Monday Mystery Camera: The Chinon Infrafocus 35F-MA

Someone said “Samster, you lil sumbitch, get a REAL job!” 😀 And that’s just what I did. I’m working a regular j-o-b now, all the overtime I can get, which helps put food on the table, feed the family, and maybe even buy a new toy with the leftovers, whatever is left and sometimes there’s nothing left. However, it doesn’t leave me with a lot of time to devote to my passion which are the cameras. And y’all know I love them cameras! 😎📸👍🏻

This one was a result of a few days worth of writing. I don’t know how you guys with full time jobs do it, but I admire you! I really do! It takes work and dedication to work full time and run a daily blog. I can’t seem to do it!

As promised, there will be more quirky cameras coming your way and one of the funkier ones I have is this one, the Chinon Infrafocus 35F-MA (that’s a mouthful!). Don’t you just love the names they come up with?! 😀📸👍🏻

I got this a couple of years ago and like a growing list of cameras in my collection, I’ve never shot it. So this is by no means a technical review. I’d like to shoot it, sure I would, but any day of the week I’m probably shooting with something that interests me more so it always gets put in the back burner.

I mean, I have shot with cameras like the Nikon L35AF and Canon AFM which can be seen as the Chinon’s contemporary competitors in the 1980s as well as a few others that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

They’re all quite similar. That is, they’re all plasticky, they all have good optics and somewhat antiquated autofocus systems. Everything I’ve read on the Chinon leads me to believe it will be more of the same so nothing against the camera but it doesn’t really excite me optically and functionally.

I mean if I read someone saying something like “Oh my God, this camera has a Zeiss like lens!” I’d put a roll in right now but the thing is NOBODY has said that about the Chinon and if they did I’d say they’re BS’in! 🙂

I mean camera fanatics are an educated bunch. If it realistically had anything close to a Zeiss like lens you can be sure the prices of this camera would be through the roof but it’s not.

INTRO

The Chinon Infrafocus 35F-MA was an autofocus 35mm point and shoot camera introduced by Chinon Industries of Japan in the 1980s. I could not find the exact year, but I’m leaning towards 1984. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know and I’ll update this!

The lens is a 38mm f/2.8 “Chinonex Color Lens” (that’s what’s written on the lens!) and the camera autofocused using an early infrared system, which is what you see with the two big “bug eyes” as this camera is also sometimes called in nickname.

The camera is auto wind, auto rewind and runs on two AA batteries. Close focus is 2.9 feet.

The 35F-MA appears to be automatic exposure with no manual controls other than ASA selection.

POP ICON & TIDBITS

The camera, as mentioned, uses a fixed 38mm f/2.8 lens. As I mentioned in my Contax T2 review, “38mm f/2.8” was very popular on point and shoot cameras of the 1980s and 1990s. Don’t ask me why they chose this specific focal length and starting aperture but it always made me feel that a quality 35 to 40mm f/2.8 lens is NOT hard for any manufacturer to make and thus it shouldn’t be expensive.

The 38mm f/2.8 was a very common and popular lens choice on the point and shoot cameras of the 80s and 90s. However, it’s probably fair to say the 38mm f/2.8 Chinonex is nowhere near the T2’s Zeiss Sonnar lens optically. Then again, it doesn’t cost near as much either!

Actually, it was probably a good compromise kind of lens. I mean, anything faster would have been very expensive. Anything wider would have been too wide for most people and anything larger than 40mm and faster than f/2.8 might have been challenging for the point and shoot autofocus technology of that timeframe, which was the early 1980s.

Well, the T2 with its Zeiss lens may be expensive, but the Chinon is most definitely not! Prices can be found below in the “Prices & Availability” section.

Another interesting thing about the Chinon Infrafocus 35F-MA is that it was apparently one of the cameras favored by the late great pop art icon, Andy Warhol.

When I got the camera, I didn’t know Andy had used one. I knew he used the Polaroid Big Shot and other cameras, but I didn’t know he used the Chinon until I saw an episode of “Autopsy: The Last Hours Of…” and I saw a photo with the Chinon hanging around his neck.

Right then and there I said to myself, wow, Mr. Warhol was not fluff and hype, he was the real deal! If there were any doubts, it was gone when I saw the Chinon around his neck because it says to me that the man was ahead of his time! He knew the camera looked cool and quirky and that its unique “bug eyes” were enough to make a fashion statement.

Never mind whether the camera sucked or not. It’s all about the looks, it’s pop art!! 🙂

The good thing is that while Andy Warhol was seen with the Chinon, it doesn’t seem to have increased its price or value in any way. Nothing like what Kendall Jenner or Chris Hemsworth did to the Contax T2.

This is perhaps because Andy Warhol was better known in the 1980s and perhaps not so much by today’s social media hipsters.

LENS QUALITY

I’ve had this camera for a couple of years and I still haven’t shot it thus I’m not qualified to speak of its optical qualities.

However, from the few fine reviews I have read, the 38mm f/2.8 Chinonex lens is a good performer. Sharp but not Zeiss spectacular.

Quite in line with what I’d expect from it. Maybe that’s why I haven’t shot it. It doesn’t excite me in that way. The fact that it appears to be a fully automatic camera doesn’t help.

Still, perhaps it would surprise me. Perhaps I should pop a roll of film in it right now. Perhaps I shouldn’t put baby in a corner 😀

BOTTOM LINE

I’m a huge fan of odd, quirky cameras and of all the lesser known manufacturers, Chinon nears the top of my list of has-been camera makers. In my opinion, they were at the crest of making it into the big leagues but never did. Chinon as we knew it was bought out by Kodak in 1991 so we’ll never know what could have been.

But the name Chinon remains in my head as always a bit of a mystery so while the Infrafocus 35F-MA may never be a Camera Legend, the Chinon name I would argue could well be.

PRICES & AVAILABILITY

The Chinon Infrafocus 35F-MA is not a rare or much sought after camera which makes it cheap on the used market.

If seeking one of these cool, quirky cameras prices are trending from $15-40 USD.

The Chinon meets almost all of my criteria as a camera collector. It looks cool, it has some interesting history and it’s cheap. For me, cheap cameras are the best!

A shot using the old iPhone 6s Plus and some focus effects. What can’t you do with the phone cameras nowadays? 😍

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