Canon Demi - Canon's first half-frame camera

The first Demi camera appeared on the market in 1963. Stylish in appearance and relatively small, it could even go down as a fashion accessory. It would have been cool to be seen with an elegant little camera like this in the 1960's. Unlike today, photography in public places was not a risky affair then. People were not yet hysterical about being included in a (perfectly harmless) snapshot.

The set on the picture above is not quite complete. At least the instruction manual is missing - unfortunately I didn't have one when I took the photo. On the right you see a wrist strap that screws into the tripod socket, and on the left is a flash coupler, which attaches to the side of the camera (where the back door lock is) to allow the mounting of a flash unit over the fold-out rewind lever. Like with more expensive cameras, this camera's serial number is also printed on the box.

The first Demis were either sold with the Canon logo, or - in America - the Bell & Howell / Canon logo. The Company later released more advanced versions of the Demi - a search on the Internet will return information on those.

A distinctive feature of the camera is the large selenium lightmeter. In later models this was replaced with a CdS meter, which is more accurate, but requires a battery. Such batteries are not readily available today, so the selenium light meter does have an advantage here.

The little circular window above the lens is the viewfinder. It is a simple viewfinder, but the portrait oriented image is sufficiently large and bright.

As you can see on the picture, the camera has a 28mm f/2.8 coated lens. For the 24mm x 18mm image size this focal length is normal. The inner ring is used to set the distance. The outer ring has a couple of functions; sets the shutter speed and the film sensitivity. Let 's start with the shutter. For daylight photography, the shutter operates in the 1/30 - 1/250 sec. range and is coupled with the iris. This makes it rather restrictive, as one doesn't have much control over the depth of field, for instance. When the shutter is set to B or the flash mark, the iris is decoupled and can be set with the pin that is now at the 5.6 mark on the picture above. Lacking the instruction manual, I was initially at a loss, when I wanted to change the ASA setting. Eventually I discovered the solution; when you turn the ring past the 250 mark or past the flash indicator, the ASA scale stays in place and you can align the dot with the desired film speed number.

The light meter's indicator needle is visible on the top of the camera through a little window. To obtain a correctly exposed photograph, you simply turn the shutter speed setting ring until the orange pointer is aligned with the lightmeter's indicator needle.

The back opens with the latch on the side of the camera. The half-frame film gate is clearly visible on the photo below. There is a thick foam padding near the top and the bottom of the back door, but on the cameras that passed through my hands this foam was already crumbling. When the foam turns to dust, it can get to the delicate parts of the camera (e.g. the leaf shutter behind the lens) and cause trouble.

Finally, let me show you the two different back-label designs that I've come across. The one on the left is the Bell & Howell model. The barely visible serial number is stamped above the CO., INC. text.

Further reading:

Click here to leave a comment