BLACK BEAUTY 5: CANON F1


All right, it's time for admissions of blind prejudice and ignorance. When I first started as a photographic assistant in the mid 1970s, Canon SLRs were not taken very seriously. The Nikon F was very much the standard, with the F2 just coming in. This was not least because the Nikon F was already a dozen years old when the Canon F1 came out in 1971: until the F1, conceived to go head to head with the F, Canons SLRs were regarded by many professionals as pretty much amateur cameras.

The F1 changed all this, but it had a steep uphill climb. Its advantages were first, built-in metering from the start: the Nikon F used a clumsy add-on system, though the F2 (also 1971) moved it inboard. Second, there was the theoretically superior, though arguably less convenient, breech-lock FD lens mount. Third, the prism changing system was possibly a little superior. Fourth, it was very, very pretty. I always wanted to try one. Finally, in 2017, I got my hands on one. 

Unfortunately, as you may already have guessed, this was yet another of the cameras that belonged to my old chum Senggye, and it was (and is) not without its faults. The dent on the top of the prism housing is purely cosmetic, and the black paint has worn in an exemplary manner. On the other hand, the mirror would hang up more often than not at speeds below 1/250, and the back wouldn't open.

The former was no great problem. The shutter itself works fine, so it's just the mirror black-out that'd disquieting, and I've had plenty of really old SLRs where the were designed like that. Unlike the old SLRs, though, I didn't need to wind on fully. Move the advance lever a few degrees and the mirror drops while at the same time the diaphragm actuating lever moves to its wonted position: almost certainly easily cured with a little lubrication in the right place. The latter, at first sight, was quite another matter. Inevitably, I wanted to put a roll through it. Well, wouldn't you? But with a locked back...

So I slipped a very thin blade under the overlapping end of the back and slid it up and down a bit. This disturbed the latch just enough to get the back to pop open, and I've not had to repeat the experiment. 

The F1, like all properly made cameras, doesn't use foam light seals: it's done with tight tolerances and overlapping labyrinthine components. Of course I'm slightly worried that the problem might come back in the post, so that any buyer would need to repeat the treatment, but at least I know it can be fixed. 

The camera came with a 50/1.8 FD but I also had a 35-85 Vivitar Series 1 that had belonged to my late father-in-law. Then, to be honest, I thought, "Hang on. Why do I want to do this? If I want to take good pictures, I've plenty of cameras that will do that." This marked a significant departure from when I was younger and would try almost anything, just for the fun of it. Now I'm much more interested in the pictures, and much less interested in the cameras. 

So I suppose I'll just recommend that Aditi sells it untested, but as ever, what's it worth?