New York New Camera – Canon F-1

Hi friends, I have been a bit absent in my posts. I just returned home from a week’s getaway and I will be making up for my absence.

A while back, there was a pretty good seat sale on Air Canada’s flights to NYC. I was itching to visit some place cool and the cheap tickets sealed the deal. It doesn’t hurt that my coworker also wanted to do a photo-centric trip.

I wanted to travel light, which can be difficult when there is so much camera gear that I could bring. My original plan was to just KISS and bring the Nikon FM2n, but somehow that seems too easy Рnot enough excitement. Anyways, an impulse purchase later, I had this well used Canon F-1.



I wanted this camera for two reasons, first, it was the first Canon professional SLR – a direct competitor against the Nikon F and F2. It had to be good because the F2s are amazing mechanical marvels. Second, I wanted something more worn so I wouldn’t worry about it banging around all day. It is a quirk of mine to keep things in nice condition and unfortunately that means too much care (worry) with my pretty FM2n and F2s. I need to get that out of my system someday, as nothing really last forever…

The F-1 was showing a lot of brassing but felt extremely solid. I dare to say the exterior seems to be thicker than the F2s I have (I’ve taken my F2s apart so I have a sense of the materials). It came with a 50mm F1.4 (bonus!) so it is a great mirror to my black paint Nikon F2S with its 50mm F1.4 lens (see above). However, with the in-body light meter, the reduced prism size made the Canon 100% more sexy – something many Nikon collectors will agree based on the inflated price of the plain F2 prisms. I definitely liked the more refined look. It looks less bulky and all the controls felt right. The simple lock on the shutter release is easy to flick with my index finger and the shutter speed knob is right where it needs to be too.

What I’ve learned after my first roll

It really pays to fully test out the camera with a roll of film before trusting it to be used for a major trip. Although the camera functioned flawlessly (evening the lightmeter seemed very accurate), there was a hidden flaw that only revealed itself when I tried to rewind the film… That’s right, it did not rewind! More specifically, the rewind button would not push in and therefore the spool would not reverse. In my panic and anger, I forced the rewind knob and could hear the terrible noise of the film sprocket holes tear. Knowing there wasn’t much I could have done, I licked my wounds and managed to rewind the whole roll of Ilford Hp5… hopefully the film is recoverable…

The next few hours later that evening was me looking up every service document I could find on the F-1 to understand the rewind mechanism. This turned out to be a very difficult task for a 45+ year old camera. Buttttt… as an engineer, my intuition and boldness led me to believe that a small screw was loose in the sprocket shaft and it was jamming up when the rewind button was pushed in. This meant that rewind button can only partially engage, not letting the sprocket reverse.

With hope and $20, I got myself a precision screwdriver kit from B&H and literally perform the repair on the floor at B&H.

The rest is history as it worked!


Coming up next

What I’ve learned after my NYC trip (6 rolls of film!)


Further up next

I knew that I wanted to shoot mostly film but I also wanted to bring a digital backup. Usually, that would be my X-Pro1, but…

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