Rediscovering the Canon Sure Shot Owl/Prima AF-8

by Steve Harwood

Launched in 1997, the Canon Sure Shot Owl, or the Prima AF-8 as it’s known in continental Europe, marks a significant entry in Canon’s acclaimed Sure Shot series. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at this compact 35mm film camera, examining its design, features, and technical aspects in detail. Whether you’re just starting in photography or are an experienced professional, let’s embark on a journey to discover the intricacies of the Sure Shot Owl.

Design and Features

The design of the Canon Sure Shot Owl is immediately noticeable, featuring a sleek black exterior adorned with the iconic Canon logo in elevated silver letters. A key highlight of this camera is its exceptionally large viewfinder, boasting a viewing area three times larger than that of typical compact cameras. This expansive viewfinder is not just beneficial for those who prefer a wider view; it’s particularly advantageous for eyeglass wearers, allowing them to see the entire image area even when positioned two centimeters away from the viewfinder. Furthermore, the Sure Shot Owl sets itself apart with its Mode Dial located on the front, simplifying access to various operational functions and marking a significant evolution from its predecessor, the Prima AF-7.

Film and Film Format

The camera is designed for 35mm film, a classic film format known for its versatility and the quality of images it produces. For those new to the world of film, 35mm is a great place to start because of its widespread availability and ease of development.

Recommended Films:

Ilford HP5 Plus
And Kodak Portra 400 again

Power Source and Battery Life

The Canon Sure Shot Owl is powered by two AA-size batteries. It’s worth noting, however, that it’s not compatible with NiCd or lithium batteries. If you’re looking to purchase these AA batteries, they’re widely available, including on Amazon.

Exposure Control and Light Metering

Exposure control in the Sure Shot Owl is managed by the Program AE using a CdS light receptor. With a range (at ISO 100) of EV10.5-EV16, it adapts well in various lighting scenarios. Moreover, the camera automatically adjusts the ISO film speed range with DX-coded film, specifically between ISO 100/200 and 400.

Size, Weight and Ergonomics

The camera’s dimensions stand at 125 x 73 x 46.5mm, and it weighs approximately 220 grams without the battery. Its ergonomic design ensures ease of use, with the added advantage of its large viewfinder and conveniently placed Mode Dial.

by Sgroey

Technical Specifications

Lens35mm, f/4.5 (3 elements in 3 groups)
Autofocus System3-step active Autofocus system with OK-to-shoot indicator
ShutterProgram-type electromagnetic 4-speed; ranging from 1/45,f/4.5 to 1/180,f/11 depending on the mode
ViewfinderReverse Galileo type with 0.68x magnification and 80% picture coverage
Exposure ControlProgram AE using CdS light receptor; range of EV10.5-EV16 at ISO 100
Built-in FlashAutomatic firing in low-light with Red-Eye Reduction and a 5-second recycle time
Power SourceTwo AA-size batteries; non-compatible with NiCd or lithium batteries
Film Loading & AdvanceAuto-loading with film advancing to frame 1 upon loading
Film RewindAutomated rewind with a built-in motor; mid-roll rewind option
Dimensions & Weight125 x 73 x 46.5mm, 220 g (without battery)
Other FeaturesBuilt-in self-timer, integrated flash with a guide number of 9m at ISO 100, and a mode dial for operation control


The Canon Sure Shot Owl, with its blend of classic design and functional features, serves as a testament to Canon’s dedication to producing quality compact cameras. Its large viewfinder and Mode Dial make it an attractive choice for photographers of all skill levels. While it might not boast the high-tech features of contemporary cameras, it certainly holds its ground as a reliable 35mm compact film camera.