Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

The best camera ever?

(I woke up thinking about this today, but this post is only of interest to photographers and camera collectors)

In 1986, Canon brought out a new top of the range SLR manual focus film camera. It was designed in Germany, and really looked sleek and desirable.

I already owned three other Canon cameras at the time; the basic T50, the slightly better T70, and the older and heavier A1. So, I couldn’t justify the expense of buying this new professional model.

But I really wanted one.

Two years later, it had come down in price enough for me to rationalise getting one. I already had plenty of compatible lenses, so bought it ‘body-only’.

This was a film camera, not digital. It took four AA type batteries in the base, and all picture taking and composition had to be done through the optical viewfinder. There was automatic film advance and rewinding, so no film lever to spoil the look of it. Canon had added the luxury of multi-spot metering, and shadow and highlight control. There was also the ‘safety shift’ feature, which adjusted shutter speed or aperture to make sure you got the shot in awkward lighting conditions.

Despite being aimed at professionals and serious amateurs, it also retained the ‘Program’ option, for easy point-and-shoot photography. A window at the top supplied extensive information about settings, saving the need to look through the viewfinder to see them.

The back of the camera was an object lesson in simple design, with everything you needed, and no more.

It was very solidly built, and though weighty, never felt awkward or heavy in the hand. It could be bumped and dropped, and still work, making it a hit with some professionals.

Despite already owning some lenses and a flash that all worked on this new model, I bought a 24mm wide angle lens, and a 400mm telephoto prime too.

I have never enjoyed using a camera so much, before or since.

Many years later, in 2000, I felt that I now needed autofocus, as my eyesight was not what it was. I traded the camera in, with all the other bodies and lenses, and bought a new Minolta film SLR with one lens, a 24-105mm. As the man in the shop took away all my traded kit, I felt a real pang of regret watching it go.

This summer, I decided to buy one again. I got a decent used version on Ebay, and a compatible lens from the website of a camera shop.

I doubt I will ever use it. Film is a lot of hassle and expense these days, and my eyes are even worse.

But I just love to look at it.

47 thoughts on “Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

  1. I have recently joined the 21st century, buying a second-hand Canon 450D and two lenses, but selling all this to pay for the it. Canon AE-1; 50mm and 28mm prime lenses; and a boxed 70-210mm zoom lens – plus genuine Canon lens caps; a boxed 52mm lens hood; as well as a genuine Canon Power Winder A, leather case included, a genuine Canon Extension Tube FD50-U boxed with its leather case with front and back caps. A genuine boxed Canon Magnifier S with Adaptor S. Vintage Weston Exposure Meter. Also a new cable release; a leather camera case by Sacar including its three handles of varying length. A Braun VarioZoom 340 SCA a semi-professional flashgun dedicated to Canon AE-1 in mint condition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was a lot of kit to wave goodbye to, David. I hope that you enjoy using the 450D.
      Digital is so much more practical in the computer age, but nothing beats the smell of unwrapping and loading a new film. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.


  2. I am starting to do more “film”. I prefer digital for a whole load of reasons, but the nostalgia of film is appealing for sure. But I only had my 40 year old Olympus OM10 and a couple of lens. But only yesterday I acquired a Canon AE1 and lens. So looking forward to trying it out. Don’t hold your breath it takes me months to use up a film lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, my first serious camera was a Canon FT …..but the best of all was the Nikon FM2…all manual, built like a tank, and if the battery failed you could still use it, just work out the exposure in your head using the sunny 16 rule…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Once you connect with the – Right camera for you – all you want to do is take photos. The rest is academic. Most camera chatter is really about not synchronising with the product design / ergonomics. Then having the fiscal courage to try something else can be a challenge. As for film…Just to expensive to run these days.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My first 35mm was a Pentax K1000. All I could afford. I learned my way around the darkroom through the kindness of a local ‘fine art photographer’ (he photographed nudes) and he introduced me to hand coloring. All done with that old Pentax. Manual all the way, but it was my first.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Cameras are lovely things, I quite agree. I very much enjoyed the photography I was able to do at college, many years ago now, but I’ve never been able to afford a decent SLR camera since. I’m quite amazed by how versatile the latest cameras are: they look like they are SLRs, but they can shoot professional quality film; I also act a bit, and the cameras on my latest engagements have been this sort. Cheers, Jon 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Cameras that once cost a small fortune can be picked up on Ebay for silly prices now, Jon. This is more of a ‘period piece’ that I love to look at and hold. I doubt I will ever get back into taking ‘real film’ photos, especially as I also own four different digital cameras now.
      One of them is this old model, which combines that ‘Pro-SLR’ look and feel with the ease of digital photo-taking.
      It can be bought at a very reasonable price second-hand, and has a Nikon-fit lens mount.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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