The Canon P - Popular Perfection

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by lou_meluso, Dec 12, 2011.

  1. Back in 1958, Wham-O first introduced the Hula-Hoop in the USA. Eisenhower was living in the White House and everybody tuned in to the Jack Benny and Ed Sullivan Shows on television. Music by Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis spun on our turntables, and movie houses were packed by folks watching new film releases such as “The Bridge on the River Kwai”, “South Pacific”, and Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”. In Japan, that same year, Canon introduced the Canon P rangefinder to the world.
  2. The “P” stands for Popularie (popular). This camera was introduced as a lower end model to the Canon VI series, but, due to its bright 1:1 finder with multiple framing lines and robust build quality, it wound up out selling the IV cameras five-to-one. The camera was made for three years and over 87, 875 units were produced (Dechert). The original price with the 50mm f/1.4 lens was $146.
    It is one of my favorite film cameras and one of the most beautiful cameras I own.
  3. This nice example came to me, some months ago, directly from Japan, via our own forum member Michael Smith. Not only was the camera very clean and in perfect working order, he gave me a cracking good deal on it too. Thanks Mike! This camera is the embodiment of everything I like about classic rangefinder cameras. A design that is at once simple and sleek yet elegant. The complete simplicity of operation means photography with just the basic elements of shutter speed, f-stop and focus…nothing else to get in the way.
    Those elements are executed in such a precise way that merely handling the camera is a tactile delight. Yet strange as it may seem, it’s also those properties that allows the camera to work so naturally with your eye that it seems to disappear from the hands as you concentrate on the subject.
  4. The feature set is Spartan but what’s there is choice. There is a shutter range from 1-1/1000, B, plus X (1/55). A handy self timer sits on the front panel. A locking PC flash sync is located on the top left side. The beautifully designed rewind knob folds neatly away, retaining the sleek top panel lines. The film advance level is the perfect thickness, length and angle. The bright viewfinder shows frame lines for 35mm, 50mm, and 100mm lenses. The parallax-corrected viewfinder magnification is 1:1 so you can keep both eyes open while shooting. For me this is a key element in staying visually connected to my subject. The accessory shoe can hold a flash or viewfinder for wider or longer lenses.
    There is a selenium meter, made for the P, which also fits into the accessory shoe and couples to the shutter speed dial. It has a high and low switch that will allow readings high as 19EV and as low as 4EV @iso100. Mine works well but I rarely use it. It takes away much of the compactness of the camera and, frankly, doesn’t do anything for its looks.
  5. I have a wide assortment of LTM mount Canon lenses for this camera. The lens that is on often is the black Canon LTM 35mm f/2. This is well made, compact lens that is quite sharp. Like many Canon LTM lenses, it has the 40mm filter thread that is hard to find filters to fit. I have a number of step-up rings to more commonly found filters and hoods sizes that work well enough. This lens has seven-elements in four groups.
    Here are a few images made with this lens on Fuji Superia 400 film.
  6. #1 Portrait of Winston
    I photographed my pal, and fellow photographer, Winston Foster in his kitchen. There is this small alcove where the table fits by a large bay window. These cramped quarters needed the 35mm focal length to get anything more than just a head shot. He says my Canon's are dog snot. I say his Leica's are bloatware. We're good freinds.
    LMar and Fiddlefye like this.
  7. #2 Barn Loft Door
    This large barn was built at the Lackman farm in the 1850's after the original one burned down.
    LMar likes this.
  8. #3 The Sprint Center - Kansas City
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  9. #4 Luchtime at Arthur Bryant's
    This packed house is a daily occurance at what is possibly the best Bar-B-Q spot in Kansas City...if not the world. The line on the right goes clear out the door and down the street. Shot hand held and wide open.
    LMar likes this.
  10. #5 here are a few more shots, with this camera, with different Canon LTM lenses, taken over the last few months.
    Portrait of Ray
    100mm f/3.5
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  11. #6 A Bowl of Squash
    50mm f/1.4
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  12. #7 A Storm Gathering Over the Flying Colt Ranch
    35mm f/2.8
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  13. #8 A Yellow Flower on a Table
    50mm f/1.4
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  14. #9 V-Rod Power Plant
    50mm f/1.4 This one was shot with the new Kodak Portra 400. Very sharp film with smooth tones and fine-grain.
    Sometimes you just bond with a camera. The combination of great quality, utter simplicity and thoughtful design has combined to create close to my idea of a perfect camera. The Canon P was very popular in its day and it remains popular many decades later. An amazing feat for any camera. For me, the Canon P will always be....popular perfection.
    P.S. The meter for the P also fits all the IV series camera as well.
    LMar likes this.
  15. Great shots and an elegant camera. Thanks, sp.
  16. Gorgeous work with a gorgeous camera. As I look at the pictures, each one is my favorite in turn until I look back at the earlier ones.
    I'm more of a Nikon/Contax/(Kiev) guy 'philosophically,' but this P model is one I've always been tempted by.
  17. Maiku sent me too a fine P, but I had to return it as its finder frame lines were slightly rotated, not level. A simple, functional, elegant camera.
  18. Great results and a very good looking example. Thanks for sharing.
  19. Ah, yes; lovely work, Louis. It would be hard to imagine a more elegant camera, endowed as it is with the brilliant simplicity of a "less is more" design approach. Many of your fines frames are of a kind I'd never ordinarily attempt with a rangefinder camera, and you've demonstrated perfectly what such a camera can produce, in competent hands. Almost impossible to pick a favourite, though "A Storm Gathering..." moves me... Thanks for a great post.
  20. Beautiful camera. I can see why it would be your favorite.
  21. You are someone who does not only admire classic cameras but you also can use them ... and outperform many others using modern equipment. Congrats!
    Canon LTM cameras are a bit hard to find over here in Germany, and I already have three LTM bodies (Leica IIIa, FED 1g and Canon 7s), but the Canon P really looks seducing...
  22. Louis,
    I am glad you put that camera to good use! I love the Canon LTM cameras and lenses as you do, but alas with two little kids about I cannot afford to have many systems anymore. That 35/2 is an amazing lens. The 500 USD price tag these lenses fetch today are a bargain in my opinion.
    Mukul, Louis` camera is the one I sold you. I had the frame lines replaced from a junk camera. The original frame lines were askew because the person who installed them way back when did a poor job. It slipped through quality control!
    Keep enjoying that camera Louis.
  23. Beautiful pictures! It took me five years to find a Canon P, finally landed one last the 1:1 VF.
  24. Louis
    You made more people searching for the Popular-perfection now !!!. Your presentation is better than the advertising of Canon in 1958. Thanks for sharing
  25. These are beautiful cameras and I have friends that love them. I have a Canon 7 that is working beautifully and it has a new Titanium shutter without wrinkles. It is a heavier than my Leica Barnacks but I really love the sound and precision of the Canons.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  26. Wow! Great presentation Louis. When I see cameras like these I always wonder why 'someone' can't produce a basic and classic RF like these today. Then I wake up from my dream and realize that with the short production runs and low demand they would probably cost 5 grand for a body and 50mm f2 lens.
  27. Heck, just correcting for inflation indices, that $146 in 1958 is $1088 in 2010. But, inflation indices understate the true inflation, since the "constant basket of goods" they compare is not really equivalent, the quality keeps going down. (Is a 1976 Maytag washing machine as durable or long-lasting as anything you can buy today? Nope!)
    It could be re-made cheaper than those two recent limited-edition Nikon rangefinder reissues, as the design really is simpler. But not a lot cheaper.
  28. Thanks for all the feedback, guys. It's very much appreciated.
  29. Well, I've run out of superlatives but they all apply to this post. What wonderful pictures from an absolutely beautiful camera. I think my favorite is "A Yellow Flower on a Table" as it is simplicity at its best. Thank you for another superb post, Louis.
  30. Thanks Andy. Please forgive my typos:
    level = lever
    luchtime = lunchtime
  31. Gorgeous - both camera and pictures !!
  32. Makes me want one!
  33. My favorite camera. With an assortment of screw mount lenses I have lately been using a Canon 50mm 1.8, a Juptier 3, and a Canon 35 2.8 . Sadly I don't achieve your fine results! Like the man said" practice practice, practice."
  34. My favorite camera. With an assortment of screw mount lenses I have lately been using a Canon 50mm 1.8, a Jupiter 3, and a Canon 35 2.8 . Sadly I don't achieve your fine results! Like the man said" practice practice, practice."
    LMar and Fiddlefye like this.
  35. Sure enjoyed the photographs. Thanks.
  36. My feelings towards this camera seem almost cliche when perusing the comments - but I guess its hard to expect anything else when an instrument such as this comes along: elegant, timeless, simple... I love this camera. I have never had the pleasure of shooting one, and only handled one briefly at a camera show - but I would be shocked if something that embodies the "form follows function" principle so well did not work as well as it looked.
    Louis, this was a wonderful write up, but I have to tell you - amidst the multitude of great pics, all of which could be the pride of most photographers, the yellow flower rises above. I kept coming back to that photograph over and over, and every time I find something else to love about it. The composition is amazing in more ways than one - not only in the simple, basic (albeit oh so important!) aspect of geometric relationships that most of us think of when the word "composition" is used, but also the use of light and shadow as part of that composition, complimenting the shapes and arrangement of the objects, taking on a life of its own as an element in its own right. But... the part that really stands out is the use of colour - perhaps because it is an area I find sadly lacking in my own photographic acumen - but I think that only serves to underline its excellence to me, an excellence that is so apparent to everyone, I am sure. It is accurate to say that the yellow flower has me green with envy:) Kudos, Mr. Meluso and thank you for sharing all these gems, the camera, the other pics - but especially that one!
  37. Nice camera, indeed. You take some nice product shots, Louis. :) I love the close-up of the lens. Very, very nice. Otherwise the best shots are the barn loft door, the bowl of squashes, the yellow flower and the motorbike engine.
    Red Robin, I have no doubt that with practice you will be taking pictures just as good as Louis'. Just by looking at the best ones here (which I've pointed out) one can learn HEAPS. As far as I'm concerned I'm impressed by Louis' disciplined composition. All you have to do is 'copy' them. :)
  38. Impeccable presentation as usual Louis, just love your shots, and especially the "product" photos. I used to have a Canon VIT, with the rapid wind on the base, wish I hadn't sold it!
  39. Great post and images, truly enjoyable Louis. I love the portrait of Winston.
  40. Just great. I wish I hadn't seen this... now I'm already looking for one on the auction site, as if I need yet another body!
  41. I'm gladly immune to classic camera LBA so I can look at your beautiful postings without fear Louis :)
  42. Lovely images. Some absolutely stunning. I really liked the one of your friend Winston. He looks a lot like my favourite jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal.
  43. Thanks again, all, for stopping by and taking a look. I appreciate all the comments.

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