Canon EF, The Black Beauty

Film Camera Review: Canon EF, The Black Beauty


Canon EF 35mm SLR Film Camera, The Black Beauty

'A manual focus autoexposure 35mm SLR film camera, the electronic version of the Canon F-1'

Introduction and Overview

The Canon EF 35mm SLR film camera, not to be confused with the EF series lenses that Canon built for their digital SLRs, is a manual-focus SLR film camera produced by Canon between 1973 to 1987. It was built as an electronic version of canon's very successful professional Canon F-1 system camera. Though the EF shares the rugged construction and tough metal body of the F-1, it does not, however, supports the F-1's motor drive attachments or interchangeable viewfinder screens.

Canon EF, Top Front

In Canon's lineup, the EF was placed below the F-1 but above the FTb. It was the only model in the lineup, was in production for just over 4 years, making it one of Canon’s shorter-lived models. The EF was also the only camera in the manual focus Canon line of the 1960s and 1970s (which includes the FTb, the F-1, and the FT) that can be used with common 1.5-volt batteries without modification to the internal electronics.

Unique to the Canon EF is the electro-mechanical Copal Square vertical-travel metal blade focal plane shutter with a speed range from 1/1000 second down to 30 seconds. While speeds from 30 to 1 second are controlled electronically, the range from 1/2 to 1/1000 second is actuated mechanically. This feature is used for conserving battery life while allowing the camera to be used even when the batteries are depleted. Film ISO speed setting is from ASA 12 to ASA 3200.

    Check out my Camera: Canon EF 35mm AKA The Black Beauty

    I'm excited to share my first thoughts on the Canon EF 35mm film camera. This thing is built like a tank and handles well. This particular model is shutter priority automatic (as well as manual), has a center-weighted meter, and has a split image and micro prism for focusing.
Metering on the EF is center-weighted average, with less influence from the top of the frame to minimize underexposure due to a bright skyline. The camera is fitted with a 10-second delay self-timer, battery check light, multiple exposure function, and depth of field (DoF) preview. The camera is powered by a silicon photocell light meter with a metering range from EV -2 to EV 18 to EV -2.

Basic Camera Features

For its gorgeous design out of pure metal with strong and proportional lines, the Canon EF is also known as the 'black beauty'.

On the camera front plane, aside from the lens mount housing, the front of the EF is plain aside from the Self-Timer/Stopped Down Metering/Mirror Lockup combination mechanism. This multifunction mechanism, with levers both top and bottom, may need a bit of practice to understand its functions fully.

Canon EF, Top

To the left of the pentaprism housing of the top plate is the Film Rewind Crank, which is integrated with the film ISO Selector dial. In between the rewind dial and the pentaprism, towards the front, is the Battery Check LED, and towards the back of the top plate, the AE Lock button.

On the right is the Shutter Speed dial, Film Advance Crank, and Shutter Release button integrated on a single axis, beside which is the Film Counter window.

Canon EF, Back

On the right of the back portion of the top plate is the On/Off Switch which will activate the exposure meter. Switching the lever On will also release the Film Advance Crank from its lock position. On the axis of the switch is the Multiple Exposure button. The film back is a hinge type.

Canon EF, Bottom

On the bottom plate of the EF are located the twin-pot Battery Chamber, with a red Battery Check switch on its side, the Tripod Socket, and towards the left of the plate, the Film Rewind Release button.

Canon EF, Film box

The film box is a typical easy load type with a slotted take-up spool. Film loading on the EF was designed without Canon's QL (Quick Load) mechanism.

Viewfinder Readout

Canon EF, Viewfinder Info

The viewfinder displays a horizontal Shutter Speed Scale at the bottom of the screen with an indicator showing the speed setting, and a vertical Aperture Scale on the right side of the screen with a meter needle pointer showing the aperture setting. Red over- and underexposure warning marks are at either end of the scale.

Center-Weighted Average Metering

Canon EF Metering Pattern
Canon EF Metering Pattern
The Canon EF utilizes a center-weighted average metering system which is specially configured to be less influenced by the area at the top of the frame. This is to minimize underexposure which may be caused by a bright skyline. The system is powered by a silicon photocell light meter with a range of EV 18 to EV -2. For a proper meter reading, the recommendation is for the camera to be held horizontally.

The Canon EF can operate in shutter priority or in full manual mode with FD-mount lenses. In automatic mode, the exposure value can be locked with the button, located on the top plate of the camera, between the pentaprism and the film ISO selector dial.

Aperture Priority AE (Automatic Exposure) Mode

This is the recommended shooting mode for the camera (defined by Canon as Variable Aperture AE shooting mode in the camera's Instruction Manual), which varies the aperture opening of the lens based on the shutter speed you select. Set the lens aperture ring to its auto mark, adjust the shutter speed to the aperture that you want, displayed on the right vertical bar in the viewfinder, focus, and release the shutter.

The Canon EF can also be operated in shutter priority or in full manual mode with FD-mount lenses. In full manual exposure mode, you need to first release the auto setting of the lens, set the aperture manually, focus, and adjust the shutter speed so that the aperture needle matches the aperture setting on the lens, and release the shutter.

AE (Automatic Exposure) Lock

An AE lock button is located between the pentaprism and the ASA ring. To use, press, and hold the button while you re-frame the subject and release the shutter.

Multiple Exposures

A Multiple Exposure button is located on the axis of the main switch. Pressing this while cocking the shutter prevents the film frame from being advanced. The Film Frame Counter is also disabled during this operation.

Self-Timer Mode

Self-Timer shooting mode on the Canon EF is activated by first pressing the small Self Timer Lock Button on top of the Self Timer Lever, which will release a catch that will let you turn the self-timer lever out (counterclockwise). Press the Shutter Release to start the time delay, the mirror will flip up, and the shutter will fire after the delay times out.

Stopped-down Metering

To do Stopped-down Metering, push the Self-Timer Lever in (clockwise) towards the lens mount housing. This will close the lens aperture to aperture value you set for on the aperture ring of the lens. The lever is spring-loaded and it will revert to its original position once you release your finger pressure from the lever.

Mirror Lockup

Mirror Lockup is a two-step process. First set the Self-Timer Lever to its Stopped-down Metering position (in towards the lens mount housing), hold, then turn the 'L-M' lock lever, located on the lower part of the self-timer to the 'M' position. The mirror will stay locked up till you reverse the 'L-M' lever setting, after taking the shot.

Loading and Unloading Film

The Canon EF is fitted with an Automatic Blank Shot Mechanism, which frees you from using the Shutter Release Button when loading the film. The winding (film advance) lever works independently of the shutter button until you reach Frame 1.

Lens Compatibility

Canon EF, Canon FD 50mm f/1.8

The camera is compatible with all breach-lock Canon FD lenses available by 1975, which ranges from a 15 mm fisheye to a 300 mm telephoto, including three zoom lenses. Older FL-mount and R-mount lenses can also be used on the EF in manual exposure and stop-down mode.

Using the Camera

An ON/OFF switch on the right side at the back of the top plate sets the meter on, disables the shutter trigger lock removed the lock, and frees the film advance lever to pop out 15 degrees from the camera body.

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  1. Really one of the most beautiful t cameras of all times!

  2. I agree this is the best most complete film slr in the similar range that I ever found

  3. How does one do manual metering do we need a hand held meter to set the shutter speed

    1. Yes, you do need an external light meter, a hand-held one, off a light-meter app that you can install on your smart phone, get the exposure reading off another camera that you might have, or just go for broke with the Sunny 16 Rule, thanks.

    2. Here is a 'SUNNY 16' slider that you can print out and use: I found this nice sunny 16 printable slider that can be carried around.

    3. Yup, thanks, a good one to start learning with.

    4. For in body metering in manual set your preferred aperture (say f4) and then looking through the viewfinder you can adjust the shutter speed as normal until the needle sits over f4 on the viewfinder aperture scale.

  4. Love my EF. Had it out just the other day.


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