The Canon F-1
||1 sec - 1/2000 sec
||Titanium horizontal travel
mechanical focal plane
||CDS semi spot (12%)
||EV 2.5 - EV 18
||Full aperture manual match needle
||Canon FD manual focus
||1.3 volt M20 (#625)
This was, for decades, Canon's offering to the professional photographer.
Though not always the most feature laden, the newest, or the flashiest of
the line, this camera was arguably the best professional grade model you
could buy. This was Canon's "system" camera. As such there was an extensive
line of accessories with which to extend it's capabilities, and add flexibility
to the unit. The basic camera is an all metal, brass bodied unit, with a
mechanical focal plane shutter, and manual match needle exposure system. Like
all FD cameras, the F-1 was capable of full aperture metering.
This camera features a metal curtained shutter, made of
a super thin sheet of titanium, with a top speed of 1/2000 of a second. This
is a horizontal travel shutter, with a synch speed of 1/60 of a second, and
mechanically governed speeds going down to 1 second, plus bulb. The shutter
can be cocked in a single 105 degree throw of the advance lever, or in a
series of smaller arcs. As with all of the F series of cameras, the shutter
is independent of the battery.
The standard viewfinder of the F-1 has a central focusing
aid consisting of a split image rangefinder surrounded by a microprism collar.
Around the focusing aid is a slightly darkened rectangle which indicates
the borders of the meter's measurement area. The metering system of the F-1
is what Canon calls a semi spot system. The entire sensitivity of the meter
is concentrated within the boundaries of the central rectangle, 12% of the
image area. A manual camera, with what amounts to a built in spot meter,
is a marvelous tool for high contrast situations, such as night scenes. It
is also perfectly satisfactory for less demanding situations. The meter has
a sensitivity at ASA 100 of EV 2.5 to EV 18.
Outside of the image frame area of the viewfinder, off
the right are displays for the shutter speed, and exposure information. The
shutter speed is shown beneath the exposure scale. The exposure scale is
similar in practice to that of the Other F models, but differs in appearance.
The needles are the familiar straight, and circular ones of all of the manual
exposure Canon's, but are enclosed in a manner which gives the appearance
of being a bar graph. There is a reference mark, for use during stopped down
metering, and a red border on top and bottom. The circle is linked to the
aperture, and is one stop in diameter. The straight needle is linked to the
shutter speed, and light level. Getting the straight needle anywhere within
the circle will give an acceptable exposure.
The controls are in the expected places, with the shutter
speed dial to the right of the pentaprism, the winding lever all the way
to the right, and the shutter release in between. A locking collar on the
shutter speed dial set the film speed. To the left of the pentaprism is the
rewind knob, and the contacts for the optional hot shoe adapter. Also here
is the small window which provides light for the viewfinder display. The
meter on off switch is on the back of the camera, below the rewind knob.
There is a multifunction lever on the front of the camera, to the right of
the lens, which stops the lens down to preview depth of field. This same
lever also locks the mirror up, and sets the ten second self timer.
The F-1 will take the entire series of FD, as well as
FL lenses, common to the whole F series of cameras. This in itself gives a
considerable amount of versatility to the unit. The camera will take either
the older, turn to tighten style, or the newer quarter turn lenses. Many
photographers prefer the older style for it's self adjusting tension, and
ability to compensate for the inevitable wear of the mount. All of the FD
lenses have metal bodies.
In common with the FTb, and the EF, the F-1 can use the
CAT (Canon auto tune) flash system. This is an integrated electromechanical
system of camera, flash, and lens. A ring is attached to the a nub on the
lens focusing ring. A cable runs from the ring to the flash unit, while the
flash unit itself is mounted on a special hot shoe with three connectors instead
of the usual one. The ring transmits focus information to the flash unit,
which in turn sends this information to the meter. The meter needle adjusts
position according to the focus information, and it is up to the user to
match the aperture needle, in a manner similar to that used during normal
metered photography. the system was quite the advance for it's day, and still
has some merit, even in these days of TTl flash systems, and auto exposure.
Where the F-1 really shines, in comparison to the other
members of the Canon F series, is in the system which can be built around
it. This starts with the interchangable viewfinders, which can alter the
metering, and viewing capabilities of the basic camera. There is a waist
level finder, a booster finder for low light, and a servo finder, which makes
this an automatic camera. The prism is easily removed by depressing a button
on either side, and pulling straight back. This is the same method used to
give access to the focus screen. There is a wide selection of screens, as
well as a motor drive, data backs, and film backs which will allow hundreds
of photos to be taken without reloading. When added to the FD series of lenses,
and the automatic flash system, there are few circumstances under which this
camera could not get a photographer an acceptable image.
The F-1 was my second F series camera. My first was the
marvelous FTb, which is still my favorite camera. The F-1 is missing the
hot shoe, and has a 1/2000 of a second top shutter speed, but it is otherwise
functionally identical to my FTb. As such, I am very pleased with it. The
use of these cameras becomes second nature, after a while, and there are
few things more reassuring than knowing you have set the shutter speed, and
focus yourself, and that the camera will not attempt to override your settings.
In this series of cameras, I think Canon defined what a true photographer's
camera ought to be. everything else is just bells, whistles, and fluff.