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