Right before a beach trip, I found my aunt's Canon Autoboy D5 from the '90s lying around the house. I took the waterproof film camera with me to Boracay not knowing what condition it was in, but the gamble paid off as I got four rolls of great vacation photos from it! Find out why this Canon camera is an ideal travel snapper here.
In April 1994, Canon released its smallest and lightest underwater and land camera under the names Sure Shot A-1 in America, Prima AS-1 in Europe, and Autoboy D5 in Japan. The fully automatic and rugged camera equipped with a 32mm f/3.5 lens initially sold for ¥42,000 ($400+) so I was floored when my aunt gave me hers and right in time for my trip to Boracay!
She told me it was working great when she last used it which was, oh, a decade ago. I didn’t have time to shoot a test roll and get it developed before heading to the beach so, without knowing if it had any defects from its 10+ years in storage, I decided to bring it with me anyway. And just like the 14-years-expired Kodak Ektachrome slide film I brought and experimented with, the decision turned out to be for the best!
I fed the Canon Autoboy D5 four rolls on that trip and was worried that nothing might come out or that my photos might be marred by some camera quirk but I’m quite happy with the results. As you can tell, its got a superb lens for a point-and-shoot and the depth of field is amazing. It’s almost like an SLR!
The first thing I tested was its ability to swim. I was scared to dunk it in the water but, after taking a deep breath and a plunge, I took the first underwater shot. It advanced, I took a few more, then went up to check on it. It still worked!
On to our next adventure: stand-up paddleboarding! A good discovery when we fell off the surfboard: the D5 floats! An aquatic mishap means you don’t have to worry about it sinking to the ocean floor, just make sure you’ve got the strap so it doesn’t swim away.
Next on our agenda was zorbing so inside the giant plastic ball we went and down the hill we rolled! Too bad we weren’t allowed to bring cameras in the zorb (safety precaution) but I doubt I would’ve been able to shoot anything substantial as we were just screaming and swirling around as we zoomed!
I found an adorable cat napping in the park and just had to snap it. I loaded the D5 with some Kodak ProImage 100 and it seems like they’re a good match! With its clear lens and big viewfinder, the camera sees what you see.
I’m really impressed with how much detail it captures as most point-and-shoots will have some vignetting or blurring around the edges, but the D5 just delivers crisp images every time. It’s also very simple and user-friendly so, in the age of digital cameras, tour guides and strangers had no trouble taking our token touristy shots for us!
It started to rain a little as we went on our ATV ride but I was confident the D5 could take it. Maybe because I was using ISO 100 film, some action shots turned out blurry. But when the sun came out as we reached the highest point of Boracay, it took some superior shots, like the one of the entire Caticlan Island!
We went island-hopping and snorkeling the next day and, naturally, it performed incredibly underwater! In case you didn’t already notice, this review isn’t very technical and is based mostly on performance and usability. I didn’t get to research on the model and manual before Boracay so there was a lot of guesswork, especially with underwater focusing (but more on that later).
Now here’s the only bummer-but-not-really about the D5: it’s capable of shooting panoramas but the switch can easily be toggled by accident as it’s under the camera. If you’ve been using it underwater, you could nudge it and be shooting panoramas unknowingly. In my case though, I blame myself and my GPOY greed for asking our boat guy/tour guide (yes, the one jumping off the cliff above) to take some underwater photos of me.
The results? Panoramic photos for the rest of the two rolls. It’s not so bad actually, as it made the shots look more “cinematic” (yes, that’s what I keep telling myself). However, the D5 shoots crop panoramas and not full panoramas like the ones you would get with the Horizon Perfekt or Sprocket Rocket. Now I know to check the bottom of the camera every so often!
For the last leg of our island getaway, I loaded a roll of Fujicolor C200 film I bought at the island into the D5 and I finally got underwater focusing right during our last snorkeling dip. I thought the Macro (0.45 m – 1 m) setting would be ideal for subaquatic exploration since there’s a fish icon on the dial. But for Macro, you have to hold the dial to that position while shooting, so I decided to just keep it on the default No Flash mode the rest of the time so I could snap with one hand.
Turns out that’s a better idea! All my Macro shots were out-of-focus while the Auto/No Flash shots were crystal clear! I dropped my snorkel (never the camera, remember!) and went down to get it as boat guy took my photos.
It was so beautiful and serene so I asked the him for my camera back and took more photos of reefs, sea urchin, etc. They look even more stunning in photos than I remember although I wish they weren’t cropped to panoramas.
After snorkeling, we were off to one last island. After all that salt, sand, and seawater, I was half-expecting the D5 to just stop working but it was such a trooper. Still standing, still shooting, still advancing, thanks to the rubber rings that prevent water from getting in. (But I still tried to keep it dry as much as possible to prevent saltwater damage.)
We arrived at Puka Beach but I didn’t use the D5 much there. Since I was gambling with it, I took some photos using a camera I knew worked well and I put my choice expired slide film in it too. (Read Dreamy Beach Photos from 14-Years-Expired Ektachrome Slide Film!)
While the accidental panoramas were not desired, they incidentally framed some subjects perfectly, like the shore of Puka Beach, boxing champ Manny Pacquiao’s Boracay mansion, but not the one where my head gets cut off!
Also, the vertical panoramas didn’t turn out as I’d imagined but in any analogue mishap, you just try to make the most out of it. I’m sure they’ll still look great if I crop the black strips out and I’m thinking they would make good lomo bookmarks! See, you just have to find the silver lining and be creative.
Overall, I highly recommend the Canon Autoboy D5. Considering I didn’t get to test the unit or read the manual before the trip, it’s very easy to learn to use and the image quality is incredible. It’s got a lot of good features that matter to me like a large viewfinder aligned with the lens, flash settings, panoramic mode, automatic everything, and—best of all—a waterproof body that makes it perfect for travel! And don’t forget the remarkable Canon optics.
If you can find a working D5 for a fair price, you should get it. You will not be disappointed with its performance and it’s a handy camera to have in your arsenal. I will be writing another review of this camera as I used it around the city as an everyday camera and will post it soon. For now, I leave you with these subaquatic and panoramic photos of Boracay, magnificently captured by the Canon Autoboy D5.
See more photos shot with this camera in Paradise Is Very Nice.
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