Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Canon F1 - The Concept


To construct a system camera from scratch is a tedious process. From concept to eventual production can involve years of man hours on research, careful planning, refining and could easily consume or suck in plenty of financial resources from the company. This in turn could decide the future of the company in certain instances. Because Canon is one of the largest makers of optical imaging products in Japan, Canon faced increasing pressure from its main rival, Nikon Kogaku Optical which has brought out its first highly publicised and successful system camera, the Nikon F in 1959 and followed by the F2 in 1971, there was a vacuum which required Canon to react quickly to fill the gap where professional photography could be an essential marketing tool for creating presence and establishing brand name in its global marketing strategies.

The backbone concept for the Canon F-1 are basically simple and straight forward enough : To built a system camera that povides total versatility with un-matched reliability - in any condition and working environment and a provision for backward compatibility and additional options for future growth.

Modular body.jpg (16k jpeg)
Modular design of the Canon F-1 provides such flexibility, which enables someone to custom mount/built from the enormous amount of available system accessories to suit his/her own way of personal photography. Strangely, such "ideal" formulation is gradually fading in the modern top notch AF body from Canon. First to go is the interchangeable finders in the EOS1 series... Perhaps from the manufacturer's point of view, justification is the keyword. They must have the accumulated data to make such decision based on the experiences in users' demand with two generations of pro level models, the Canon F-1 & F-1n.

The huge F-1 system consisted of more than two hundred accessories. Ranging from interchangeable lenses, prisms, focusing screens, motor drives, uniquely developed devices for Flash photography, bulk film backs, macro/copying works, remote/un-manned photographic accessories etc.

The birth of the F-1 created its impact on the photographic community and to Canon as well. Because many difficult technical problems were resolved like precision engineering and manufacturing operations within Canon. Since prior to the FD mount, Canon optically has only the Canonflex R-series lenses (Bayonet mount with three outer lugs (spigot type) & the Canon FX FL-series lenses (Spec relating to shape and dimensions are same with R-series.The diaphragm has undergone structural improvements to become the automatic lens-side aperture control type standard) in its optical line up. To maximise the wide capabilities of the F-1, a new series of FD lenses (Spec in relation to shape and dimensions are the same as R-series, while several new levers and pins, such as automatic aperture control lever, aperture signal pins in used for transmission of the F value at full aperture, aperture signal lever, and AE/Manual switch pin, are added) were produced as a perfect match to this new system. Thus, the starting point of the initial concept has to be relative to many technical aspect in manufacturing to assure total compatibility and system integration of various mechanical and optical parts. Thus, factory standards of production accuracy, assembly line, control of mechanism and smoother flow chart from planning, production all the way down to delivery chains has been raised to take on the challenge. Further, with the emergence of electronic, the R&D staffs were able to extend their creativity to the fullest by exploring possible hybrid use of the "state of the art" technologies (That time applies) on some innovative devices/accessories to the F-1 as system components.

The whole process and the experience gained was in fact a modernisation of product/manufacturing cycle which has laid a solid foundation for the success story for Canon in time to come.

This was how Canon benefitted with the development of the F-1. With the proposed change of the FD from the FL which directly involved production of new optical materials, together with some most precise manufacturing techniques and up-to-date applied-electronic components have to be handled in-house which to ensure the F-1 rolled out from its - practically from ground-up new manufacturing/assembly production line. The Canon F-1 system has 10,000 parts to begin with in manufacturing. To use the enormous amount of different parts to produce its basic bodies and those added-on accessories to suit different photographic purposes was one thing, method of joining them to make it precise, functional, reliable to work with and most of all, lowering the time cost was another. For example, between the camera and a standard lens has 24 joining parts - there are five mounting parts, eight attachment and eleven coupling parts, all of them must maintain perfect interchangeability.

Click here for an image to see the stripped down F-1 mechanical parts that make up the camera.

| Next | As a flagship top camera model to challenge the Nikon, of which has an absolute advantage of being a generation of production experience ahead of the Canon F-1, the next major thing Canon has to address was the reliability issue. Because this model is targeted directly at professionals - the most demanding batch of photographers on earth...

Concept | Reliability Issue | Motor Drive Units | Macro | EE Servo / Booster Finder | Bulk Film Back | CAT (Flash System | F1 High Speed | ODF-1 | Placid | Accessories | Canon FD & FDn lenses

| Back | to Main Index Page of Canon F-1(n)

An external source Prepared by Christian Rollinger for Canon F1's Camera Operational Manual in PDF (2.58MB)

Update: Scanned Copies of Canon F-1 Repair Manual (4.8MB) at Christian Rollinger website.

| Message Board | for your Canon F-1(n) SLR camera(s)
| Message Board | for your Canon optics in a shared environment
| Message Board | Specifically for Dispose or Looking for Canon Photographic equipment

Other Canon Resources: If you have a New Canon F-1...
| Canon A and T Series SLR models

Lenses: FL | Canon FDn lenses. | Early versions of FD lenses

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MB Maintenance Team and Credit information: Kaipin & Terry Carraway. Mr. Richard Yeow, General Manager -Optical Division of Canon Marketing and Tony Kano, former regioner head of Canon, Asean Region for granting special permission to reproduce some of the old manuals into HTML format. * Canon, T90, FD Lenses, Canon Marketing are registered trade names or trademarks of Canon Inc. Japan.