When the Canon EOS RP was announced a couple of weeks ago there ensued a discussion on the meaning of “P”. Leica fans and some others felt that P should always stand for “professional” while Canon explicitly stated that the P in RP was for “popular”. Quite the opposite, it would seem. Yet Canon and P-for-popular have a long history. A history I know from my own experience.
In 1971 I purchased my second interchangeable lens camera. My previous model had been a Praktica SLR, a decent enough camera for a student, but the
I went to a long-since-defunct local camera store and told the counter clerk that I wanted something durable that took decent lenses. Of course, he suggested a Leica M4. But that was completely beyond my modest budget at the time.
Then he suggested a smallish Canon that had been left as a trade-in on an SLR. I liked the size and the solid feel of the Canon and when he told me that I could put Leica lenses on it, I was sold. That camera was a Canon-P and it became my constant companion for the next five years.
Of course I soon found out that the Leica lenses that would fit on the Canon were not the same lenses that would fit on the M4, but that was of no consequence since I couldn’t afford Leica lenses anyway, and as it turned out the Canon rangefinder lenses I ended up owning were excellent.
The Canon-P was a very basic Leica thread-mount rangefinder, with frame lines for 35, 50 and 100mm lenses. Those frame lines always showed in the viewfinder, so you had to remember which lens you were using.
This wasn’t a problem for me since I only ever had the 50mm f/1.8 and 100mm f/3.5 — both excellent lenses. The two pictures in this article were taken with that camera and those lenses. Sorry, but in those days I didn’t keep track of shutter speed and aperture information.
What I can tell you is that they were both taken on Tri-X rated at ASA 325 (remember that pre-ISO term?) and processed in Microdol, a great developer for fine grain, particularly on Tri-X.
In common with all Canon film cameras, the P (for popular) had a swing-out film door, and a fairly conventional layout. The most unusual feature was a horizontally travelling shutter curtain made from very thin stainless steel that had been treated somehow to blacken it. If you are familiar with the Canon F1 then you have seen that same shutter material used there. That shutter had one major advantage and one major disadvantage.
First the pro — you could leave the camera lying face-up on a sunny day and nothing would happen to it. Don’t ever do this with a film Leica as the sun will soon burn a hole through the shutter curtain. The con was the very audible “clack” made by the camera when that shutter was tripped. I guess, even though the metal was very thin, it still had
That little Canon-P stayed with me for the next five years until I graduated, found a job and spent my first paycheque — well perhaps not the first — on a Canon SLR, using the little Canon-P as a trade-in. That’s a decision I eventually came to regret. It was a simple but tough and excellent little camera. I was not gentle with it, but it never let me down.