Canon Snappy Q – a Film Camera Made for Summer

Canon Snappy Q – a Film Camera Made for Summer

2000 1125 James Tocchio

The Canon Snappy Q was designed by Canon in 1989 to be a simple point-and-shoot 35mm film camera to make effortless snapshots of people and places. While much in the world has changed since 1989, some things have remained the same. Where I live, now, it’s almost summer, a season which forever holds the promise of happy days and warm nights spent free of care with the people we love.

Photographic-minded and sentimental-hearted people of 1989 would have wanted to press their summer memories into film. They might have done it with a Snappy Q.

Today, those of us of similar heart and mind feel the same urge, and the Snappy Q still does what it was designed to do. It takes pretty good pictures with zero effort. More importantly, it gives the user room to live.

Specifications of the Canon Snappy Q

  • Camera Type : Fully automatic 35mm point and shoot film camera with a 24x36mm image area (full frame)
  • Focusing Method : None (fixed focus camera)
  • Lens : 35mm f/4.5 (3 elements in 3 groups) with a built-in user-selectable “foggy corner” soft filter
  • Shutter : Mechanical shutter with single speed (1/70th of a second) with a built-in mechanical self-timer
  • Viewfinder : Reverse Galilean VF with 0.4x magnification and 84% coverage
  • Exposure Meter : CdS cell, EV10-EV15 at ISO 100
  • Film Speeds : ISO 100/200 and 400 (user-selectable)
  • Flash : Built-in flash with guide number 9 at ISO 100 in meters. When flash is required, the flash-required warning lamp will pop up and the flash will fire automatically. Flash can be over-ridden by holding down the flash warning lamp
  • Power Source : Two 1.5v AA batteries
  • Additional Features : Strap lugs; tripod socket; automatic film advance and rewind; user-activated mid roll rewind; film frame counter with auto reset
  • Weight and Dimensions : 300 grams (10.5 ounces) with batteries installed; 118 x 90 x 49mm (4.6 x 3.5 x 1.9 inches)

Highlights of the Canon Snappy Q

The Snappy Q is a camera with many of the highlights which differentiate the point-and-shoot from all other cameras. First impression is that it’s small and lightweight, cute, easy-to-use, and fun. It’s oddly-shaped, and has one or two uncommon features which make it an interesting choice, even within its own point-and-shoot class.

Held in the hand, things feel comfortable. On the top of the camera we find the shutter release button, a film frame counter, and the pop-up flash-ready light. On the back we find the film door and film door latch release, and the viewfinder. The right-hand side features a strap connector, strap, and, interestingly, a tripod socket (the positioning of this indicates that Canon expected this to be a people camera – one used to shoot portrait-oriented snaps).

The front of the camera holds the lens, a Canon 35mm f/4.5 glass lens with three elements in three groups, the manual ISO selection switch (toggle-able between 100/200 and 400 ISO), the mechanical ten second self-timer, and the (somewhat strange) “foggy corners” lens filter and its corresponding switch. This lens filter also doubles as a lens cover for when the camera’s not in use.

There’s nothing too exciting, here, especially for serious photo nerds. But let’s look at the most interesting of all of the admittedly sparse features – that “foggy corner” lens filter.

For some reason, in the 1980s, people loved soft images with glowing highlights. I’ve seen quite a number of photography guides and owner’s manuals of the era contain pictures of extremely softened bodacious babes on sandy beaches, the waves glistening with starburst highlights. I don’t really get it. But Canon did, apparently, because they built this “feature” into a number of their cameras in the Sure Shot range. And the Snappy Q is one such camera.

And the filter does what the manual says it does. It applies a super soft effect to the edges of our pictures, leaving only a circular patch of clarity in the middle. Artistic license aside, the effect is applied rather inartistically. There is very little gradation from softened edges to sharp(er) center.

After using the filter quite a bit, I admit that I still don’t really get it.

Where the Canon Snappy Q Falls Short

The Canon Snappy Q has an adequate lens in the same way that a cup of lemonade is an adequate lens, meaning that it’s made of glass and light can pass through it. It’s not a lens to impress those who like high fidelity images. It’s basic and leaves something to be desired in the areas of resolving power and clarity, and contrast, and flare control, and distortion correction – basically, the Snappy Q’s lens measures poorly by any metric. It’s just not that great.

The camera’s shutter is similarly primitive. Capable of just one speed, it’s as basic as it gets. In fact, some Kodak 127 film cameras from over a hundred years ago contain more versatile shutters in their leatherette shells.

The Snappy Q’s single shutter speed of 1/7oth of a second means that we’ll need to be aware of our lighting conditions and load the appropriate film for the occasion. I’ve found that using even the general purpose 400 speed films that the camera-makers likely intended us to use, my shots were often under- or over-exposed, depending on the light. Shots in my house at night were too dark to be usable. Sunny shots outside in mid-afternoon were often over-exposed, almost too over-exposed to be used.

The camera’s automatic flash does what it can to balance things, both indoors and out, but it’s far from perfect.

The truth is, the Canon Snappy Q is a pretty rudimentary camera. It’s not made for people who actually care about image quality. It’s for people who want a cute, happy little film camera through which they can shoot their carefree days. And those people will love it, so long as they’re not too bothered by the frequently wrongly-exposed photos that the Snappy Q seems to make.

Canon Snappy Q Sample Images

Final Thoughts

The Snappy Q is a cute, fun camera. I love the way it looks, and I appreciate the philosophy behind it – that it’s more important to make memories than it is to photograph them in perfect fidelity. It’s a camera for the beach, for summer strolls, for picnics and theme parks and relaxing with friends and family. It’s a camera that fits in the pocket, comes out quickly to snap a shot, and then, away it goes.

It’s not the best camera, nor the best point-and-shoot. Far from it. And while I like the Canon Snappy Q for what it is, I think because of what it isn’t, I’d buy a different camera.

Canon made hundreds of point-and-shoot 35mm film cameras throughout the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s. The Sure Shot range alone contains dozens of models, and nearly all of them have better lenses, more features, and more advanced shutters, metering systems, and flash control than the Snappy Q. Thing is, they’re just as small, and they don’t cost much more, too!

Nikon, Pentax, Ricoh, Olympus, and others, all made thousands of different models of point-and-shoot, and most of them will make better shots than the Q.

Unless you love the design and the philosophy of the Snappy Q, consider a “better” point-and-shoot. For those photo nerds charmed by the Snappy Q’s shape, its weird foggy cornered filter, the tenuous connection to Star Trek: The Next Generation, or that it’s charmingly called “The Sketchbook” outside of the USA, buy one and enjoy it. For everyone else, look elsewhere for a memory-making film camera.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • Michael Elliott June 18, 2023 at 3:39 am

    There were some god awful design choices made but there were some pretty funky results.

  • Dear James,

    I like your blog very much, almost always an exceptional read and very well written. But this article is like casualoutdoorclothing recommending a trash bag for sheltering from bad weather on the first of April:

    “Yes, there are shortfalls, you have no sleeves nor pockets, but at least it covers your sweaty torso from the rain”

    Yes, the easiness as a philosophy behind it is a point, but it is moot when you have to discard 2/3 of your pics because the camera is simply not up to deliver in any but ideal conditions.

    Friends may ask: “And this foto of the beautiful moment you took the other day?”
    “Sorry, white noise…”

    Asking prices are well over 100 bucks these days, I don’t get it.

    I would never ever put a precious film into this thingie. Thanks for the warning, keep up the great work!

    And yes, the first picture is beautiful!

    Good light,


    • Hi Knut, I appreciate your point and will keep it in mind! Perhaps I’m being a bit too accepting and I need to recalibrate a bit. I’ll make sure I’m giving my best advice moving forward, my friend!

  • omg, I got a canon snappy q off of market place back in October 2022, and I have barely been able to find any information on it… and today, I randomly stumble upon your article! Do you by chance know if there’s anyway to trigger the flash as it sometimes doesn’t come up in certain lighting? Or do you know which tripods could be used with this camera? Thanks so much ☺️

    • Any tripod with a standard tripod screw will mount this camera. Basically any tripod you could buy these days.

      As for triggering the flash, I would simply point the camera into my hand and half press the shutter release so that the flash pops up. That should work!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio