Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R-2000 from the 1960s

Posted on 11 August 2011   DOCUMENTARY, HISTORY, PHOTO-GEAR

FOR those who have been following my posts might already know that I have working on a project to restore about a 100 year old KODAK 2C Autographic Junior Camera. The film format for this camera is no longer available so I have to modify the camera itself for it to work with a 120 film which is still sparingly available. I have already modified the camera and now waiting for the shipment of the film to arrive and then the fun begins! The photos from this camera are expected soon so stay tuned.

One of the other camera that fascinated me for quite sometime has been the Canon Canonflex R-2000. The Canonflex was the first 35mm SLR camera from Canon and the Canonflex R-2000 is the rarest of them all. After much research, I finally have my hands on one of these to play around with ; – ) YAY!

canonflex 50 0056 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0110 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0050 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0114 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0063 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

By 1960s Canon had already established themselves as a reputed rangefinder camera manufacturer and the Canonflex was one of the first three 35mm Single Lens Reflex– SLRs to be introduced, the first SLR from Canon, it competed with the Nikon F and the Zenza Bronica SLR cameras.

For Canon, the Canonflex series (Original Canonflex, the Canonflex RP, the Canonflex R-2000 and the Canonflex RM) did not really prove a success and the Nikon F camera stole the show due to many factors ranging from poor marketing, limited Lens and some rather obscure features that hindered the usability of the camera. For example, one these revolutionary features was the odd ‘bottom film advance lever’. This infact was meant to be Canon’s big selling point, claiming that the 130 degree bottom lever advanced the film much faster than the top mounted lever and up to 3 frames per second were now possible. The usability and performance of this bottom lever remained a matter of personal preference.

canonflex 50 0112 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0072 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0097 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0109 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0082 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

Although the Canonflex camera did not do well but the expertise that Canon gained and lessons they learnt from these earlier SLRs set the path for the new Canon cameras how we know them today. For example, the ‘breech lock mount’ that Canon used in the Canonflex camera became a flagship for Canon and was used for almost 30 years in all successive FD cameras until it was replaced by the ‘bayonet-style mount’ for the EOS system’s EF lenses and cameras, which is still the lens mounting system used by Canon.

canonflex 50 0113 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0057 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0091 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

In terms of numbers, only 17,000 Original Canonflex were manufactured and discontinued only after a few months, succeeded by the Canonflex R-2000 with a shutter speed extending to 1/2000 seconds. Only around 8000 R-2000 were made. Canonflex RP, made in 1960 were similar to Canonflex but came with a fixed pentaprism, about 31,000 of these were produced. In 1962 the Canonflex RM were sold and they were similar to the Canonflex RP but had a built in selenium meter. The R-2000 thus was the rarest of the Canonflex series.

In the 1964, the Canonflex line was completely discontinued and replaced with the familiar modern Canon FL/FD mount cameras in 1964. Due to their limited production, Canon’s Canonflex camera are very rare to find, particularly if you are looking for one that can still make photos!
Canon eventually got its revenge 30 years later with the EOS Autofocus line-up that blew away the best AF Nikon could offer at the time, the Rover 2020/ Nikon 2020 ; )

———– THE DESIGN ——————————
The Canonflex R-2000 is a well constructed relatively large camera. The most visual and hard to miss feature of the camera is it’s odd bottom film advance lever.

canonflex 50 0100 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0074 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0116 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

The camera has a large, easy to use shutter speed dial, comparable to the newer EOS cameras. Shutter speeds go from 1 to 1/2000 and a shutter lock sits close to the shutter release button. An interesting point to note about this camera is that the shutter works AFTER the exposure, stopping more shots being taken, rather than BEFORE the exposure !

The Canonflex R-2000 comes with a very useful and well engineered finder removal system. However, the camera lacks interchangeable focusing screens and a mirror lockup.
The Canonflex R-2000 was introduced with only TWO automatic diaphragm lenses, the 50/1.8 and 100/2 that were specific to the R-2000 and were mounted using the famous Canon breech lock mount later used in the FL/FD’s with a different set of connectors at the back, thus the FL/FD lens cannot be mounted on the R-2000.

canonflex 50 0120 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex 50 0106 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

Although the R-2000 lens had an automatic diaphragm which stopped down and opened up again after the exposure, the depth of field preview is awkward– you need to manually stop down the lens with the second f/stop ring, and then manually open it up again.
Since the Canonflex R-2000s are so rare to find, it’s feels great to get my hand on one of these and to be able to test one of Canon first SLR cameras !

DOWNLOAD |  ORIGINAL USER MANUAL CANONFLEX R-2000 CAMERA | ORIGINAL USER MANUAL CANON FLASH UNIT V

Photos—First Attempt—Colour Film in B&W———————-October 2011—
canonflex testrun1 october 2011 2 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

canonflex testrun1 october 2011 5 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s
canonflex testrun1 october 2011 1 Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960s

Photos—Second Attempt—Ilford HP5 PLUS 400 B&W Film———————-January/June 2012—
dharamsala 1 small scan copy Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960sDharamsala, Northern India | June 2012

goda 1 small scan copy Canon’s First SLR Cameras – Canonflex R 2000 from the 1960sGoda | January 2012

If you like the article and my photos please share using the links below and promote my work, thank you! : )

  • Frosty

    I have this camera and im wondering how much the value is worth??

    • Rahul

      If you just have the camera by itself, I would say between 150-175 Euros for a camera in restoreable condition…
      offcourse since this camera is so rare it really depends on how
      desperately the buyer wants one and this will definitely inflate the
      price if you go around selling yours ; ) BTW do you have the ‘removable exposure meter’, this will also increase the value of the camera as this is even harder to find ! Cheers

  • Greg Mace

    I too have just recently discovered this camera and been lucky enough to find one in mint condition. As a working pro this is a real revelation to use this wonderful Canon creation. 

    • Rahul

      Hi Greg, I really start to love this camera more and more. For the first run I used a cheaper Kodak film but lately I have been using the ILFORD HP5 PLUS 400 B&W and result are looking much better. I still feel this camera deserves much more appreciation than what it had in it’s time… I am happy for your find, please share if you have some tips about this camera. All the best!

  • Wmteebe

    I have a r200 that needs repair, any help?

    • http://www.hermesonwings.com/ Rahul Wishard

      I would be happy to help, what issues due you have with the camera? 

  • afildes

    Couple of points. The original Canonflex was introduced with just two lenses – by the R2000 and Flex RP released fifteen months later in Sept. 1960, more lenses were available. The bottom wind was abandoned in the final 1962 FM. The FL lenses will fit on the Canonflex but can only be used in stop-down mode.
    The breech lock mount did not last until EOS – it was abandoned in the 1970′s with the ‘new’ FD mount which was a twist and lock mount using the same bayonet on the body but a modified lens mounting ring. The breech lock was a good system but desperately unpopular and cost Canon a lot of sales to Nikon – you needed two hands and the ring had to be correctly positioned first – far too slow.

  • karen

    I have a r2000.canonflex camera witoriginal leather case in ex,ellent working condition, tryin to find a buyer,any help of where to sell would be appreciated,,contact me at 262 225 1987