Canon Camera · film photography · Vintage Camera Reviews

The Canon FTb QL

Ilford HP5 400

The Canon FTb QL is a mechanical 35mm SLR for the advanced amateur photographer. It was released in 1971 at the same time as its Pro brother the F-1 and was preceded by the FT QL. (Check out Jim Greys great review of that camera). The FT uses the FL mount lenses and the FTb uses the newer FD mount. You can still use the FL lenses in stop down metering.

The FTb offered the same quality as the F-1, but it was not modular, meaning you could not change out the viewfinder. It also has a rubberized silk shutter curtain where the F-1 has a more durable titanium shutter, and the F-1 has a ton of different accessories to buy.

Canon FTb-n

In 1973 Canon came out with a revised version called the FTb-n, which is what I have. It had a few cosmetic changes such as a plastic tip added to the advance lever, a cover for the flash socket, a different self timer/stop down lever on the front, and a slightly different shutter speed dial. It also has a shutter speed display inside the viewfinder in the lower left corner.

The Camera

The QL stands for Quick Load because you don’t have to hassle yourself with trying to thread your film into the take-up spool. You only have to lay it across the back and lower the metal latch onto it and the camera does the rest as you advance on.

Canon FTb Quick Load
Quick Load – the metal latch that lays on your film to push it onto the sprockets.

The viewfinder has a pentaprism with a fresnel matte focus screen with a Microprism focusing aid at the center.

The shutter release button has two settings, A for taking pictures, and L for locking the shutter so as not to take accidental shots.

The shutter speed dial has speeds from 1 second up to 1/1000th of a second as well as B for bulb. Although this camera doesn’t have a T setting, you can still take timed shots by setting it to bulb, and while pressing the shutter button down, turn the latch around the shutter button to L to lock it open until you’re done with the exposure and then release the latch.

To change your ISO speed, lift the shutter speed dial and turn it to select the correct number. It goes up to ISO 2000.

The meter has an on/off switch as well as a C for checking if the battery is full. To check the battery, first you must set the camera to ISO 100 and shutter speed 1000. Then while pressing and holding the switch to the C and looking through the viewfinder, you will see the needle go up to the small black square at the beginning of the scale. This means the battery is still good. If the needle does not reach the inside of the scale then it needs to be replaced.

Picture of the meter from the manual

The FTb has a maximum-aperture TTL CDs Cell meter with match-needle exposure adjustment. The meter covers 12% partial metering at the center of the viewfinder in the dark square. It does need a mercury px625 battery for the meter to work, but I use Wein cell 625 just fine.

Maximum-aperture through the lens means that you are viewing your subject through the widest aperture of your lens at all times and it only closes down to your chosen aperture for a split second during exposure. When you are shooting with stop down metering say with an FL lens, your viewfinder will darken as you close down the aperture your setting on your lens because you’re controlling it manually. The FD lens has a protruding arm at the back that allows the aperture to remain open automatically. In stop down mode, this arm is not accessed.

The self timer on the front also doubles as the stop down lever as well as the mirror lock up mechanism. You lock the mirror by turning the lever down towards the lens, then push the lever lock to the M. For stopped down metering, you’d turn the lever lock to the L. Finally, To use the self timer, press the lever down away from the lens and then press the shutter button to set off the timer.

My Experience

This camera was given to me by Bill Smith of the Classic Camera Revival Podcast. We gave the camera the nickname Tina for all of the patina on its body. It is a well loved camera that has been passed around lovingly in the film community. In fact Alex Luyckx who I interviewed a while back has reviewed Tina in the past as well.

When I first received it, I shot a few rolls through it and realized it needed its light seals replaced. You can watch my video on that here. After that I was home free. It’s now one of my favorite cameras to take with me when I shoot pics from my car.

I have always loved the match needle type of meter. It was the first one I learned to use with my Canon TX and it is really quick and easy to change. Which is what I need when I am taking pics from my moving car.

The film advance lever is smooth and the shutter button and speed dial are located perfectly for me to be able to quickly change settings and take a shot.

Final Thoughts

I would have to say, when I am going out to take pictures and need something reliable, I usually grab the Canon FTb-n. The meter is reliable and quick. I can use my FD lenses, as well as a wide array of off brand value lenses with it.

For more pictures and to see my experience with this camera first hand, check out my video below. Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel as well as to this blog if you have enjoyed it.

Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

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13 thoughts on “The Canon FTb QL

  1. Great review Aly. I love my FTb QL. I have the original 1971 version. It was my dad’s, and the first “real” camera I learned on way back in photography class in high school. He surprised me with it last Christmas after having it professionally CLA’d, which was an amazing gift.

    It’s definitely a bit heavy, but built like a tank. Quick Load is great and I don’t know why Canon didn’t put it on more models or that competitors didn’t rip it off. Also, the FD 50mm 1.4 might be my favorite vintage lens I own. It’s also nice that the lenses are still relatively affordable compared to some others with film fear prices always increasing.

  2. In the day Canon was well thought of, but Nikon held one big advantage for us mid-level professionals- any (after the RF models) Nikon lens could be used on any Nikon camera. Canon changed their mounting system so that wasn’t true.
    BTW one of my most favorite ‘working lenses’ today is the 85mm f1.2 Fd (on various FF Sonys) – luckily I have a lot of experience with manual focus

      1. At the time it meant you could buy another Nikon body and have all your old lenses fit and likely any new ones in future. With Canon you’d have to buy new lenses, too. One of the reasons I find film cameras so amusing is that the prices allow you to try a bunch of different equipment. Everything was pretty expensive ‘then’ and Nikon wound up being most cost effective for many, even though there were a number of very good cameras from other makers

  3. Hi Aly – thanks for the review… I’ve shot an FTBn since the late 70s. It is a great camera with unbelievable build quality. About the metering… because it’s central area and not center weighted, you do have to understand that you are only metering that 12% designated area in the viewfinder, and then adjust accordingly. It’s kind of useful IF you understand the grey scale and reflectance metering. If you don’t, you can easily miss the mark!

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