Canon FT QL 35mm film camera

Introduced in 1966, the Canon FT QL is an all mechanical 35mm film camera that you’ve probably never heard of.

History

Canon has been in the business of making cameras since the 30’s when they released their first camera, which, like many other companies, was based on the Leica II. They really started to hit their stride when they released the F-1 in 1976 and the first computerized SLR in 1976 with the venerable AE-1.

Even though some of Canon’s early cameras sported Nikon lenses, Canon has become synonymous with sharp optics and high quality cameras.

Function and design

So where does the FT QL fit in? At first glance it would seem like the FT is unremarkable. It isn’t trendsetting. It certainly isn’t the lightest camera on the market, but that’s kind of what makes it a great camera. At this point Canon was starting to hit their stride and the FT hints at the quality and craftsmanship that is coming out of Canon. The Canon FT is setting the stage.

Unlike it’s predecessor, the Pellix, the FT has a standard quick-return reflex mirror and a match-needle exposure meter. Fortunately the battery only controls the meter, so the camera will work just fine at all shutter speeds and aperture settings without it. It uses a somewhat standard PX625 type battery, so they’re pretty easy to get, well as long as there’s a camera shop about, so I wouldn’t leave home without a spare if you’re doing something important.

Canon FT shutter speed and ISO dials
Shutter and film speed

The controls on the Canon FT are minimal and placed well. The shutter speed dial also doubles as the ISO selector and displays both DIN and ISO. Right next to that is the shutter release button which has a thread-in remote release built-in. It also has a locking latch built-in which is a nice feature. The frame counter is large and easy to read just above the film advance lever; which is a single action. There is also a battery check lever on the base of the film rewind knob. When the lever is moved to the “C” position the needle in the meter should jump up above the circle in the finder, if not, you need a new battery. The battery location, in typical Canon fashion, is on the left side of the camera just below the rewind knob.

Other options include a self timer, mirror lock-up, a meter lock and a standard thread-in cable release for long exposures.

Operation

The Canon FT is also part of the Quick-loading System which is why there is a QL on the camera body. According to Canon, only three steps are necessary for loading film into the FT.

  1. Open the back of the camera.
  2. Place the film leader onto the specially designed take~up mechanism
  3. Close the back of the camera.

Now the camera is ready to use. This design makes it easier for the user to load film resulting in fewer errors and missed shots. Along with advanced TTL metering the Canon FT is setting the stage of what’s coming from Canon.

Match needle meter display
Match needle meter

Using the Canon FT isn’t an unfamiliar process, although the match-needle system is a little odd if you haven’t used it before, but ultimately it’s just as easy as other meters. The idea is that the dot, or circle, is a proper exposure. So to make a proper exposure you need to get the needle to the center of the circle. If the needle is above the circle it is over exposed and below the circle is under exposed.

The FT meter is a spot meter rather than the more typical averaging meter. The rectangular area in the finder represents the area where the meter is getting it’s light to meter from. While in most situations this fine, you can actually use this to create an average reading if there are areas of extreme light and dark in the image. Just take a reading of the darkest are and the lightest area and split the difference to get your exposure. Yeah, that’s pretty non-technical, but that’s the gist of it.

To conserve battery life the metering system is not always on. You have to push the metering (and self-timer) lever towards the lens to engage the light meter. There is a latch on the bottom of the lever to lock the meter in the on position, which also stops down the lens. This type of metering is also called stop-down metering. It might seem like there are a lot of little tasks that you have to line up just so to get the Canon FT to work, but in practice it just sort of flows. The controls are well designed and placed just where you would expect them to be.

It is possible to shoot multiple exposures with the Canon FT, although it’s a pretty funky procedure. But it is outlined in the manual quite nicely, so check page 36 for more details.

Optics

The Canon FT would be worthless without a solid selection of glass to support it, and Canon doesn’t disappoint. There are up to 22 lenses that are capable of being used with the Canon FT. Besides just the FL mount lenses, there are a whole host of lens accessories that can be used such as the FL Bellows, extension tubes and copy stand.

The FT is not the only camera that uses the FL breech-lock mount (unlike the Mamiya NS 1000 – which was a one-shot wonder). Like many other camera companies of the time the 50mm lenses were the fastest lenses available and Canon offered an amazing 50mm f/1.2 FL lens. It’s not like Canon to do anything half-baked so there are prime lenses from the 19mm f/3.5 to the 1000mm f/11, and half a dozen zoom lenses thrown in for good measure.

Note * : The Canon FT can also use Canon R mount lenses.

Just like the camera body, the FL lenses have heft. They are large hunks of glass with lots of metal to hold them together. Part of that is the FL mount itself. Since the mount is a breech-lock there is a locking ring mounted to the base of the lens that rotates independently of the lens to hold it in place. With the placement of the lock ring at the base of the lens the aperture ring was placed at the front of the lens with the focus ring in the middle. Most of the lenses have a maximum aperture f/3.5 and a minimum of f/16, but there are some outliers like the 50mm f/1.2. There are more details about the FL lenses below.

Low light and the Canon Booster

Canon Booster
Canon Booster

If you really like the FT it m might be a good idea to get the Booster. The Canon Booster is an accessory meter that greatly extends the FT’s ability to accurately meter in low light situations. It mounts to the accessory mount on the prism (cold shoe) and connects to the camera in place of the battery, which is relocated to the Booster. The Booster works by using Cadmium Sulfide (CdS) to detect the smaller amounts of light than what could be detected by the smaller meter built into the camera. It really is a pretty neat piece of technology all things considered.

Note ** : There were two models of the booster. The first models works with the FT QL and the Pellix and has an “F” and “P” on it. The second model which also works on the FTb the letters “Fb” were added.

Wrap-up

The Canon FT was released the year after the Nikkormat FT and just before the FTN which both had average metering, but at this point Canon still lagged behind Nikon with both features and function. The Canon FT had the same shutter speeds as the Nikon cameras, but Nikon had already set in motion their F mount lens system which didn’t change for more than 30 years. While Canon has gone through several lens mount systems making it a bit more involved if you want to use older Canon film cameras.

The FT is a great camera. It’s easy to use, lenses are easy to come by and it’s not one of the more expensive options out there. There are a lot of cameras out there for a little more or maybe a little less money, but if you want a camera to have in your car all the time or if you just want a simple, easy to use camera that will work when you pick it up, give the Canon FT a try – it just might surprise you.



General

Canon FT QL
Type : Single Lens Reflex (SLR)
Lens Mount : FL Breech-Lock
Operation : Mechanical
Format : 35mm
Shutter : Focal Plane – cloth – horizontal
Shutter speeds : B, 1s – 1/1000s
Shutter remote : mechanical
ISO Range : 25 – 1600
Shutter lock : Yes
Mirror Lock-up : Yes
DoF preview : Yes
Multiple Exposures : Yes
Self-timer : 10 seconds
Flash sync : 1/30s, X, PC Socket
Flash mount : cold shoe
Strap lugs : Yes
Production : 1966 – 1969
Battery : PX625
Weight : 1lb 9 oz / 2lbs 6oz with 50mm f/1.4

Download the Canon FT Manual

Accessories

Filters : 48mm and 58mm screw-in
Copy stand 3F
Handy Stand F
FL Bellows
R4-2 Camera Holder
Closeup lenses 240, 450, 1800
Speedlight Flashes 102, 200
Canon Booster


FT Compatible Lenses

FL 19mm f/3.5R
Angle of view : 96 deg.
Elements : 11
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/16
Filter size : Series IX

FL 28mm f/3.5
Angle of view : 75 deg.
Elements : 7
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/16
Filter size : 58mm

FL 35mm f/2.5
Angle of view : 64 deg.
Elements : 6
Aperture range : f/2.5 – f/22
Filter size : 48mm

FL 35mm f/3.5 (Compact)
Angle of view : 64 deg.
Elements :
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/16
Filter size : 48mm

FL 50mm f/3.5 (Macro)
Angle of view : 46 deg.
Elements : 4
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/22
Filter size : 58mm

FL 50mm f/1.8
Angle of view : 46 deg.
Elements : 6
Aperture range : f/1.8 – f/22
Filter size : 48mm

FL 50mm f/1.4
Angle of view : 46 deg.
Elements : 6
Aperture range : f/1.4 – f/16
Filter size : 58mm

FL 55mm f/1.2
Angle of view : 43 deg.
Elements : 7
Aperture range : f/1.2 – f/16
Filter size : 58mm

FL 58mm f/1.2
Angle of view : 41 deg.
Elements : 7
Aperture range : f/1.2 – f/16
Filter size : 58mm

FL 85mm f/1.8
Angle of view : 29 deg.
Elements : 5
Aperture range : f/1.8 – f/16
Filter size : 58mm

FL 100mm f/3.5
Angle of view : 24 deg.
Elements : 5
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/16
Filter size : 48mm

FLM 100mm f/4 (Macro)
Angle of view :
Elements : front/rear
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/22
Filter size :

FL 55-135mm f/3.5
Angle of view : 43 – 18 deg.
Elements : 13
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/22
Filter size : 58mm

FL 100-200mm f/5.6 (Compact)
Angle of view : 24 – 12 deg.
Elements : 8
Aperture range : f/5.6 – f/22
Filter size : 55mm

FL 85-300mm f/5
Angle of view : 24 – 7 deg.
Elements : 15
Aperture range : f/5 – f/22
Filter size : 72mm

FL 135mm f/3.5 (Compact)
Angle of view : 18 deg.
Elements : 4
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/22
Filter size : 48mm

FL 135mm f/2.5
Angle of view : 18 deg.
Elements : 6
Aperture range : f/2.5 – f/16
Filter size : 58mm

FL 200mm f/4.5 (Compact)
Angle of view : 12 deg.
Elements : 5
Aperture range : f/4.5 – f/16
Filter size : 48mm

FL 200mm f/3.5
Angle of view : 12 deg.
Elements : 7
Aperture range : f/3.5 – f/22
Filter size : 58mm

R 300mm f/4
Angle of view : 8 deg.
Elements : 5
Aperture range : f/4 – f/22
Filter size : 48mm

R 400mm f/4.5
Angle of view : 6 deg.
Elements : 5
Aperture range : f/4.5 – f/22
Filter size : 48mm

R 600mm f/5.6
Angle of view : 4 deg.
Elements : 2
Aperture range : f/5.6 – f/32
Filter size : 48mm

R 800mm f/8
Angle of view : 3 deg.
Elements : 2
Aperture range : f/8 – f/32
Filter size : 48mm

R 1000mm f/11
Angle of view : 2 deg.
Elements : 2
Aperture range : f/11 – f/32
Filter size : 48mm

FL-F 300mm f/5.6 (Fluorite Telephoto)
Angle of view : 8 deg.
Elements :
Aperture range : f/5.6 – f/22
Filter size :

FL-F 500mm f/5.6 (Fluorite Telephoto)
Angle of view : 5 deg.
Elements :
Aperture range : f/5.6 – f/22
Filter size :


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