Canon New F-1

While I was out of town, my Canon New F-1 was delivered. I hate when that happens; when something is finally delivered by the post office, and I’m not there to open it!

Well, when I got home, I was excited to see this camera. These Canons, like the professional Nikons, usually had a rough life. I can tell this camera’s shutter has been used quite a bit, but it still has some life left in it!

So, since I’ve never used this model before, I’ll give my initial thoughts about usability, features, and finally I’ll share some images.

It’s 25g lighter than previous F-1 cameras (795g vs. 820g). 25g might not seem like a lot, but when you’re carrying it around, it can make a difference. Also, my New F-1 has a new FD 50mm f1.8 lens (part of the kit, it’s a 1984 commemorative Olympic lens to match the body). So it even feels lighter with that lens on.

Metering is interesting with this camera. I’m always thinking to myself, “Why did they do that?” when I see something that’s different or doesn’t make sense. The camera with an eyelevel prism is 100% manual. If you buy it with, or add an AE prism, it converts the camera to aperture priority AE. If you add a power winder or motor drive, it add shutter priority AE. Now, I’m not necessarily questioning Canon’s reasoning or logic in this design, but it seems a bit awkward. Maybe this gives the photographer more options than with a Nikon F2 (by adding shutter priority). Maybe it was easier to design the camera in components that added extra features. I’m not sure. Later cameras just came with the ability to switch between modes fairly easily, so I guess I’m spoiled.

The New F-1 also mixes electronic and mechanical shutter speeds, so the camera’s shutter will function at several different speeds (1/2000th to 1/125th, plus flash sync speed (1/90th), and B) without batteries. With batteries, you get added shutter speeds of 1/60th down to 8 seconds. I’ve also noticed a different feel in the shutter release with and without batteries. So, in full mechanical mode, without batteries, the button seems harder to press. With batteries, the button requires less energy to press.

The viewfinder on cameras from this era (like the Canon F-1 & New F-1, Nikon F & F2) are hard for me to use because of my vision. Thankfully I was able to find a +1 diopter adjustment eyepiece online at KEH. For some reason, diopter adjustment lenses are easy to find for Nikon, but very difficult to locate for Canon. Not long after this, cameras started coming with built-in diopter adjustments.

Shooting with the New F-1 is pretty simple, if you’re used to manual focus and exposure. If not, it may take time to get used to. With our modern digital cameras and phones, you don’t have to think too much to capture something descent. With manual focus and manual exposure, you can’t just point and click. You have to think about your subject. You have to focus. Once you set your exposure, you can generally leave that be except for occasional tweaks and adjustments based upon what you’re trying to capture. I don’t have an AE finder, so I can’t talk about auto exposure usage at this point – I’m only using manual exposure. Manual exposure on the New F-1 is a pleasurable experience. It’s just what I would expect. There’s a straight needle on the right side of the viewfinder that reflects the amount of light present (and the f-stop) and a circular needle that needs to be aligned with the straight needle. Pretty simple.

Meter Needles (slightly over exposed)
Meter Needles (just right)

I will probably try to find an AE finder at some point to test the aperture priority mode, but I honestly enjoy completely manual mode as long as the needed information is visible in the viewfinder. I mentioned this in another post, but some models (like the Canon AE-1) provide the ability to use manual exposure, but it’s not very convenient because you have to read the required f-stop in the viewfinder, and then look at the lens to set it, and then look back in the viewfinder to take the shot. Manual mode here is just as convenient as the Nikon F2, FE/FE2, and the FM3a – all favorites of mine, in large part because of their match needle metering system.

Here are some photos I shot with the New F-1. Seem a little overexposed in general, but the F-1 meters only the center 12% of the viewfinder – so I need to compensate a little better when shooting with this camera. I really need to get used to this as opposed to general average metering, and I think this could be a little easier to manage once you get used to it.

So, what are my conclusions? What do I think about the New F-1? Let me summarize by saying that I like the camera. It seems solid and reliable, and fairly simple to use. The fact that I found a diopter adjustment lens for it makes it a bit more enjoyable than it would be without.

I’d love to here your thoughts on the New F-1. Do you shoot in manual mode? If you’ve never used manual mode, and you’d like to try, visit my post on manual mode here. Feel free to leave comments if you have feedback or questions.