismiss half frame as a format!
I’ve enlarged some of my favorite shots up to 8×10 without a problem, so don’t worry about potentially missing that “one in a million” shot, you’ll still get a damn good image with this Canon Multi Tele.
Will it be quite as detailed as full-frame 35mm? No.
Will it have that incredible tonal range of medium format? No.
Will it have that dreamlike depth-of-field iconic to 4×5? No.
But if it’s truly a “one in a million” shot, the image itself is what’s important, not the tool used to capture it. And anyways, I’m much more likely to have the half-frame on me than any of my SLRs or medium format bodies, so I’m more likely to capture the image in the first place.
The Sureshot Multi Tele is a very simple camera with only 7 buttons and a latch to play with. You can’t change the ISO, you can’t change the shutter speed or aperture, you can’t even turn off the flash (but electrical tape comes in handy). However, there are a couple interesting things you do have control over on this.
As the name suggests, you can choose the focal length of the lens. With a switch on the back of the camera, you can pick between a 35mm @ f/3.5 or a 60mm @ f/5.6. Looking through my photos I’ve found that the 35mm focal length is just a tad sharper, but that’s just been my experience. This “double focal length design” was popular in the 80s with other cameras like Olympus’s “Infinity twin,” but my Canon has another trick up its sleeve that leaves these other cameras in the dust: it can also switch between full 35mm and half-frame format.
Be advised: the switch is right behind the film gate so you can not switch mid-roll, so you have to commit when you’re loading the film. I’ve never shot it as a full frame so I can’t vouch for its performance, but given how surprisingly sharp the half frame is, I’d guess that the full frame is more than adequate.
One interesting thing to note is that the viewfinder also changes magnification to adjust for the switch between half and full-frame. Since you’re basically cropping the image circle in half the lens effectively becomes a 50mm/85mm, which I personally find to be a more compelling duo than 35 and 60, but that’s an entirely personal opinion.
My one word of advice is get ready for the flash to go off. You will not be subtle taking any photos with this camera, so prepare for people to stare you down and your freshly-blinded friends to complain every time you take a picture. Otherwise, I find it to be one of the best cameras in my ever-growing collection.
Overall I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this camera, it’s one of the best $40 I’ve spent satiating my Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It’s a surprisingly sharp little point and shoot that has secured a permanent place in my daily-carry camera bag. It might not produce “portfolio” images, but it’s a reminder that shooting film isn’t all about “fine art” photography. My most cherished images aren’t hanging on my wall, they’re in the photo book sitting on my bedside table.
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