I finally had some time to develop and scan a few rolls of the Kodak Tri-X film from NYC. Before I get into the resulting scans, I want to share a few more things I learned about the Canon F-1.
Let’s start with the positives. The F-1 body is top notch. Although a lacking the smooth corners of the Nikon F2, the F-1 makes up for it with its thick skin. There is no flex in any of the exterior. Despite all the paint wear, the F-1 remains dent free whereas my F2 clearly needs some body work with barely any brassing.
Prism Head Dust Sealing
Previously, I praised the Canon for its integrated light meter which reduce the prism head profile. The interchangeable prism design is much slicker than that of the Nikon F2, but it has a pretty major flaw. The slide mechanism requires a small clearance to be smooth, and there lies a path for pieces of lint and dust to get in. What I get then, are these small specks in the viewfinder. Although they do not affect the image negative, they do bug me and force me to stop with what I’m doing so that I can blow it with a rocket. On the Nikon F2, the prism is installed by pressing it down on the body and engaging its little claws on to two posts. This direct way of engagement allows the Nikon engineers to add a simple rubber seal between the prism and the body. I’ve never had any dust issues with the F2s.
A Hidden Flaw
The second issue was not a design flaw, but way more insidious and only revealed itself with the developed negatives. As I was scanning the negatives, I noticed something strange with a few of the outdoor shots. There was a visible band of overexposure on the frame, always on the left side. After a bit of research on the internet, the culprit is likely a hesitant second shutter curtain. The way these horizontal focal plane curtains work is by using two titanium curtains and have one follow the other. The delay in the second curtain determines the overall exposure time. This requires the two curtains to travel consistently at high speeds to ensure even exposure. What is happening is that the second curtain is not traveling at the same speed across the film opening. There is a small hesitation which translates to more exposure at the very end of its travel. Since these issues appears mostly on the outdoor shots, I deduce that only the high shutter speeds are affected. I would think that 1/2000th and 1/1000th being the prime suspects, though I wouldn’t rule out 1/500th. This is a bummer, but not a deal breaker, especially with my new variable ND filter. This filter adds the stops of light I need to shoot at 1/250th even with ISO 1600 film. Of course, that’s not going to help me freeze action shots (motion blur of fast movement/objects). Fortunately, with my current style of shooting, that’s not really an issue.
One of my biggest worries going to NYC was how well the meter on the Canon handles the entire range. With the Tri-X pushed to ISO 1600, I could very well be at the upper end of the sensor’s range. To add another hurdle, I also didn’t know how the ND filter impact the sensor. I worried that light from the eye-side of the prism could leak past and throw off the sensor in the body. Luckily, I was relieved to find all the pushed negatives came out passable. There were definitely a few underexposure shots outdoors that could be attributed to the ND filter, but I think I will be able to prevent them in the future… by using the filter sparingly.
Keep or Sell?
The biggest question for me now is… keep or sell? On the one hand, I have no other Canon cameras or glass. I’ve already committed to Nikon with my F2, FE, FM, FM2n collection. On the other hand, the Canon FD 50mm F1.4 is fantastic and what I would want to use 95% of the time. There is also a bit more sentimental value now that I’ve done a big trip with it. For a dependable travel companion, the Canon just look the part and certainly can do the part too.
The jury is out on this one… I think I need to do a big trip with the FM2n to be able to make a final decision.
Here are a few of my keepers from one roll of the pushed Kodak Tri-X from NYC!