Canon Camera · film photography · photography · Vintage Camera · Vintage Camera Reviews

the Canon New F-1

The Canon New F-1 is is an expandable system camera. By expandable I mean 5 types of viewfinders, 32 different focusing screens within 13 different types to go with 3 different metering patterns, 2 motorized film advance units, and a couple of interchangeable backs. That surely gives the Nikon F3 system a run for its money, which had also just been released a year before in 1980.

*Video Review is at the bottom of this page

Canon New F1 1981 ad
Canon New F1 1981 ad

There are three renditions of the Canon F-1. First was the F-1 in 1971. Next, in 1976 with minor changes, the Canon F-1n. Then finally, the Canon New F-1 in 1981. It is also known as the F-1N. This version is electronically controlled unlike its previous versions. It came at a time when photographers were starting to enjoy the more automated luxuries of the electronic technology that was rapidly becoming available.

The Camera

The Canon New F-1 gave them that automation, as well as a reliable and durable brass build that weighs 1.75 pounds without a lens. It is unlike any SLR I have seen, especially with the beautiful matte black finish.

canon new f-1

While still a mechanical camera, Canon allowed the photographer to expand as much or as little as they wanted to make it as electronic as they wanted. It’s a manual-exposure camera that’s capable of TTL full-aperture metering and stopped-down metering with the eye-level FN meter head. Aperture-priority AE is available by attaching the optional AE Finder FN. Also, shutter-priority mode is optionally available when using either AE Motor Drive FN or AE Power Winder FN.

Features of the Canon New F-1

With a Focal Plane Shutter and metal curtains, the Canon New F-1 sports a hybrid shutter that has electronic shutter speeds from 8 seconds to 1/60th and mechanical shutter speeds from 1/125 to 1/2000th. Bulb and X for using an electronic flash (1/90 sec.) are also mechanically controlled. Aperture priority is also available on the shutter speed dial which is electronically controlled with all speeds included.

The back of the camera has a dial that allows you to select three different ways to control the meter. Normal allows you to access the meter while gently pressing the shutter release. Hold allows the meter to stay on for 16 seconds, and Light illuminates the meter for low lighting situations.

Canon New F-1

There is also a self timer with adjustable beep and delay, a compensation dial, and a battery check button to test the Alkaline 4LR44 Battery.

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Canon New F-1 with FD lens
Canon New F-1 with FD lens

One of the best things about the New F-1 and its predecessors is the FD mount. That means this camera can mount a large variety of lenses made by Canon and several other affordable brands such as Soligor and Vivitar.

My Experience and Photos with the Canon New F-1

I’ve owned my Canon New F-1 for several years now and from the moment I received it in the mail, I have been impressed by it. The quality of the build is impressive and the sound of the shutter is unlike any other.

The ergonomics of the camera are great because the battery compartment works as a grip which helps with the solid weight of the camera.

Canon New F-1 with Ilford HP5 400 at 800
Canon New F-1 with Ilford HP5 400 at 800
Canon New F1 Kodak Gold 200
Canon New F1 Kodak Gold 200

I’ve found the meter to be very accurate and easy to use. Anytime I am testing out a new film or need a reliable camera for something important, I grab the F-1.

woman and dog - lomochrome purple
Lomography Lomochrome Purple ISO 100

Final Thoughts

The Canon New F-1 will be a long time favorite in my collection for years to come. It’s reliable and easy to use. The tactile qualities of it make it very enjoyable to hold. I would highly recommend this camera. Let me know in the comments if you have one or are thinking of purchasing one.

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20 thoughts on “the Canon New F-1

  1. As a long-time OM user (I still use my OM-1 bought new) I have been playing with a number of other bodies just to try out other lenses. Having been through a few M42 bodies had the chance of a F-1n which I grabbed just because it felt so comfortingly heavy to handle. Having a RB-67 this really wasn’t offputting 😉 2 things have taken a while to get used to, the speed dial and the meter. It’s taken about 10 rolls to get myself sorted, mostly on reversal stock, but I’m there now. The lenses absolutely make the effort worthwhile. They have a clarity that is just startling in monochrome. My current obsession is with the 200 f2.8, worth every penny of the 90% saving over a new lens.

    Although I’m not sure the early F-1’s would be an easy switch from Digi’s, perhaps not the best choice for a first film camera.

  2. Sometime in the ’70s, a salesman convinced me to buy a Canon F1 and some lenses as being much better than my Nikon F2. What a mug I was to believe him!

    On the Canon, so many things broke or stopped working properly. I had cracks on the body, jammed locking ring on the lenses and had bits falling off. Nothing actually stopped working, but the camera and lenses were sorry-looking and felt tired after just a year. Fortunately, I held onto my Nikon gear, which continued to serve me well after I sold the Canon kit for almost scrap value.

    I still use an Olympus OM-1 and my Nikon F2 with an assortment of Zuiko and Nikkor lenses that all work just perfectly (if looking well-used) that I have owned now for decades.

    I never owned a Nikon F, but if it is anything like the F2 (my all-time favourite camera ever) I can completely understand why you like it so much! Maybe, if I had another go 40 years on, I could appreciate the Canon F1. (I have my doubts.)

      1. Now you mention it… Thinking back (a very long time back!) it was the original, and not the “New” F1. Maybe they got better with the re-design.

        I am quite tempted to buy a Nikon F Photomic to give it a try since it has to be the coolest-looking camera ever made, and all of my lenses will work.

        1. OK. Scrap what I said before. I think a “senior moment” (or two) happened!

          I have now figured out that the camera I was sold in the late ’70s was not an F-1, but an A-1! (I knew it was the original and not a second-generation “New” model.) The F-1 looks to be a much more solid thing indeed. I would be quite interested to try one (but have no lenses).

          Sorry for the confusion, and being an accidental downer on your camera, Aly.

  3. Wonderful blog post! The F-1 is just a fantastic, and sturdy, photographic tool. I have one and it’s not only extremely dependable, it’s also a pure joy to use. Here’s to the F-1!

  4. I’ve been thinking about getting one, but I don’t think I need the additional features that it has over the A-1. Although, the 1/2000 shutter speed would be nice. I’ve always been curious about the different viewfinders.

    1. Yea if you have an A-1 it’s probably not worth it. At the time when I bought mine it was cheaper than the A-1 so I went for this one.
      I don’t have any other viewfinders or any other accessories. I’d love to get some one day see what’s available.

  5. Nicely done. It was an outstanding system. Many of us were already committed to Nikon by the time it came out. One thing Nikon did which earned customer loyalty was to make sure all their older (SLR) lenses could be used on the newest models.-which Canon did not

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