As my collection of Canon cameras filled out, I became enamored with early Canon FL mount cameras. Canon is the only major manufacturer to orphan lens mounts from time to time, although the current EF mount has been around for 30 years now, since 1986. Given its prominence in Canon history, and quite frankly the beautiful condition of this particular camera, this is one of my prized possessions of the collection!
Canon released the FX in 1964; it was their first camera to use the breechlock FL lens mount.
The FX model has a decoupled exposure meter powered by a single 1.35v mercury PX-625 battery installed in the top left of the camera (from the user’s perspective). While the battery type and location is the same as many other F series Canon cameras, notably the screw in cover only has grip serrations around the edge, and not the slot for opening and closing with a coin as with so many later cameras. I’ve already found it to be much more difficult to open and close without that coin screw slot. As with most (all?) Canon cameras of its vintage, it is a fully manual camera. The exposure meter dial slides when the camera shutter speed is adjusted, with a match needle indicating the updated ideal shutter speed which then must be manually set on the lens. The meter is turned on and off separately from the rest of the camera by a rotary on/off/check switch on the rear of the camera. Unlike later models, the meter does not work through the lens (TTL), rather has its own little windows on the front of the camera.
My copy of this camera came with the Canon FL 50mm f/1.8 lens in beautiful condition with original slide on metal cap. Notably, with all other FL/FD lenses I’ve ever run across the aperture setting on the lens is closest to the camera, with the focus further out. On this lens the aperture setting is close to the front of the lens, much like a rangefinder camera might be arranged.
The FX has an all metal film winding lever, which advances to the next frame as well as winds the shutter mechanism. A nice lockout ring around the shutter release prevents accidental shots, and the combined shutter speed/ASA dial rounds out the top right controls on the camera. The FX can be set between 1/1000 and Bulb.
The front of the camera features a self timer, a mirror lockup lever (apparently at least one of Canon’s FL wide angle lenses could not be used with the lens down), the flash socket, and the window for the meter.
Fortunately other than some minor blemishes my copy of this camera/lens combination is in excellent condition physically and operationally. The seller indicated that it had been CLA’d six months prior. While the rear door light seals are in pretty good shape, they are slightly tacky to the touch, and the mirror brake foam is deteriorating. I’m guessing its been more like a couple of years, but this camera is in too good of a shape to have not been serviced in 50 years, so I’ll give them a bit of the benefit of the doubt.
What’s So Special?
The prior Canonflex models were not competing well against other brands in the early 1960s marketplace. Canon’s FX model was the first to attempt a new mount which was able to stop down the lens for metering and taking photos, but not (yet) set the actual aperture. They called this new mount “FL”; thus the Canon FX, and the Canon FP (same camera without the meter) were the very first Canon cameras to use the FL mount, which in 1970s-80s FD/FDn variations would carry them for the next 22 years until the advent of the EF mount in 1986
As my only early F camera as of the time of this writing, the FX has a number of features I haven’t seen in later cameras. Aside from the aperture ring being on the front of the lens, it also has side grips on the ring (again like a rangefinder). While loading later Canon film cameras typically required lifting the film crank lever to open the rear door, in the FX, there is a small unmarked rotary lever on the bottom of the camera, which must be lifted and twisted to release the rear door. This is actually quite a nice touch and provides quite a secure mechanism for protecting unexposed film. This may be a holdover from prior camera designs.
- Built in exposure meter
- First FL Canon body
- Solid construction – built like a tank
- Fully manual camera, works fine without the battery, although obviously metering does not work
- Decoupled meter is distracting, and many have failed in the ensuing 50+ years
- Old camera issues: deteriorating light seals and mirror bumper are common
- Quite a heavy camera
- Manufacturer: Canon
- Country of Origin: Japan
- Made in: Japan
- Introduced: 1964
- Camera Type: SLR with decoupled exposure meter
- Lens Mount: Canon FL
- Format: 35mm
- Battery: single 1.35v mercury PX-13 or PX625 (discontinued). I use a simple adapter with a AG13/357/LR44 battery at 1.5v. Exposure may be off; my copy has not (yet) been film tested.
- Dimensions (cm): 14.15 x 9.1 x 8.6
- Weight: 670g
- Serial: 406643
- Eyecup: unknown
- Strap: in my copy, an early pleather strap with embossed logos only attached to the everready case, though it could have been easily attached to the camera lugs instead. The strap is more similar to a Yashica 1970s strap, with metal rivets extended through slotted holes allowing for some minimal adjustability.
- Suggested Flashes: cold shoe
- Canon FX instructions on Butkus