The Quirky Canon Dial 35

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by capitalq, Mar 2, 2011.

  1. As some of you may know, I love half-frame cameras and have several in my collection (including the venerable Olympus Pen F, the superlative Konica Auto-Reflex, the sleek Canon Demi S, and several others). From a technical perspective I know that halving an already small 35mm negative will create significant limitations on image quality (esp. if larger enlargements are required). I also know this format pretty much became obsolete by the mid-60s once colour film processing became cheaper (despite some attempts to revive it in the 80s). But I love the clockwork ingenuity of these cameras and the aesthetic ability to tell a story a story in two-frames. So, with the appropriate caveats in place, I offer for your perusal one of the most unusual camera designs from the Golden Age: the Dial 35.
    Unlike most half-frame cameras, the body has an unusual shape where the film runs vertically from the film cassette at the top to the take-up spool at the bottom. This design enables (unlike any other half-frame camera I am aware of) a landscape-format 24×18mm frame when the camera is upright. The camera has a very short lens barrel containing the beautiful Cds photocell “eyes” surrounding a surprisingly sharp f.2.8 28mm lens. It is these eyes that are arranged like a rotary telephone that gives the camera its “dial” moniker. Rotating the lens barrel manually sets the shutter speed (from 1/30s to 1/250s). When the black button below the viewfinder is pushed in, the aperture is set automatically (from f.2.8 to f22). When the button is pulled out, full manual aperture control is available – how cool is that? Film speed is set on a scale around the meter window and range focusing is done by shifting a lever around the top of the lens barrel (with a nifty icon display inside the viewfinder which also shows the f-stop selected by the user or the camera). But perhaps the most unusual feature of the camera is the cylindrical handle at the bottom, which winds the spring mechanism and allows the user to shoot approx.10-15 shots in rapid succession on a full wind up. Think of it as a primitive motor drive.

    In my humble opinion, this underrated camera is one of the most innovative designs from Canon or any manufacturer in the 60s or 70s. And as the following images show, it takes pretty good pictures…
  2. One of the things I most like about the camera is the pseudo-motordrive. Taking shots in rapid succession without having to wind between each shot can create all sorts of neat photo opportunities. For the following shot, I spun my son around with one hand while trying to aim the camera in his general direction. You get the picture....
  3. Here's a shot I took with the camera when I found myself in Puerto Rico last summer. The lens is quite sharp (at least when the subject and the photographer are not in motion).
  4. Another shot of PR on the beach...
  5. On another business trip to Washington DC, I managed to sneak away on a walk and take these shots...
  6. Another one from DC...
  7. Another camera I want but don't need.
  8. I found myself recently documenting a friend's afro-brazilian percussion group. Unlike the more manic Samba or cooler Bossa Nova, Maracatu has a power that needs to be seen to be experienced. The following images are taken at a weekly class where the group learns new routines and rhythms. More images to follow.
    Here's a brief description of Maracatu:
    During the colonial period in Brazil, from the early 16th century until 1888, a spiritual Black procession entitled Reis do Congo flourished, led by a spiritual and traditional leader named the King of the Congo. His job was to act as an intermediary between black slaves and white colonials in an effort to grease the wheels between the two groups and improve the slaves’ political and social circumstances. Based on regimented percussion lines, the dozen–or–so musicians on stage frolic between strictly rhythmic lines and colourful melodic sections that toss–and–turn amidst accompanying harmonies from various percussionists. This is not a disorganized jam session; the ensemble has choreographed song structures, improvised interludes and, most importantly, one entrancingly fantastic time on stage. When performers’ sections are sparse, they exchange their instruments for the dance floor, further creating a unique, powerfully engaging experience.
  9. I find the Dial 35 to be an ideal camera when trying to shoot fast moving subjects. You may get some motion blur but sometimes that works to your advantage. It's also small enough to be tucked away without much fuss, and never appears intimidating.
  10. There are 5 principal instrumets in Maracatu:
    1. a large bass drum called the "alfia"
    2. the snare
    3. a hollow gourd with beads called a "shekere"
    4. a shaker called the "minero"
    5. a large bell struck with a stick called the "gongue"
    Unlike other bands, each player must master each of these instruments and be able to switch between them. And as you can see, unlike most forms of drumming, it isn't dominated by testosterone-fueled males. Having powerful women drum powerful beats is an enchanting sight...
  11. While I'm not into half-frame, I have to 'fess up to have once owned and used a Canon Dial 35. Incredible design and build quality, even if does look like a cross between a 'phone and an old "Pocket Transistor" radio. I wish I still had it, as a collectible. You've produced some great images, Capital, especially of the Maracatu group, (and thanks for the information on the Maracatu genre). Love the swing shots; we have quite a few of those in our family albums!
  12. That is super cool. I have not been interested in half frame cameras- but posts like these make me want to play around with them. And your images are great- using the camera to its strengths works well.
    The half frames seem to inspire some really interesting designs. Yashica had many cool models also, like the rapide with pull-tab winding.
    pic found on flickr:
  13. thanks, rick. i agree that the build quality is excellent. the camera always generates a lot of interest when i take it out in public even from non-cameraphiles.
  14. What a sweet camera, excellent pictures, and great post!
    Like the idea of spinning it around. Appreciate the cultural background too.
    I think I'm immune to half-frame (although I do own a non-functional Mercury II, but then that's pretty much true of everyone who owns a Mercury II at all), but I appreciate the idea. Actually have a not-quite full-frame Taxona that takes 24x24mm pictures on 35mm film.
  15. Matt - The Dial 35's design was so cool that it was featured prominently in an episode of the spooky 60s TV show The Prisoner (one of my favorite shows). In that episode, our hero finds himself all alone in The Village and uses a Dial 35 to take shots of it. Once he returns to London, the images are enlarged to poster size as they try to identify where The Village is located. Of course, the whole thing is utterly plausible to me except for the fact that they made such high-quality enlargements from such small negatives. That's when they lost me...
    That Yashica looks very cool. Do you have one?
  16. Thanks, JDM. Don't give up on half-frames! And glad you liked Maracatu. I hope to post many more photos soon.
  17. It may be quirky but very cute. I'm not a fan of the format but your fine photos as well as recently seeing an exhibit of Ray Metzkers half frame work has given me a new respect for it. Thank you for an interesting post.
  18. Great series, Capital. I used to own a Dial 35, but sold it a few years ago. Your excellent results have given me a case of "seller's remorse". The Dial 35 may look a bit unorthodox at first glance, but it handles and operates quite easily. I used mine a lot in college, often loaded with Plus-X. I also used to shoot high speed Ektachrome and process it myself in a home E4 kit. We would take the uncut strip and run it in the AV lab's filmstrip projector.
    I'm down to just two half frame cameras now: a Fujica Half and a Yashica Samurai.
  19. Never owned one, but a friend brought one back from Vietnam in '69, thought it was cool then. Funny, but looking at my Canon wall chart, the Dial is not listed, actually there is no half frame Canon's there... strange.
  20. Here's mine, along with the original review in Pop Photo:

    Thanks for this post... I have no shooting experience with mine.
  21. Capital Q: Thx for the input,nice job. It is a really Q camera I hve ever seen. It is a very good format to compose some
    meaning pics. You think twice and fire twice, then one full frame shows a story with 2 attached pics.

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