The Canon Camera Company became well respected for both their rangefinder cameras and the lens manufacture during the 1950s. They had an early start in the 1930s using Nikkor lenses. Their first attempt on a professional SLR camera was the remarkable 1959 Canonflex, also their very first SLR camera, which never became a success despite the high quality build. This time Canon has worked hard to regain a place among the professional camera makers, a position held for a decade by Nikon. At this time there are no prosperous European camera makers left, although a few still are in business.

The Canon way has been a diversified one, manufacturing a wide variety of interesting products for almost every market segment, but they lacked concentration in any one particular direction, at least in terms of cameras. The original Canonflex was remarkable, but it was not wholeheartedly backed up, and soon it disappeared. The superb range of Canon FL lens-mount SLR cameras that followed, was not intended for the professional photographer, giving the competition a ten year lead in that field. However, a vast majority of young amateur photographers became acquainted with the Canon FX, FP, FT and TL, or even the famous Pellix, and inevitably, some of these would become professional photographers and select a familiar brand.

The name Canon F-1 describes two very different cameras: a fully manual model (two versions : F-1 and F-1n, externally distinguished by a film holder at the back, and a plastic tip on the film lever of the F-1n), and a later electronically controlled model, often termed the New F-1 (but not labelled as such on the front plate). Finders designed for the F-1 do not fit the New F-1, or vice-versa. The New F-1 is most commonly seen with a pentaprism finder with an accessory shoe. Thus a simple albeit inaccurate way to tell the two models apart is whether or not there is an accessory shoe atop the finder. An exact way to tell them apart when looking from the front is whether the top plate is stepped, or when looking from above whether there is a red A on the shutter speed dial: Both features are unique to the New F-1.

The Canon F-1[]

The Canon F-1 is a 35mm SLR camera introduced in the summer of 1970, together with the new Canon FD lens mount. It became generally available the following year. The FD lens fully communicates with the camera, and there is a capable range of lenses to choose from. They are backward compatible with the earlier Canon cameras. The FD lenses have an Automatic position on the aperture ring, at first identified by a green circle, later by a green A. This position is excluded if the lens is on a camera not supporting the automatic mode. The 1 to 1/2000 sec shutter has horizontally running metal foils curtains.

The TTL metering on the Canon F-1 is a remarkable feature. The photocell is neither in the finder prism nor behind the SLR mirror, but on the side of the focusing screen, which directs a fraction of the light to it. In this way the meter works independently of the attached finder, dramatically simplifying the viewfinders as well as the metering system in the camera. The beauty of it is the focusing screen with an embedded mirror. The exposure meter uses the 1.35volt mercury battery, which fortunately may be replaced, using an ordinary hearing aid battery (1.4volt) that is so cheap that it doesn't matter how long they last. The finder prism is neatly slid on, and focusing screen is easily lifted out.

A separately available Servo EE Finder provides shutter-priority automatic exposure using an arm attached to the left-hand side of the finder to operate the lens diaphragm, reached through an elongated tiny door at the left-hand side of the mirror housing. It must be opened using a fingernail before attaching the arm. A separate battery case, equipped with a belt clip, holds the eight required 1.5volt penlight batteries. When they are loaded and all electrical connections established either automatic or manual exposure function is activated using the right-hand switch. The incorporated lever is just added for speedy operation of the meter switch. The automatically selected aperture is shown on a scale to the right in the finder. This is particularly useful equipment for remote controlled or automatic interval photography used in connection with the Motor Drive MF. This combination weighs 7 lbs, or about 3.2 kg, with eighteen AA batteries and the FD55mm 1:1.2 standard lens.

The Motor Drive MF is easily mounted once the camera battery-compartment cover is temporarily removed, and the base plate set aside. It needs ten 1.5volt penlight batteries held inside the large right-hand grip with a soft-touch shutter release button at the top. At the front, under a cover cap, is a socket for interconnecting the Servo EE Finder. At the back is a Single / Continuous / selector switch and a small lever to operate the rewind release switch. It is only operational when the frame counter next to it is at zero. The continuous mode is only available for fast shutter speeds from 1/60 sec. and upwards to 1/2000 sec.

Because the finder is detachable, the accessory shoe is at the side, requiring special attachments. The hinged removable back is opened by pulling the rewind knob up while pushing the security lock button in front of it down. At the upper left-hand corner of the camera is the PC sync contact. There is no need for a lens release button. The lens is released by rotating anticlockwise the serrated aluminium breech-lock ring and then the lens is removed. The self-timer lever doubles as a depth-of-field pre-view and mirror-up control, assisted by a smaller lever for locking the first and accomplishing the latter.

The variants[]

In 1976 the Canon F-1n was launched with minor improvements over the original model accepting all its accessories. It distinguishes it self by having a plastic tipped lever-wind and a back-door film reminder! Two and 1/2 years later, in April 1979, the Canon New FD (often referred to as the FDn) lens mount was introduced, meant to be easier in use, while cross compatible with the earlier mounts, recognised by lacking the bright metal breech-lock ring. The new system requires the whole lens to be twisted in place, and it has a release button at five o'clock, just where the right-hand index finger rests when gripping around the lens barrel.

The New Canon F-1[]

The Canon F-1N arrived in 1981, introduced in March and marketed in September. It was at first called the New F-1, but has later been known as the Canon F-1N. It has a stepped top plate; the shutter release and the shutter speed dial are at an elevated section of the top plate. It is a bit smaller than the F-1. This camera secured Canon as a top professional camera maker, and their followers were mainly of the younger generation.

Canon F-1 is an electronic camera, including the 8sec. to 1/2000 sec. metal foil shutter, powered by a 6-volt lithium battery, easily accessible behind the right-hand camera grip. The switch surrounding the shutter-release selects between S (self-timer) and "A" (automatic, only if shutter-speed dial is at A) operation, and switches the camera off at L (lock). The camera provides automatic shutter speed exposure - manually set the aperture, selectable by a red A, accessed by lifting the collar surrounding the shutter-speed dial. If the AE Finder FN is attached, an impressive long scale at the bottom of the finder shows all the speeds and the aperture set at the lens. The TTL exposure meter uses a Silicone Photo Diode placed as before on the side of the focusing screen, which directs a fraction of the light to it. The AE Finder FN provides automatic aperture exposure - manually set shutter speed, by setting the aperture ring to the green A, as well as match needle manual metering, either at full aperture or stopped down. At the back of the AE Finder FN, is a meter selector switch with delayed off function (Hold) and scale backlight position (Light). There is a depth-of-field button at the front stopping down the lens when let out, unless the lens aperture ring is set to A, when it is locked.


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