A few months ago I went on the hunt for a good point and shoot film camera; something discrete and small enough to throw in my backpack. I wanted a camera I could have handy anywhere I went. I guess point and shoots are all the rage at the moment because I was having trouble finding anything halfway decent for under 200 dollars.

One day while browsing the camera section on Kijiji, I came across this horrifically ugly Canon Sure Shot A1. It caught my eye because it has the same colour scheme as my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L II, one of my favourite pieces of kit. But it also appeared to have the build quality of a Fisher-Price “Kid Tough” camera.

The Canon Sure Shot A1

The Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS II

While it did look a bit like a toy I was still intrigued, partly because of the colour scheme, but also because of the price. When buying gear I don’t exactly need, it’s a lot easier to pull the trigger on something that is $40 versus $200 to $2000. I immediately contacted the seller and arranged a place and time to make the exchange. As always, when I get my hands on a new camera, I was eager to see what it could do. I threw a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 in and hit the streets. Click on the images below to see what this camera can do.

I’ve got to say, I’m pretty pleased with these results. It is super easy to use. I’m pretty sure that a young child who had no experience with film could figure this thing out. Open it up, throw in the film, close the door and you’re ready to shoot. Just about everything on this camera is fully automated. Even once you’ve shot all the exposures the camera automatically rewinds the film back into the canister. The only thing that you have to worry about is getting your shot and finding a place to get the filmed developed! The Sure Shot A1 uses 35mm film and automatically adjusts to film from ISO 25 all the way to 3200. I kind of enjoy the fact that it looks a bit like a toy which makes it far less intrusive when shooting street photos. It has a relatively fast lens (32mm f3.5) as well as a large and bright view finder. It’s also fully waterproof up to 5 meters! This might just be my favourite 35mm camera in my arsenal.

The only real issues I had with this camera is the viewfinder frame lines are kind of hard to see in certain light. It’s also kind of tough to tell what frame you are on with the frame counter on this camera. It’s a bit bigger than your average point and shoot, but the trade off is it’s an ultra rugged camera. I mean a fully waterproof body is pretty amazing. It even floats if you drop it in the water!

All and all this camera is pretty amazing. For me, it suits my point and shoot needs. If you’re willing to trade aesthetics for functionality and ease of use this might be the right camera for you… and hey, you might even like the look of it! The Canon Sure Shot A1 still has some features I have yet to try, like a panorama mode and an underwater macro mode. I also haven’t completely submerged the camera yet. I’m a little nervous about that. I would like to run a couple more rolls through it before I take that risk. It did however hold up during a heavy downpour, no problem.

If you’re still not convinced about this camera, below is a video (not my video) of Fred Herzog, a pioneer of colour street photography shooting on the Canon Sure Shot WP-1 (the non-waterproof cousin of the A1) on the streets of Vancouver.

SPECIFICATIONS(stolen directly from the Canon Website):
Fully automatic, compact waterproof 35mm AF lens/shutter camera with built-in flash.
32 mm f/3.5
3-point Active Autofocus (on-land)
Land: 1.5ft./0.45m to infinity. Underwater: Normal: 3.3ft. to 9.8ft./1m to 3m; Macro: 1.5ft. to 3.3ft./0.45m to 1m.
Macro Mode:
1.1-2.5 ft/0.35-0.75m Underwater
Albada-type finder, covering 84% of actual picture area. 0.42x magnification, with 33mm eye point.
Exposure Control:
Program AE
Type Modes:
Standard 3-mode
Flash Operating Range (ISO 100):
1.5-11.2 ft/0.45-3.4m
Dial Types Modes:
Mode Dial/Main Switch, Flash Modes, Underwater Macro
Film Speed Setting:
ISO 25-3200 set automatically
Film Loading / Advance / Rewind:
Fully Automatic midroll rewind
Shutter Speeds:
(Program-type electromagnetically driven shutter also serves as aperture diaphragm.) 1/250-2 sec
Self Timer:
Electronically controlled with 10-second delay.
Remote Control:
One 3V CR123A lithium battery. (3V)
Capacity (24 Exp. rolls, 50 % Flash use):
Approximately 18 rolls (24-exposure film), with 50% flash use.
Dimensions (W x H x D):
5.25 x 3.5 x 2.13 in/133.5 x 88.3 x 53.6mm