Canon EF

As a collector of cameras, I have several cameras that I’ve never used. Yesterday, I was reading about the Canon EF, and remembered that I had one in my collection. I had been testing my Canon F-1, and discovered a shutter calibration issue – the shutter speeds were off a little, especially at the faster speeds. At 1/2000th of a second, the shutter was not even covering the whole frame, and my photos ended up just having the left 1/10 of the image visible. So, I was putting my F-1 back (planning to take it to a shop to have it cleaned and the shutter re-calibrated) and I saw my EF, so I decided to test it out.

The EF was made between 1973 and 1978. I was surprised to learn that it has a unique shutter – a Copal vertical travel metal shutter, and it actually sounds (and feels) very nice. The camera is also unique in that it’s partially mechanical and partially electronic. So it would function without batteries, but only at certain shutter speeds. It has an interesting red led on the top that blinks when the electronic shutter is in use, and stays off when the mechanical shutter is in use. Shutter speeds from 1/2 to 1/1000 are mechanical, and 1 second to 30 seconds are electronic. People were very battery conscious in the days when electronics were first invading our lives and felt more comfortable with their devices being able to function without batteries – at least partially.

The EF has shutter priority auto exposure. It also allows manual mode, but this camera (like some of Canon’s others) is not seriously meant to be used in manual mode. If you set the lens off “A”, so you can manually set the aperture, you have to look at the exposure scale in the viewfinder (that indicates what the aperture should be) and then physically look at the lens to adjust the aperture. There’s nothing in the viewfinder that will indicate the current aperture – so you can’t adjust your camera while looking through the viewfinder. I think the AE-1 was like this as well. Not very “friendly” in manual mode. The F-1, F-1n and New F-1, on the other hand, were all made to run in manual mode, and feature a match needle type of metering setup – much better for serious manual work.

Viewfinder of the Canon EF

Here’s another interesting fact about the EF. Normal battery requirement was 2, 1.3 volt mercury batteries. However, the EF has a voltage regulator, so 1.5 volt alkaline cells can be used with no adverse effects. On cameras like the Olympus OM-1, if you want to use 1.5 volt batteries, you would need to have the camera altered to handle the difference – otherwise your metering would be off. A nice feature since 1.3 volt mercury batteries are hard to come by these days.

So, what was the reason for the EF? Why did it even exist? I’m trying to think of what Canon was thinking when the developed the EF. The build is very much like the F-1/F-1n. The shutter is different, and it offers and auto mode – but it’s basically the same size, and looks very similar to the F-1. Maybe it was intended as a test, to introduce some new features and see what the response would be. Maybe Canon hoped F-1 users would pick it up as a backup. I’m not sure.