My Favorite Vintage Canon
By James Grahame
The Canon L1 hit the market in the spring of 1957. This elegant 35mm rangefinder accepted removable Leica screw-mount lenses and offered automatic viewfinder parallax compensation. Some collectors argue that this was just another Leica copy, but you have to admit that it was a very sleek and sophisticated rendition.
It would be hard to imagine a modern SLR without a swing-out film door, but the L1 was only the second Canon (after 1956's VT) to offer such convenience. Previous models required the film to be loaded through the bottom of the case. The L1 also offered a convenient top-mounted film advance lever, somewhat of a rarity back then. While early production models used a cloth curtain shutter, it was later replaced with a thin stainless steel curtain to prevent pinhole burns in direct sunlight.
The L1 was priced at 87,000 Yen (US $242) with a 50mm f/1.2 Canon lens. Don't expect to find dozens of them on eBay since only around 8,000 were produced. Most were black and chrome, but approximately 200 all-black variants were manufactured. The black L1 is incredibly rare, which is unfortunate because it looks strikingly modern.
Oddly enough, Canon recycled the name in 1991 for the Canon L1 Hi8 camcorder - the world's first consumer camcorder with interchangeable lenses.
Canon L1 Rangefinder [Canon Camera Museum]