Rediscovering Canon’s Sure Shot Supreme: An ’80s Icon

by Gilles Peris

In the vast world of photography, some cameras stand out not just for their technical prowess, but for their innovative design and user-centric features. The Canon Sure Shot Supreme, known diversely as the Top Shot in Europe and Autoboy 3 in Japan, is one such model. Launched in 1986, this 35mm film camera encapsulated a blend of advanced features with thoughtful ergonomics, all at an affordable price point. Let’s delve deeper into its design and features to understand what makes it a noteworthy mention in the history of compact cameras.

Design and Features

The Canon Sure Shot Supreme is a testament to Canon’s ability to craft cameras that cater to a global audience. While its name might vary—be it the stylish ‘Top Shot’ in the continent or the tech-savvy ‘Autoboy 3’ in Japan—its essence remains consistent. It’s a member of Canon’s much-celebrated Sure Shot range, garnering acclaim and recognition in its time. The camera’s slanted grip is more than just a design quirk—it’s an ergonomic marvel. This intentional slant ensures that the viewfinder sits flush with the user’s eye, a feature that prevents obstructions from fingers and thumbs. This design consideration allows for both one-handed and two-handed shooting with ease. Beyond ergonomics, the Canon Sure Shot Supreme boasts a unique tilting foot at its base. This innovative feature permits photographers to place the camera on the ground while angling it upwards—a delightful solution for capturing unique perspectives. However, while the camera has many standout features, it’s not without its quirks. For instance, its battery compartment is securely screwed down, requiring a mini-screwdriver for replacements. Additionally, the flash disable function is controlled by a small rubber button situated at the camera’s bottom, which can be a tad challenging to access swiftly.

Film and Film Format

The Canon Sure Shot Supreme is designed to work seamlessly with DX-Coded films, accommodating a wide ISO range from 50 to 1600. This wide ISO range provides photographers with a variety of options for different lighting conditions, from bright sunlight to more dimly lit scenarios.

Loading the film into the camera is an intuitive process. Once the camera back is opened, the user aligns the film leader at the designated mark and then closes the camera back. This initiates the auto-loading mechanism. The camera’s built-in motor takes care of both film advancing and rewinding, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience. Additionally, for those moments when you might need to switch films or just check the amount left, the Canon Sure Shot Supreme features a midroll rewind, allowing users the flexibility to rewind the film before reaching its end.

For those wondering which films to pair with this camera, it is recommended to opt for popular 35mm film options such as Kodak Portra for vibrant colors, Ilford HP5 Plus for classic black and white shots, or Fujifilm Superia for a balanced color profile. Each of these films complements the camera’s capabilities, ensuring that photographers can achieve the best results in varied shooting conditions.

Power Source and Battery Life

The Canon Sure Shot Supreme operates using a 2CR5 lithium battery, which is renowned for its long-lasting performance and durability. These batteries are designed to provide consistent power output, ensuring that the camera functions efficiently through numerous shooting sessions.

A notable aspect of the camera’s design is its battery compartment. Unlike many modern devices that have easily accessible battery compartments, the Sure Shot Supreme’s battery section is securely fastened with screws. While this design ensures a tighter seal and perhaps better protection against environmental elements, it does require a bit more effort during battery replacement. Users will need a mini-screwdriver to open the compartment and change the battery. This may seem inconvenient to some, but it’s a small trade-off for the camera’s overall reliability and performance.

For those looking to purchase a new 2CR5 battery or stock up on a few spares, they are readily available on Amazon. It’s always a good idea to have an extra battery on hand, especially for those impromptu photography sessions or extended trips.

Exposure Control and Light Metering

Exposure control is central to achieving the desired image outcome, and the Canon Sure Shot Supreme doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The camera boasts a shutter speed ranging from 1/8 to 1/500s, giving photographers the flexibility to capture images in varied lighting conditions. Additionally, it is compatible with DX-Coded films with an ISO range of 50-1600, allowing for fine-tuning based on the environment and desired effect.

In terms of auto exposure, the camera is equipped with a smart system that detects low-light and backlight situations. In these instances, the auto flash, with a guide number of 8 meters at ISO 100, activates to ensure that the subject is adequately illuminated. This feature ensures that even in challenging lighting, the images retain clarity and detail.

The camera’s light metering capabilities are commendable, with a metering range of EV 6 (f/2.8 at 1/8 sec.) to EV 17 (f/1.6 at 1/500 sec.). The Silicon Photocell (SPC) facilitates full-auto program EE (Electric Eye), adeptly measuring and adjusting light for optimum image results.

Size, Weight, and Ergonomics

At 132 x 71 x 50 mm and weighing just 315 grams without its 2CR5 battery, the Canon Sure Shot Supreme is a compact powerhouse. Its design aesthetics set it apart; the camera showcases a curved and rounded exterior which was not just about style but also about comfort and ease of use. This design earned widespread appreciation and was recognized by several accolades, including the Good Design Award from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. In 1986, its innovative approach made it the European Camera of the Year.

User Base: Beginners or Advanced Photographers?

The Canon Sure Shot Supreme, with its intuitive features and user-friendly design, is versatile enough to appeal to both beginners and advanced photographers. For newcomers, the camera’s automated systems and ergonomic design provide an easy entry into the world of photography. Advanced users, on the other hand, can appreciate its reliable performance and the flexibility offered by its exposure controls.

A comparative glance at its predecessor, the Autoboy 2, reveals the strides Canon made with the Sure Shot Supreme. While the Autoboy 2 was impressive in its right, the next-generation Sure Shot Supreme or Autoboy 3 was a leap forward in terms of design, ergonomics, and functionality. This evolution in design and features was instrumental in its success and the laurels it achieved.

Technical Specifications

Model NamesSure Shot Supreme, Top Shot, Autoboy 3
Launch DateJune 1986
TypeFully automatic 35mm Lens-Shutter autofocus camera
Picture Size24 x 36 mm
AF SystemTriangulation system with near-infrared beam. Prefocus enabled.
Lens38mm f/2.8 (4 elements in 4 groups)
ShutterElectromagnetic programmed shutter and aperture. EV 6 (f/2.8 at 1/8 sec.) – 17 (f/16 at 1/500 sec.). Built-in electronic self-timer.
ViewfinderReversed Galilean with projected frames. AF frame, in-focus lamp, near-distance warning lamp, combination flash-ready and camera-shake warning mark, and parallax correction marks. 0.45x magnification.
Exposure Control (EE)SPC for full-auto program EE. Metering range of EV 6 – 17 (at ISO 100). Film speed range of ISO 50 – 1600 (with DX code).
Built-in FlashGuide No. 8 (at ISO 100 in meters). Automatic firing in low-light and backlight conditions.
Power SourceOne 6 V 2CR5 lithium battery
Film Loading & AdvanceAuto-loading, advancing and rewinding with built-in motor.
Frame CounterCounts up. Resets automatically when camera back is opened.
Film RewindAutomatic rewind with built-in motor. Midroll rewind enabled.
Dimensions132 x 71 x 50 mm
Weight315g (without battery)
Special FeaturesSlanted grip, tilting foot, secured battery compartment, flash disable button


The Canon Sure Shot Supreme, also known as Top Shot or Autoboy 3 in different regions, stands as a testament to Canon’s ability to merge innovation with user-friendliness. Launched in 1986, it was not just a camera; it was a revolution in compact 35mm film photography. With its commendable exposure control, ergonomic design, and award-winning aesthetics, this camera catered to both beginners and seasoned photographers. Its features, such as the auto flash in low light conditions, intuitive film handling, and the unique slanted grip, ensure a seamless photography experience.

While modern digital cameras have brought about a sea change in the world of photography, there’s an undeniable charm and authenticity associated with film cameras like the Sure Shot Supreme. For those looking to relive the golden days of film photography or embark on a new analogue adventure, this camera is a reliable companion. All said and done, the Canon Sure Shot Supreme remains an iconic piece of photographic history, offering a blend of technical sophistication and timeless design.