Canon FP (1964)

Shutter Two-axis, horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter with cloth curtains. Single-axis non-rotating dial for X, B, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, and 1/1000 sec. Equipped with built-in self-timer. (No shutter button lock.)
Viewfinder Fixed eye-level pentaprism. Split-image rangefinder at center of fresnel matte screen. Mirror lockup provided.
- Magnification 0.90x
- Coverage 93%
Power -
Size 141 x 90 x 83 mm
Weight 710 gr


Same virtues as all other Canon F series SLR of that time.
Heavy, but no built in meter.

The Canon FP was introduced in the same year as the FX, but though they shared many things, there was one clear difference between it and all other succeeding Canon cameras. Simply said, the Canon FP had no built in meter. Everything else the Canon FX had, it had, except that one singular feature. The Canon FP had a shutter from 1 second to 1/1000, interchangeable, variable aperture lenses, and other standard features such as a mirror lock up, and PC flash sockets for FP and X sync flashes. That made it a high quality, near professional camera in 1964. So what was the reasoning behind the left out exposure meter.

Simply said, in 1964 experienced professionals and amateurs would look down their noses at a camera with a built in meter. A built in meter was a sign of a neophyte, an inexperienced bumbler who did not know an f-stop from a g-string. Canon knew this, and since it too wanted to offer a "professional" camera, deleting a built in meter was an inexpensive way of doing making one. Did it help? No, for Canon eventually realized that it took a lot more than a meterless camera to attract the professional market. Consequently, you find very few Canon FP's on the market, even on eBay. That makes the Canon FP highly desireable collectors camera - if you can find one. Like any nearly 50 year old camera, it could use a good CLA. The one thing the camera repair man won't have to adjust is the meter.

Permit me to say something in general about Canon FL lenses, which were introduced with Canon FX/FP. Canon FL lenses start at 19mm and ended with a whopping 1200mm super telephoto. However, the majority of Canon FL lenses are within the 28 to 200mm range. I once saw a Canon add which said that Canon made two groups of lenses, Canon professional lenses which were fast and sharp, and Canon amateur lenses, which weren't quite as fast, but just as sharp. Thus you could by a Canon 200mm f2.5 or a 200mm f3.5. With exception of 85 f1.8 and the two 50mm normals, a pro lens was an f2.5 while the amateur model was an f3.5: approximately 1 stop difference between the two lenses. One other item is that the FL lens line stops at 28mm and leaps to a monster 19mm 4.5 wide angle. This lens existed in two forms, a pure wide angle, and a retrofocus model. The pure wide angle came first. While all Canon lenses used the chrome breech lock ring, the "pure" wide angle 19mm projected so far into the mirror chamber that you had to raise the mirror with the mirror lock up lever, then mount the lens. To see what the lens was seeing Canon provided a 19mm finder that was mounted on the accessory shoe. Focusing was done by scale, though the depth of field of the 19mm made guess focusing accurate enough. Eventually, however, Canon brought out a retrofocus version of the 19mm which didn't need the mirror lockup, and could be viewed and metered through the lens. Either lens is difficult to find, and a good on commands a good price. As for the super telephotos Canon made a rear focusing element, which also governed the aperture as well. This started at 300 mm. If you wanted something longer, you changed the front element, starting at 400mm and went all the way up to a 1200mm f.11! Finally, the FL series offered three zoom lenses, a rare thing in those days, when many a zoom lens was an after market item. As we know, Canon replaced the Canon FL lenses with Canon FD lenses in 1971. However, some of the FL optical formulas survived in the new lenses, such as the Canon 50mm f1.4 and 85 f1.8. Also the FL super telephotos remained for a while, since the original Canon FD lenses didn't go beyond 300mm. Also, the FL series includes the famed FL-F telephotos, which used crystal flourite lenses, the first in the industry.

If you a Canon FL lens, rest assured that you can mount it on most every Canon breech mount camera from the Canon FX all the way down to the T 90. However you will only be able to use it at shooting aperture. That is you have to stop down the lens with the self timer lever to measure the light coming though the lens. Assuming it is in good condition, you should get good sharp images. FL lenses have a more "machined" look, largely because the don't use rubberized focusing rings. Also, one of the two distinguishing features is that FL lenses have a chrome aperture ring in the front of the lens, while FD lenses have an aperture ring at the back of the lens, just before the breech lock ring. Finally, the single pin at the back of the lens is the aperture lever. FD lenses, as many know have more pins and bumps to connect to the meter and the camera. Basically, Canon FL lenses were meant for the original Canon F cameras, specifically the FX, FP, FT and Pellix, They can also be used as intended on the F-1, FTb, FX and TLB, and with care, the EF. A series cameras are another problem, with the possible exception of the AT-1. IMHO the loose their usefulness with the later breech lock Canons. Also FL lenses are single coated, which is fine with B&W but less so with color films, or digital. Still there are photographers who like the older lenses, and use them to achieve the image they want. If you're one of those, or a collector who wants to enlarge your collections, the Canon FP/FX cameras and the FL lenses would make a fine addition.