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I've been sorting through some of my camera collection recently, and trying to get it into some sort of order. For one thing, I've been separating out the film cameras; I don't have as many of those as I do digital cameras but there are enough that the job is worth doing. Some of them were fit only for the rubbish bin, but others gave sufficient optimism as to their status to be worth checking out properly, and this Canon Snappy LX was one such.
== Background ==
This is the sort of simple compact camera that was very popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in other words the generation of budget cameras before the advent of affordable digicams. There were at least two models: the base LX and its successor the LX II, which added features such as a simple mode dial. The original model was one of the simplest cameras to bear the Canon name, and never achieved anything like the reputation that the more advanced Sureshot range did.
== Look and feel ==
Whenever I pick up a film compact after using digital cameras for so long, I'm surprised at least initially by just how big it is. Part of the reason for this, of course, was the requirement to accommodate a roll of 35 mm film, a storage medium much bulkier than a digital memory card. In the Snappy's case, the bulk is increased further by the inclusion of a large viewfinder; this was a very popular feature in pre-LCD days, especially for those (like me) who wore glasses and thus found a smaller finder a bit irksome to use.
It's perfectly possible to hold and use the LX one-handed, but it's really designed to be held in two, and doing that also makes its weight a bit less noticeable. Not that it's amazingly heavy - 220 grams without batteries - but it's no featherweight contender either. The only button you need to worry about most of the time is the shutter button, and this is quite comfortable and well placed for your right index finger. Next to this is a pretty clear display showing the number of shots taken on the current film, whose details can be read through the clear slit on the back of the body.
== Features and settings ==
The Snappy being such a basic camera, it doesn't have much to cover here. The lens cover is slid open manually by means of a switch beneath the lens, and this also unlocks the shutter. The film is advanced after each shot, and rewound automatically at the end of the film, though there is an (I think deliberately) tiny button on the top of the unit that allows you to force a rewind in mid-roll. A simple 10-second self-timer is set from this area as well, and here one of the camera's very few less usual features can be found: it can be set to take two successive photos, each 10 seconds apart.
The camera's flash is automatic, and there are no manual overrides; the only way to take photos in dim places without flash is to stick a piece of thick card over the lamp itself! The manual (which is basic, but doesn't need to be any more) suggests that only colour print film with an ISO rating between 100 and 400 should be used, though I would imagine that the DX encoding on the film cartridge could work just as well with slide films. Film loading is, again, an automatic process.
The lens is as basic as the rest of the camera, being a rather small, fixed focus, 35 mm unit rated at f/4.5; there's no macro setting, so you won't be able to get sharp results with subjects closer than about 1.5 metres away. The flash can't cope with distances above around three metres, so indoor shots will have to be planned quite carefully. On the plus side, there's an anti red-eye light that comes on briefly just before a flash photo is taken.
== Photo quality and verdict ==
The Canon Snappy LX doesn't pretend to be a sophisticated device, and it certainly isn't that. It's very easy to use, therefore, but you do have to be aware of its technical limitations. The results I got with it (via Boots, who are usually quite reliable) were frankly pretty poor as a rule, and not up to the standard of what I'd expect with even a budget digital camera today. Colours seemed rather washed out and edges weren't very sharp. On the plus side, the lack of much electronic wizardry does mean that a pair of alkaline AA batteries lasts for roll after roll of film!
You can tell how unloved film compacts are today by going into a few charity shops. Sooner or later you're bound to find a couple looking forlorn on an unregarded shelf, most probably near the VHS videos and audio cassettes. Even a fiver would be expensive; half that is more the going rate, despite the brand name. It works, it's simple to use and if you're not fussy about results then it does do a job... but it's nothing like the high-quality device you'd expect from a camera bearing the Canon name. Only for collectors, I think.
Being almost identical to the AF7 this camera is quite often confused as being the same model but at a cheaper price. Whilst the body design is the same the crucial difference is that this is a fixed focus camera whereas the AF7 offers auto focus. Does this matter? Well yes it does, this model can't match the image sharpness of the AF7 and my advice would be to pay the extra £5-£10 for the better model, you won't regret it. Both model offer good auto exposure and are simple to use.