The 1994 Canon Prima AS-1 / Canon Sure Shot A1 / Canon Autoboy D5 is an excellent point and shoot camera featuring a sharp 32mm f3.5 Canon lens. It’s fun to use, produces great images, and best of all, you can use it in the rain, in the ocean, in the pool, anywhere!
Although it’s a little larger than many of my other point and shoots, it’s a camera that I keep coming back to again and again. It’s so fun to use and I can’t help but smile when I look at it.
You can read Canon Prima AS-1 review below, or listen to my podcast review of this camera (along with a brief history of underwater photography) by clicking the play button above.
Using the Canon Prima AS-1
The camera is made of plastic but has a very sturdy feel to it. It’s been built tough for all weather and underwater conditions. Even the bright red strap feels very tough and hard wearing.
The camera has a huge viewfinder which was designed to be looked through while wearing diving gear or a ski mask. The viewfinder has 0.42 magnification which makes it a pleasure to frame images with. The bright red shutter button feels quite responsive and the camera makes a pleasant sound as it takes and image and advances the film.
It features a small grey self-timer button next to the shutter button. A frame counter is on the other side of the top of the camera. On the back there’s a film window so you can see which film, if any, you have in the camera. The film door is more difficult to open than other point and shoots, presumably so you don’t open the camera whilst underwater.
Inside the camera there’s a red rubber ring that makes the camera waterproof. Detailed instructions for cleaning the camera are in the manual. At the base of the camera is where you insert the CR123A battery, along with a tripod mount.
On the front of the camera there’s a mode dial. What I love about this camera is that it has a “flash off” mode for land photography – this was the mode I used the most. It also has an auto mode, a flash on mode, and a macro mode for underwater. When you’re underwater, the camera automatically changes to a fixed focal length.
I’ve used this camera at the beach, in the surf, in the pool, in the rain, I love it! The images are sharp, and have great colours and contrast. This is fast becoming one of my favourite point and shoot cameras.
Canon underwater camera models
Canon launched this camera in April 1994 under different names in different regions. At launch, it cost 42,000 Yen, around $40USD. Below are the names it was sold under in each region:
- Canon Sure Shot A1 (North America)
- Canon Prima AS-1 (Europe)
- Canon Autoboy D5 (Japan)
The camera also came in a panorama date version. A switch enabled you to change from full frame to faux panorama. The film door on this model featured a date back.
The mystery of the Canon WP-1
Rather confusingly, there is also another model called the Canon Sure Shot WP-1. This model looks very similar but has two main differences. Firstly, it has red rubber on the front under the Canon logo instead of grey. Secondly, it has a flower to denote Macro mode instead of a fish!
There is some speculation that there were some production issues with the WP-1 which led to it being reclassified as a weatherproof / splash-proof camera rather than an underwater camera like the other models. Many WP-1 models were manufactured in China, with the other models manufactured mostly in Taiwan.
Canon Prima AS-1 underwater camera specifications
- Fully automatic 35mm waterproof camera
- 32mm f/3.5 lens. 6 elements in 6 groups
- Above water: 3-point smart autofocus with near-infrared beam. Prefocus enabled.
- Underwater: Fixed focus (Macro: 0.45 m – 1 m).
- Built-in electronic self-timer.
- Large bright viewfinder with 0.42x magnification and 84% coverage.
- LED lights: green okay to shoot, blink light for close-up warning, camera-shake warning, and red-eye reduction lamp ON; and turns off during flash recycling).
- Film speed range: ISO 25 – 3200. Non DX-coded film rated at ISO 25.
- Built-in Flash Fixed, built-in flash. Guide No. 7.5 (at ISO 100 in meters). Fires automatically in low-light and backlit conditions. Red-eye reduction lamp provided.
- Battery: Takes one 3V CR123A lithium battery
- Auto film advance with built-in motor.
- Film rewind is automatic with built-in motor. No mid-roll rewind.
- Dimensions: 133 x 88 x 56 mm.
- Weight: 385g (including battery).
Canon Sure Shot A1 / Canon Prima AS-1 Manual
You can find the Canon Sure Shot A1 / Prima AS-1 manual on the excellent camera manuals website from Mr Buktus. Make sure you throw him a few bucks if you find the manuals useful, which I’m sure you will.
Canon Sure Shot A1 / Prima AS-1 manual
Canon Prima AS-1 pros and cons
- Super fun to use.
- Fantastic viewfinder.
- Excellent sharp lens with great colours and contrast.
- You can turn the flash off – a great feature for land-based photography that not all underwater cameras have.
- More bulky than other point and shoots, though it’s not heavy.
- No ISO controls.
- Only waterproof to 5 metres.
Is the Canon Prima AS-1 a good buy in 2020?
Yes, I believe so. I picked up my Canon Prima AS-1 for approximately $45. It’s in excellent condition and came with the original strap, case and manual.
Canon Prima AS-1 sample images / Canon Sure Shot A1 sample images
Here are some sample photos taken with the Canon Prima AS-1 underwater point and shoot camera (also known as the Canon Autoboy D5 / Canon Sure Shot WP-1 / Canon Sure Shot A1).