Canon F-1

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Canon F-1
Type 35 mm SLR camera
Lens mount Canon FD lens mount
Focus manual
Exposure manual
Flash hot shoe

The Canon F-1 is a 35 mm single-lens reflex camera produced by Canon of Japan from March 1971 until 1976's introduction of the mildly updated F-1n. Production of this revision to the F-1 continued until the end of 1981 at which time the F-1 was superseded by the New F-1 which was launched earlier in 1981. The new Canon FD lens mount was introduced along with the F-1, but the previous Canon FL-mount lenses were also compatible, although without open-aperture metering. Older R- series lenses could also be used with some limitations. The Canon F-1 was clearly placed as a solid competitor to the Nikon F and Nikon F2 line of single lens reflex cameras by Nikon.

The three Canon F-1s
Canon F-1 1979

The F-1 was Canon's first truly professional-grade SLR system, supporting a huge variety of accessories and interchangeable parts so it could be adapted for different uses and preferences.

In 1972 Canon launched a Highspeed model with a fixed pellicle mirror that allowed the user to see the subject at all times. Equipped with a motor drive the camera was able to shoot up to 9 frames per second, the highest speed of any motor driven camera at the time.

A special commemorative model of the F-1 was offered for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. It was identical to the regular F-1 but for the Olympic emblem on the front upper left of the body. Canon also manufactured and sold commemorative 55 mm and (much harder to find) 58 mm lens caps with the 1976 Montreal Olympics for their normal lenses in production at the time.

For the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, a Special version of the F-1 with the engraved Lake Placid Olympic logo was offered. Special Lake Placid 52 mm lens caps were also made.

In 1978 a military model called "ODF-1" (olive drab) with an all-over olive green finishing was presented.

Canon, being the official sponsor of the World Cup, made 1978 55 mm lens caps and 1982 52 mm lens caps commemorating the 1978 and 1982 World Cup events.

Revisions[edit]

In 1976, the camera was revised slightly. This revised version is sometimes called the F-1n (not to be confused with the 1981 New F-1). All told 13 improvements were made. These changes were:

  1. Change the standard focusing screen from the A style (microprism only) to E style (split image with microprism ring).
  2. Widen the film advance lever offset from 15 degrees to 30 degrees.
  3. Decrease the winding stroke from 180 degrees to 139 degrees.
  4. Increase the maximum ASA from 2000 to 3200.
  5. Added a plastic tip to the advance lever.
  6. Changed the mirror to transmit more blue light, thus making the image brighter.
  7. Added a detent to the rewind crank to allow it to stay put when pulled out.
  8. Added the capability to take a screw-in type PC sync socket.
  9. Spring load the battery check position of the power switch.
  10. Increase the size of the shutter release cup.
  11. Added a soft rubber ring around the eyepiece.
  12. Added a film reminder holder to the camera back.
  13. Simplify multiple exposure procedure.

The number of focusing screens was also expanded from four to nine.

In 1980 Canon introduced "Laser Matte" focusing screens identified by an "L" in a circle on the screen's label. These Laser Matte screens were noticeably brighter than the earlier screens, and they were continued with the New F-1.

Accessories[edit]

The Canon F-1 has one of the largest set of accessories of any 35mm SLR ever produced. The viewfinder is removable (interchangeable with four other viewfinders); The focusing screen can be changed out with 4 (later 9) types; the mirror can be locked up to allow deep seated lenses or for high magnification work, the back is interchangeable with a data and bulk film back (250 exposures), The bottom plate is removable and there are 4 Motor Drives and / or Power Winders that can be used (one was a special order 9 frames per second high speed motor drive); three different flash couplers allowed a wide variety of flashes; the eyepiece can take threaded diopter adjustment lenses, magnifiers or angle finders; and the lens collection numbers over 50 FD (and a few special purpose) lenses from 7.5 mm fisheye to 1200 mm super telephoto, and includes the world's fastest 300 mm at the time (the 300 mm F2.8L) and the world's fastest 400 mm lens (the New FD 400 mm F2.8L) both of which incorporate special fluorite and ultra low dispersion glass elements for superb optical quality at the widest lens opening.

Viewfinders[edit]

Like most professional 35 mm cameras of the 1970s, the F-1 had interchangeable viewfinders. To remove the viewfinder, one depressed the two small buttons at the rear sides of the finder, and slid the finder toward the back of the camera (or depress one button on the bottom of the Speed Finder).

The camera shipped with a standard pentaprism finder, called an "eye level finder" by Canon.

Other finders available included a waist level finder, Speed Finder, Booster T finder, and Servo EE finder.

The waist level finder was patterned after the design of waist level finders common on medium format cameras. It had a pop-up hood to shield the focusing screen from stray light, as well as a magnifier to help with critical focusing. The waist level finder did not allow the metering information to be seen.

The Speed Finder was unique to Canon. The speed finder had a unique arrangement of prisms which allowed the entire finder image to be viewed from 60 millimeters away. In addition, the speed finder was arranged in such a way that it could be viewed in either the eye level or waist level position. The speed finder was suggested for use when wearing goggles or anything else that could prevent the user from placing the eyepiece right up to their eye. The Speed finder allowed full metering.

The Booster T Finder and Servo EE Finder were both essentially variations on the standard eye level finder. The Booster T Finder contained an ultra-sensitive metering cell which could read as low as EV −3.5. Just like the metering range was shifted towards the dark side, this finder also shift the shutter speeds the camera provided towards the long end. Instead of the normal range (1 s – 1/2000 s), the Booster T Finder gave 60 s – 1/60 s. The shutter speed dial on the finder locked on to the camera's normal shutter dial and drove it through a coupling pin for the standard range of 1 s – 1/60 s. The finder also had a trigger button, which went through the finder down to the normal trigger button. When the Booster's shutter speed dial was turned further, towards longer times, the camera's dial stopped at the B(ulb) setting, and the finder kept the trigger button pressed for the duration of the exposure. The mechanics of this connection also resulted in the oddity that there was no 2 s setting, but 4, 3 and 1 seconds.

The Servo EE Finder added shutter priority automatic exposure to the F-1. A servo mechanism in the finder drove the aperture lever on the lens, stopping it down to the correct value. This finder used the same coupling pin on the shutter speed dial as the Booster T Finder did, to sync the finder's shutter speed setting with the camera. It required a cord connected battery magazine (8AAs) or the Motor Drive MF and a special power cord.

Motor Drives[edit]

The originally available Motor Drive was named the "Motor Drive Unit". It was commonly referred to as the Motor Drive MD – because all of the accessories had MD in their suffix, but that was not the official designation. The Motor Drive Unit originally required a corded battery pack (10 AAs) making it unwieldy for field or sports action use. A later battery pack that direct connected to the unit became available. The unit also contained a built intervalometer for delays up to 1 frame per minute. The maximum speed was 3 frames per second.

In 1972 Canon made a special Modification of the F-1 called the "High Speed Motor Drive Camera". It had a fixed pellicle (semi transparent) mirror, the motor drive motors were a permanent attachment (the camera's wind lever was removed – making it impossible to use without the motor drive) and was powered by 20 AA batteries! Maximum speed was 9 frame/sec – the fastest available at the time. Its use at the 1972 Olympics in Japan produced fantastic sequential shots that were previously impossible to achieve.

In 1973, Canon introduced the Motor Drive MF. The Motor Drive MF had its batteries (10 AAs) in a vertical grip that mounted to the front left (looking from the front). It had a maximum rate of 3.5 frame/sec and was much better suited to action / sports photography, especially when paired with the Speed Finder or Servo EE finder. A special cord allowed the Servo EE finder to draw its power from the Motor drive MF – thus making a much more compact setup than the original Motor Drive unit. The Motor Drive MF did not have a built in intervalometer, but the Interval Timer L (and later the Interval Timer TM-1 (Quartz) could be plugged into the remote control socket as could remote switches and a wireless control unit, the Wireless Controller LC-1. These all allowed either remote and / or unattended use of the camera.

Later, Canon introduced the Power Winder F, a 2 frame/ sec power winder with a grip for ease of use. It used 4 AA batteries in the same battery magazine that the Canon A-series Power Winder A used. The Power winder F could use most of the remote switches that also fit the Motor Drive MF. The only two accessories that it could not use were the Interval Timer L and the Remote Switch 60-MF. While not as fast, The Power Winder F was smaller and lighter than the Motor Drive MF.

Unlike many other professional level cameras of the early 1970s, the F-1 required no modification or special custom fitting to attach the motor drives, one simply removed the bottom plate and screwed the motor drive in place.

Backs[edit]

The F-1's back was removable. A Data Back F (for the original F-1 and F-1n) or Data Back FN (for the New F-1) (which being mechanical is now incapable of putting the current year on a photo) or a bulk film back that could hold 250 exposures could be attached. The Film Chamber 250 could be used alone or with the Motor Drive Unit or Motor Drive MF (the MF's grip had to be removed and coupled via a dedicated cord).

Eyepiece[edit]

The F-1s eyepiece was threaded and could take a metal (later soft rubber covered) ring, an eyecup or several different diopter adjustment lenses. Th Magnifier R and Angle Finders A2 and B could also be attached to allow critical focusing and / or waist level use (if one did not want to fit either the Speed Finder or Waist Level Finder).

Flash Accessories[edit]

With a removable viewfinder, the F-1's flash coupler originally attached atop the rewind crank. Initially, there were two flash couplers, D and L. The D model was a simple x-synch coupler that allowed any non-dedicated manual or auto flash to be used. The Flash Coupler L contained two batteries (now hard to find, one being originally a 1.35v mercuric oxide and the other being the uncommon PX-1 size), one which powered a light to light up the metering window visible in the viewfinder, and the other to work with the original Canon Auto tuning system (CATS). The CATS used a special auto flash, the SpeedLite 133D and Flash auto Rings A, B, A2 and B2 and Canon 50 mm and 35 mm Lenses which signalled through the cords the distance of the subject and the charge level of the flash to allow match needle flash photography.

Canon announced and produced manuals for a high power handle mounted ("pototao masher") flash designated SpeedLight 500A. This was also to use the CATS equipment It appears in some Canon publications, and there are user instructions for it, however most people have never actually seen a SpeedLight 500A.

Fow low ambient light photography without flash, Canon provided the Finder Illuminator F which slid over the same flash contacts at the flash couplers. It contained a small battery powered light to light up the metering window.

Later, Canon introduced the Flash Coupler F, which fastened over the Eye Level Finder, making the camera look like more like one with a fixed viewfinder and hot shoe. This flash coupler, obviously could not be used with any other viewfinder, and did not have the electronics that the L model had, but it was more compact and the newer A-series flashes which had auto flash capabilities had now superseded the old SpeedLite 133D.

The CATS flash equipment was for the later electronic Canon F1 New (1981) and it allowed aperture settings from the camera to be communicated to the flash unit. It was also possible for the flash unit to select an appropriate camera aperture based on its own photo cell exposure reading, provided that the motor drive was also present. The motor drive is necessary for the camera to function in shutter priority. TTL Flash was introduced on the Nikon F3 (1981) which was a direct competitor of the F1 New. For many this was considered as a considerable advantage although the ergonomics of the Nikon F3 with its liquid crystal display lacked the clarity of the Canon F1.

Macro, Micro and Close-up Photography[edit]

A comprehensive set of close-up, macro and microphoto accessories was available for the F-1, including three bellows units, reversing rings and couplers, macro and micro photo hoods and couplers, copy stands, manual and automatic extension tubes and 3 different focal length macro lenses.

Lenses[edit]

The Canon F-1 used the Canon FD lens mount, though earlier FL and R series lenses could be used as well with very few exceptions. One exception is the FLP 38 mm F2.8 which sat way back in the mount and was designed for the Canon Pellix, an FL era camera. Canon Lenses were acclaimed for their superb optical quality, and ranged from 7.5 mm Fisheye to the super long telephoto FL 1200 mm F11. Canon pioneered the use of artificial Calcium Fluorite lens elements, thus making high speed long telephoto lenses a reality. Ultra Low dispersion glass was another Canon innovation, as was aspherical lens elements for high speed normal and wide angle lenses. Canon's superior lenses quality and excellent cameras was (and still is) manifested by the legions of sports photographers with long white super telephoto lenses at major sporting events worldwide. All those white lens barrels are Canon lenses and back in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s those lenses were fitted to Canon F-1s.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Canon F-1 at Wikimedia Commons