Canonflex RM - the last in the Canonflex series of cameras

The Canonflex RM was released in 1962 and became the most popular Canonflex model in terms of units sold.   It is a robust and fairly large camera, certainly bulkier that the 'F' models that came after it.

The body (excluding the prism) is 5 millimetres taller than the Canon FX and it is also wider by 3 millimetres.   The extra height may be explained by the necessity to house a fairly large selenium light meter.   In any case, it makes the prism look sunken into the body.   Add to that a relatively large lens mount, and we have a less than elegant contour with oddly placed corners and angles.   I think the word 'unique' better describes this camera than 'pretty'.

The viewfinder view is sufficiently large, but not particularly bright.   In the RM, Canon opted for a split image (also known as rangefinder spot) focusing screen.   There is also a ring of ground glass around the centre spot, which is easier to focus on with certain subjects and/or lenses.   The viewfinder is free of any indicators.   (These were not yet in vogue in the early 1960's.)

In the RM - possibly succumbing to the prevailing trend - Canon abandoned the bottom placement of the film advance lever.   However, the migration to the camera's top on the right is not quite complete in this model.   As we can see on the picture above, the wind lever is sandwiched between the top plate and the film housing.   Operating the lever at this location has a somewhat awkward feel to it.   At least initially.   (Note: on many cameras, including this example, the black paint has rubbed off from the tip of the film advance lever.)

On the other side of the rectangular viewfinder window we find a small round cover plate.   Through the hole under it, the user can adjust the zero position of the light meter needle.

The raised film rewind knob might suggest, that this is how the back of the camera opens.   But this is not so.   The RM has the same kind of back-door lock as the R 2000.   It is on the bottom of the camera.   So, why would you want to pull up the film rewind knob?   Simply to make loading of a film canister easier.

The camera's top has a clean, uncluttered layout.   The large shutter speed dial is easy to rotate.   As usual, it cannot be turned between B and the 1000 mark.   (Note: after some 50 years many RM shutters are found to be sticky, especially on the slow speeds.   See my restoration pages for a possible remedy.)  The number for 1/60 second is painted red to remind the user that this is the speed to use for flash photography.   The film speed - in ASA and DIN - is visible through two little windows and can be adjusted by pulling up and turning the rim of the shutter speed dial.   As one does this, or when the shutter speed dial itself is turned, the light meter's aperture scale on the other side of the camera also moves.

The great thing about selenium light meters is that they don't require batteries to operate.   However, after so many years their accuracy is questionable and some will no longer work at all.   But, even if they work, they can be simply ignored as there is no interdependency between the light meter and the camera.   (In contrast, on modern cameras many functions rely on a working light meter.)   The light meter of the RM hasn't stood up well to the test of time - many are dysfunctional.   (The good news is that this might be due to a faulty electric contact, which can be fixed.)

Using the above picture as an example, this is how to read the light meter: The film speed is set to 100 ASA and the chosen shutter speed is 1/125 second.   The light meter's red needle is visible roughly in the middle of the scale and rests at the end of a white stripe.   The other end of the same white stripe points to 5.6, which is the correct aperture opening to use in this scenario.   So, the lens' aperture ring is set to this value.   (The other ring on the lens is the manual stop-down control, which must be fully open.)   Also note a small black mark at the first (or top) white stripe.   That is the zero position - i.e. when the selenium cells are covered, the needle should come to rest at this mark.

This is yet another view of the RM, this time showing the camera bottom.   Here is the lock that opens the hinged, non-removable back.   The tripod socket is slightly off-centre.   The little button is for disengaging the sprocket wheels, when the exposed film is wound back to the cassette.   Note the little dot on this button.   It plays a role in double (or multiple) exposure photography.   The procedure is as follows: 1) make the first exposure in the usual manner, 2) push-in the film rewind release button, and start turning the rewind crank, 3) watch the rewind release button as it rotates, and stop rewinding when the dot has moved about three-quarters of a turn, 4) tension the film by lightly winding the film advance lever while holding the rewind knob firmly in place, 5) take the next exposure.   This process can be repeated as many times as required.

The camera back pops open when the lock on the bottom is turned some 120 degrees anticlockwise. Film loading is done in the usual manner.   The end of the film has to be fed into the slot on the take-up spool.   The spool may be rotated with the finger from right to left (i.e. clockwise) to take up slack.

A limited number of accessories were made for the Canonflex RM.   These included a metal film magazine, camera holder and copy stand R3, bellows R, and a lens mount converter to fit screw-in type rangefinder lenses to the RM.   Canon also made a flash to suit this camera.

The Canon V-2 flash unit

This flash appears as a recommended accessory in the Canonflex RM instruction manual.   It is a simple, but good quality equipment.   When not in use, the reflector can be folded up and the flash (without the bulb) put away in its leather case.

The picture below shows the kind of flash connector socket that was installed in all Canonflex cameras.   The flash itself has a 100 microfarad capacitor and a 22.5 volt battery in it - not the kind of voltage one often comes across nowadays.   The upper section of the flash unit swivels up, so the light can be bounced off the ceiling, if required.   Not bad, especially considering that on modern speedlights this feature is typically only found on the more advanced units.   The red button is for testing, although I'm not quite sure what this entails.   I suspect the white button below it lights up to show that there is sufficient charge.   (My battery is flat, so I cannot verify this.)


What is of more interest, is the kind of flash bulbs that can be used with this flash.   The FP-26 is one type, and conveniently, the flash comes with an adapter, which allows the use of the PF-5, as well.   (By the way, FP stands for 'focal plane' and PF is probably the acronym of Philips' 'Photoflux' trade mark.)   These bulbs are not uncommon, they can still be found on the second-hand market.

Further reading:

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