We are in a place in time where analog photography is slowly coming back and there are a lot of people that are starting to photograph for the first time with film. This has me inspired to review the Nikon L35AD (or AF), also known as Pikaichi in Japan.
The model that I own is a L35AD, where the last two letters indicates the Auto Date function; the “standard” version (without the auto date back) is the L35AF. These are the same camera under every aspect, except the back door.
A little bit of history
The Nikon L35AD was released in 1983, the first version of it (there are three versions of this camera, and with every version they started “lowering” the construction and lens quality).
Since the first years of production it earned the name of Pikaichi (“top notch” in japanese), thanks to its body entirely realised in metal and covered with hard and durable plastic and its exceptional lens quality.
As previously said, the camera is entirely made of metal (internally) and this give it a good heft and gives you confidence while holding it. Even the outside plastic is very rigid and durable (being from the 80s you have to expect hte presence of plastic).
But the most surprising thing about this little camera is, without a doubt, the lens: A 35mm f2.8 Nikkor (for the construction details I direct you to Google…), there isn’t much to say, it is extremely sharp, especially for being a lens mounted on a point and shoot.
It keeps up really well compared to the lens that I usually shoot with on my F2 (a Zeiss Distagon 35mm f2 ZF, maybe one of the sharpest 35mm on the market), yet the quality outputted from the L35AD is really close, even if the price is 1/6 of the Zeiss lens one…
Really little vignetting, beautiful color rendering and an outstanding sharpness, all in a small packet… This is maybe the thing that surprised me the most!
Giving the fact that is a point and shoot it is entirely automatic for every aspect of the shooting process: Has autofocus (Fast and precise but does not focus too close), shutter speeds and f stops are automatic (so even having a f2.8 lens, don’t expect crazy bokeh or subject-background separation).
However it has a selectable iso dial because this first model doesn’t have a dx code reader, I find this feature really useful for color negative film, as I like to overexpose it by at least 1 stop (above all seen the automatic nature of this camera).
In the case of my L35, being a first model and being an AD, the iso goes from 25 to 400; in the AF models this will go from 50 to 1000.
A curiosity about the AD version is that the auto date stops way before 2019 (I usually use the “clock” print instead of the date but most of the time I don’t use the printing function at all).
Being a point and shoot camera it has a on-board flash that in this case is really good. Is automatic but is possible to override it simply pushing it down, back in the “stock” position (because when there isn’t enough light the plash “pop up” automatically).
Is a easy and fast camera to use, perfect for its “category”, its simil rangefinder is also very bright and easy to read. It has a focus scale and a sort of really simple parallax correction.
So, in a world of “premium” point and shoot cameras that goes for crazy prices, the Nikon L35AD (/AF) is a little gem that if found at a good price can be a beautiful surprise. I take mine wherever I go and it never “skips a beat”.