The Canon MC (MC stands for Micro Compact) is on the small side at 4.25″ x 2.5″ x 1.625″. One of the ways that it achieves this small size is by placing the two infrared autofocus modules in a vertical arrangement. They are uncovered along with the lens when you slide the lens cover open which also turns the camera on. An additional way size is kept down is by using AAA batteries for power. (Lithium batteries were only just starting to be used around the mid 1980′s)
The lens is a 35mm f2.8 made from 4 elements the rear element being a molded plastic aspherical one.
The shutter itself is electro mechanical which allows settings between 1/8 and 1/500 second. If the exposure system deems that there isn’t enough light for a proper exposure it flashes a red LED in the viewfinder to suggest that you use flash. The flash is a detachable unit that mounts on the side of the camera and is also powered by two of its own AAA batteries
A common way that many cameras achieve pre-focus and recompose is to allow a half press of the shutter button before fully pressing it and taking the picture. The Canon MC takes an entirely different approach. There is a (Self-Timer Pre-Focus) switch on the top of the camera and by sliding this to the left and then fully depressing the shutter the autofocus system is activated and set without tripping the shutter then a second press of the shutter button will trip the shutter using the previously set autofocus. Here is the kicker though you need to do that before the self timer goes off and takes a picture anyway. It does give you 10 seconds and that 10 seconds doesn’t start until you release the shutter button when setting the focus. So in practical terms you could set the focus and hold down the button until you are ready to take the picture and then release and re-press. The actual tripping of the shutter is extremely quiet but then the thundering film advance happens sounding a lot like some injured animal.
I found the camera to be a capable performer in most cases and with its small size and angular design it achieves a level of fun that’s hard to explain. While it’s a cumbersome process you can use the Canon MC in a silent way which I will describe here.
1. Slide the Pre-Focus switch to the left
2. Press and hold the shutter button to set focus
3. Wait for the moment you want to take the picture
4. Release and repress the shutter to take the picture KEEPING the shutter button pressed
5. Wait until an opportune moment to release the shutter button again to advance the film and mask the noise, a moment such as a jet taking off or a stuck car horn.
What can one say about such a utilitarian camera, other than it just works. It’s that just working that made it so popular as a photography teaching tool. Additionally it’s completely mechanical controls mean that it can be used without batteries and it’s rugged metal build make it a survivor. My first encounter with the K1000 was to take pictures of a CRT screen from a pipe inspection system. At the time ( I used a Minolta X700 personally) it seemed ridiculously simple but it always worked.
In fact I don’t recall coming across any that haven’t worked in some manner no matter how beat up they looked. That being said they can develop shutter issues as with this unit. It seems like the shutter at 1/1000 is in need of some adjustment as it left one side of some images slightly darkened. There is plenty of information on the web about the history and use of this camera so I won’t rehash what’s already there but I will say that with all the developments in the arena of digital photography one thing that is missing in my opinion are cameras that embody the nature of the K1000. There are cameras that take styling cues from the past but not many of them strip down the photography experience to just dialing in settings and taking pictures.
There aren’t that many film point and shoots that tried to achieve this level of zoom. At 38-160mm the 4.2X zoom lens required 10 elements in 8 groups with an Extra low dispersion element in addition to aspherical and hybrid elements (as per Olympus). The result of that reach though is an anemic f5.7 to f12.3 aperture across its zoom range. That final one is a speed that is more than 3 times slower than f4. To put that in perspective if you had an SLR with a 200mm f4 lens (a somewhat relative comparison) and were able to take a picture at a shutter speed of 1/250 second then the SuperZoom 160 would use what amounts to a shaky shutter speed under 1/30 of a second. Right there is one reason so many people had so much trouble getting good results with these long zoom point and shoots. The manufacturers kept increasing the zoom because that’s what sold but the photographic results did not improve. With care, use of a tripod and a self timer, you can get decent results. Although it defeats the purpose of a point and shoot and doesn’t seem worth the effort.