My great uncle (Zig) had an amazing life. He originally came from Poland to New Zealand as a refugee from World War 2. Once in New Zealand, he worked to cut some of the most famous walking tracks in the country. One of them, the Milford Track is often touted as the most beautiful walk in the world.
He was an avid photographer and took tens of thousands of slides over the years, handing them all down to me. Along with these slides came a near mint condition Canon F1 with three lenses. The 35 – 105 f3.5 lens, the 70 – 210mm f4 lens and a 50mm f1.4 prime. In my mind, this is the holy trinity of lenses for a camera from yesteryear.
The Canon F1 was the first successful professional film camera released by Canon. Released in direct response to the success of the Nikon F and F2 cameras. They even chose the number Nikon forgot (F1). The release of this camera sparked the professional gear war between the two giants (Nikon and Canon) that is still ongoing today.
There were three versions of the Canon F1 that were released. The Canon F1, the F1n and the F1 New. The F1n introduced minor changes over the original, while the “New” version implemented many improvements such as a broader range of shutter speeds, aperture priority mode and a better removable pentaprism viewfinder.
This final form moved the Canon from a fully mechanical to a semi-mechanical semi-electronic hybrid. Significantly improving the possibilities, you can achieve with the F1. It has just about everything you could ask for, a double exposure mode, exposure compensation and even an electronic 10-second self-timer.
Since receiving the camera, have been using it as my daily driver and have been nothing short of amazed. I have put around ten rolls of film through it and have tested all of the features. Coming from other fully manual cameras like the Leica M6, Nikon FM2 and Olympus OM-1 the addition of aperture priority is a godsend.
AE mode means that you can get more shots, a lot more naturally. You don’t have to wait while your subjects get bored, or the moment passes. A lot more common in today’s day when people are used to a smartphone photo. Aperture priority is how I shoot 90% of my photos in digital, so the transition is reasonably effortless.
Occasionally I will find myself “half pressing” the shutter button to bite focus on a point in the frame. This situation typically happens after returning from a shoot for work and sinking back into my personal photography. It takes just a second to realise what camera I have before manually focusing and taking the shot.
The F-1 is built like a tank. Comparable build quality to something like the Nikon FM2 or Leica M6. Both weather and knock resistant it will take just about anything you can throw at it. The case is made from brass then covered in a matt black coating to give you that sweet, stealth look.
So, enough with the writing (you’re thinking) show us the shots! The following 5 Shots with the Canon F1 are taken on Fujifilm C200. You can check out my full Canon F1 review (with a lot of sample photos) over at Cultured Kiwi. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, I am happy to answer anything you need to know.
Thanks for reading,
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5 thoughts on “5 Frames with Canon F-1 – By Ben Kepka”
First, very cool to have an uncle with the name Zig.
The F1 (new) was a heck of a system. I worked w/a woman who used them and the engineering behind the system was second to none.
I carried a M2, so I never really needed such a system, but I was impressed.
I just felt they were late starters and never caught up to Nikon. It was only when digital took off they beat Nikon.
BTW, I’ve still got the M2 & still shoot film.
Calling the build quality of the Nikon FM series comparable to the F-1 is charitable.
Hi Ben. Great article with interesting hestory about the camera and your uncle. I just bought the new Canon F1 and Fd 50mm 1.4 and it’s on its way from Japan. I learned photography with the Canon AE1. In the mid 70s I was going to to a wedding with my parents in Vancouver and my neighbor handed me the Canon to photograph the event and I was hooked. This will be the first time with a Canon since the 70s.
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The Nikon FM2, while a very good camera in its own right, has inferior build quality, durabilty and fit and finish than the Canon New F-1.
And I say this as somebody who owns four F-1 cameras and had no trouble to sell a mint FM2 recently.