Ah, Canon Sure Shot 115u, I hardly knew ya

I spotted this pretty little camera in the back of the jewelry case at my local Goodwill a month or so ago, hemmed and hawed for about 10 minutes, bought it, ran 3 rolls through it, then packed it up and sent it off to my EmulsiveSanta recipient last week. It’s not a bad camera at all, after all, it was one of Canon’s last compact film cameras, and by 2003 they surely knew what they were doing with auto-everything, point-and-shoot cameras, but I sent a camera in last year’s EmulsiveSanta thing (the Pentax Espio 35-70), so I felt obligated to send one this year too, and this little Canon Sure Shot 115u was the best camera I had that I felt comfortable gifting, so I said goodbye and off it went.

So. The Canon Sure Shot 115u. Where to begin… Well, it has a 38-115mm f/5.6-13 zoom lens (6 elements in 6 groups, with one aspherical element), the shutter speeds range from 2 seconds to 1/440 on the wide end and 1/345 on the tele end, and it reads DX codes from 25-3200 (and defaults to 100 on non-DX coded films).

On the top panel, from left to right, you have:

  • the shutter release
  • the zoom rocker (works to set date and time in Date settings mode when the camera is powered off)
  • an on/off button; the lcd panel
  • self timer button
  • flash & options button (cycles through auto with red eye reduction; auto without red eye reduction, forced flash, and no flash, + 1.5 exposure, -1/5 exposure; also turns on the date change function when the camera is powered off)
  • mode button (cycles through normal/auto, action, night, portrait, macro, and RT (“real time”) shooting modes)

Beyond that, it’s just point, zoom, and click, and as long as you let it do pretty much whatever it wants, you’ll get a spot-on, sharp-enough exposure! GoGo.

As far as the modes go, I didn’t use the Action mode, so no point in mentioning it, really, except to say that it turns on focus tracking or something. And I didn’t use the Night mode at all, so no idea what it does. And I only used the Portrait mode twice: once for a selfy, and once for a portrait. To be honest, I’m not sure it made much of a difference…

So here’s a selfy at wide, tele, and portrait.

And here’s a portrait of Raes in normal Auto, and a portrait of Shakil in portrait mode.

Probably not enough to draw any judgements, but maybe the flash gets a bit of boost or something… Allahu Alim.

The Macro mode shortens the minimum focus distance from 2’/.6m to 1.5’/.45m, so it doesn’t make a huge difference, and since I have no idea what 1.5′ looks like, especially with 6″ of zoom lens sticking out of the front of the camera, the closest I got to anything was this grilled cheese sandwich, and framing was well off, even with the parallax markings in the finder.

Oh well. The sandwich was still tasty enough.

And, finally, the RT mode… I had no idea what this was until after I mailed it off, but apparently, it locks focus and exposure on half-press of the shutter. In normal mode, a half-press locks focus only, so RT is probably useful at various points.

I bet all of that is useful to someone, and hopefully to my Emulsive Santa recipient (or whoever s/he passes it on to).

I didn’t mess with the flash modes or the +/- 1.5 exposure compensation, but I did force the flash off a few times. If you keep it nice and steady (the blocky shape and flat sides make this fairly easy), you can get some decently sharp, nicely exposed shots. And if you step carefully and don’t mind the shake, the 2 second shutter has some creative possibilities.

But if you ask me, I’d suggest you let the camera do what it wants, unless you have a compelling reason to do otherwise. Sure, you may end up with some crazy stuff.

And if you’re shooting through windows on cloudy days, the camera will probably fire the flash, so maybe watch that…

But still… for the most part, let it do what it wants.

I say for the most part… sometimes, it struggles. After reading through Sentimental Journey 1971 – 2017 –, I wanted to capture some times of closeness between the Hanabibti and me. Sadly, the 115u was never able to find focus in the dim light of the evening sofa.

And in the early morning light, somehow, it focused on… I have no idea what it focused on to be honest.

I had it pressed up against the window for stability, so I guess it tried to focus on the window, and maybe I missed the “too close” warning lamp that apparently resides somewhere near the finder.

But, really, if you’re shooting in decent-enough light, the Sure Shot 115u is smart enough to get a decent exposure most every time, and you have to work hard, push really hard up against its limits, before it loses itself, and trying to zoom in close on anything, with one 80W bulb and a television providing the only light in a dim living room at night is really beyond the capabilities of it, sadly.

The zoom isn’t a continuous, stop anywhere thing. It steps, and I guess something like 38, 50, 75, 90, 115. When it’s all the way out, it looks fairly ridiculous , to me, but at various intermediate stages it looks ok, with its aluminum front cover, lilac sides, and silver plastic back and battery cover.

I tried to take a series of shots at all the zoom settings, but I missed the longest. Oh well. I did notice some vignetting at the wide angle, loss of sharpness in the corners at the middle zoom ranges, and an overall softness at the longer reaches. Given how hard it is for the lens makers to make consumer grade zoom lenses now, with all the advances in machining and computer aided design and all, I’m not surprised there were perhaps some corners cut in the lens design, and I doubt any intended users of this actually quite decent little camera were doing anything more than 4×6’s, and certainly weren’t doing any pixel peeping or anything like that.

Overall, the camera feels good in the hand and reasonably well balanced, even with the zoom at full tele. There’s a little button-shaped depression on the back for your thumb, and the ridge on the battery cover makes a nice grip point for the middle and ring fingers.

So it’s comfortable and secure enough to hold.

I took it on a bike ride one afternoon, one on which I huffed some pollen from some late-season bastard cabbage (I think… it seems like I get an allergy response every time I get close to those plants, aka turnip weed, wild rape, and about 5 other names) and wound up half sick for several days after, and as soon as I got well enough, I went for another ride and huffed the same whatever, and got half sick all over again. Alhamdulillah. Anyway. With the slightly loose wrist strap, I was a bit worried about it, but it was fine, and I’m skilled enough on a bicycle to ride one handed and shoot from the saddle.

The 115u handled it fine, until I went shooting into the sun, and then, well I guess the film reached its latitude. I had horrible difficulty getting even passable color out of the scan of what could’ve been a nice shot into the sun.

And when I hopped off the bike, I finished off the last roll—at the time, I didn’t know it was going to be the last roll, didn’t know I was going to go and mail this camera off to someone just weeks after buying it—I grabbed quite a nice selfy, all sweaty in my work clothes after a nice workout-type ride on the bike.

So before I close this out, lest you think the Canon Sure Shot 115u is a bad camera, I’m pretty happy with a couple of shots from it, one stabilized, flash-free, night shot, and one landscape from the office window.

Really, it’s a fine-enough camera, and if you see one in a Goodwill or other thrift/charity shop for $10 or less, go ahead. It’s biggest problem is the CR123A battery it takes, and it’d be fine to keep in the car or to hand to a child or someone to play with. It feels a bit flimsy, but this copy saw plenty of use I think: the symbols and descriptions printed on the top panel were almost completely worn away, so they’re probably sturdy enough.

Purpose
Price
Craftsmanship
Ease of Use

Overall, I’d give it 2.6 stars. It would be miles better with a fixed 38mm f/2.8 or even f/4 lens, I think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *