Canon FP and FX - successors to the Canonflex cameras

The last of the Canonflex line was the RM.   What followed in 1964 was a substantially new design. Although the FP and the FX retained the breech-lock lens mount, not much else stayed the same.   These new cameras were the first in a series (the "F-line") that solidified Canon's success in the amateur market.

The two cameras were very similar.   The only real difference was in the light meter.   The FX had an inbuilt CDS light meter, the FP was without one, although a separate, clip-on light meter could be purchased.   Despite this difference, the two cameras actually shared the same body casting.   If you take off the FP's top cover, you see a battery compartment, even though it is dysfunctional.

So, what are the common features?   Well, both cameras have a horizontal running cloth focal plane shutter with speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/1000 second and B, and X for flash use.   There is also mirror lock-up and delay action.   Flash synchronisation is via the usual old style socket - the 'hot shoe' had not been invented yet.   The frame counter window is in front of the film advance lever, and it shows the number of pictures already taken.   There is not much else to say about these cameras.   Lacking all kinds of automation that is commonplace today, the photographer of the 1960's had to supply the rest drawing from his or her skills.

The Canon FP is perhaps the simpler of the two cameras.   There are really only two reasons for me to say this; one is the above mentioned lack of the inbuilt light meter, and the other is the absence of a shutter lock switch.

If you look carefully, you can see the pin on the shutter speed dial which couples it with the accessory light meter. Unfortunately, I don't have one to show, but it was similar to the more common Pentax Spotmatic clip-on light meter.

A nice feature is the film type reminder dial.   I think it is one of the better looking ones.   On the bottom of the camera, we find a somewhat unusual door lock.   You press the smaller button and slide the larger button sideways to open the camera back.   This design was quickly abandoned by Canon.   (Seeing that the FP with this lock and the FX with the lock that was retained in future models, came out at the same time, one cannon help but imagine a scenario whereby the designers could not agree on which was the better one, so they left it to the users to decide.)

When we open the back, this is what awaits us.   Still pretty simple, but it will get busier in years to come.   There is a slot in the take-up spool (not visible on the picture) for the film lead, and the spool rotates clockwise when the film is advanced.

Now onto the FX...

It is such a nice, classic design.   A typical 60's camera.   Solidly build, feels good in the hand, and easy to use.   I like the way the mirror lock-up lever mirrors the self-timer's lever on the other side. The camera is shown with the standard f/1.8 50mm lens. There is also a contemporary genuine Canon UV filter on the lens.

The long discontinued 1.3 volt mercury battery for the light meter is in a compartment on the left hand side.   A double aperture scale is visible through a window on the top, together with the meter needle.   The two scales are for dim (orange numbers) and bright (white numbers) lighting conditions.   There is also a corresponding switch with H and L settings.   I suppose these letters stand for 'high' and 'low', respectively, but they mean the opposite to what seems logical to me.   You set the switch to L, when there is a lot of light, and vice verse.   The aperture scales are coupled to the shutter speed (and film speed) dial.   So, what you do is select your shutter speed, then look at the meter to see what aperture value the needle points to, and set the lens' aperture ring to that value.   It's a 100% manual affair.   As the switch near the viewfinder window suggests, the light meter can be turned off when not in use to preserve battery power.   The film speed is set in the usual manner; by pulling up and rotating the shutter speed dial until the desired ASA (or DIN) value appears in the little window.

The Canon FX light meter is distinctly similar to that of the Minolta SR-7.   Since the latter appeared on the market two years prior, it is indisputable which of the two manufacturers was the inventor.

On the right hand side of the camera there is perhaps one noteworthy thing to mention - the shutter release button lock.   This comes handy, when one wishes to take a long-time exposure.   Set the shutter speed dial to B, press the release button, turn the lock to the L position and go to have a cup of coffee.   The shutter remains open until you release the lock - that is, set it to A.   (What A stands for only heaven knows.)

Looking at the bottom of the camera, we see the back door lock that lasted for a few more years in production and was used on camera models like the Pellix, the FT, and TL until 1969, when the EX-EE came along with a new solution.

With the FP and FX Canon introduced the FL lenses.   These have only one pin, which is manipulated by an arm on the camera side.   These are pointed out with blue arrows on the picture above.   The diaphragm is fully automatic, i.e. it closes down to the chosen aperture value only momentarily when the shutter is fired.   It is possible to close down the apertures to check the depth-of-field, but this is done on the lens, as there is nothing on the camera to facilitate this.   Thankfully, the FL lenses were built with a manual stop-down switch (or ring).

The viewfinder is reasonably bright.   The focusing screen has a split image rangefinder spot in the middle and a matt 'doughnut' field around it.   These allow relatively easy and accurate focusing under different lighting conditions.   (Although this would be considered rather average by today's standards.)   Unfortunately, this model has a design fault of which you can read here.

Further reading:

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