Canon Canonflex (1959) (Large Image) This is the original Canonflex model introduced in 1959 at the same show the Nikon F and Minolta SR-2 were introduced in the United States. It had no meter but had an automatic diaphragm and instant return mirror. (SeeCameraquest – Canonflex.) This camera includes the clip-on external meter. The Canonflex uses Canomatic lenses which were similar but not identical to the later Canon FL lenses. You risk damaging your camera if you use an FL lens on a Canonflex. This original Canonflex has a removable Pentaprism similar to Miranda and Topcon cameras. The film advance is on the bottom of the camera. The Canonflex RP appeared in 1960 which was similar to the original Canonflex but had a fixed pentaprism. The Canonflex RM, below, was similar to the RP but added a Selenium meter and the film advance lever on top. The original Canonflex is relatively rare and this was a great find. In is in good cosmetic and working condition. I purchased it for $50 in La Mesa, CA in February 2011 from an ad on Craigslist. I also bought a Canon 50mm f1.2 FL lens (my second) and a Canon 35mm FL lens, each for $15.
As interesting as the camera is, the original owner was more interesting. The camera had belonged to Fred Gerlach. Fred Gerlach was born August 26, 1925 and died December 31, 2009. (Mr. Fred Gerlach-Tribune Tributes.) As explained in his Obituary published January 7, 2010 in the San Diego Union-Tribune, he was a Detroit native, grew up in New York City and came to California in the late 1950s. He served in World War II. He is most famous as a 12 string guitar player and maker. He knew the likes of Woodie Guthrie and was part of the New York folk scene in the early 1950s, and later part of the music scene in San Francisco and San Diego. Many tributes to him are on the Internet. (See, e.g., Fred Gerlach special – Blue Moment Arts, Obit: Fred Gerlach has Died, The Mudcat Cafe, R.I.P. Fred Gerlach, Discography, Our site.) Recordings are available at Smithsonian Folkways and amazon.com. Fred Gerlach was also amazingly talented in many other ways. I bought the camera from his son David and also met Fred Gerlach’s wife Barbara. The son showed me some of the things Fred Gerlach had made including one of his 12 string guitars and beautifully crafted furniture. I believe the son said his father was an engineer by profession. The comments on the Internet indicate he also made an airplane. He was truly a gifted guy. While I like cameras and other things I collect, probably the neatest thing is learning things about the lives of some really neat people. As I collect things at estate sales and garage sales I am troubled at times about how quickly people are forgotten sometimes. Thankfully, Fred Gerlach appears to be fondly remembered by many and his music will live on.
Canon Canonflex RM (1963) (Large, Top View) Unlike the original Canonflex, the Canonflex RM had a built-in Selenium meter, a fixed prism and the film advance lever on top. The meter is not through the lens. Rather, there is a meter window above the self timer lever with a window on the top of the camera near the film rewind knob. A needle in the window points to the correct aperture to set depending on the shutter speed you have selected. In operation it is similar to the clip-on meters on the original Canonflex and other cameras such as my first SLR, the Pentax H3v. A beautiful example of a Canonflex RM is at Captain Jack’s Canonflex SLR Cameras – RM. The RM is the last and most abundant of the Canonflex cameras with 72,000 produced according to Cameraquest – Canonflex. Captain Jack’s Canonflex SLR Cameras indicates a black version and a Bell & Howell version of the RM are much more rare. The owner’s manual is available at Christian Rollinger’s Canon Photo Page. My Canonflex RM was purchased in the San Ysidro area of San Diego on Decmember 27, 2007 for $40 from an ad on Craigslist. It is in fair condition. It is dusty, has a dent in the top of the pentaprism, and is missing the cover over the exposure meter window. It winds and the mirror flips up. The shutter curtains do not move, however. The mirror also only returns once the film advance is turned. Either the mirror is not instant return or it is broken. The meter actually works which is somewhat rare for old Selenium meters. My RM came without a lens. The following day, however, I purchased a Super Canomatic 50mm f1.8 lens on eBay from Puerto Rico for $1.50 plus $8.75 shipping. The description states it is in great cosmetic condition but that it the aperture is stuck at f16; hence the low price.
Canon EX-Auto (February 1972) (Large, Flash) an open aperture metering SLR with shutter priority automatic exposure. It is outside the mainstream of Canon SLRs since it had a unique lens system. You could remove the front element of the standard 50mm f1.8 lens and screw on one of three other lenses produced by Canon: a 35mm f3.5, a 95mm f3.5 and a 125mm f3.5. Only the EX-Auto and the prior EX-EE used these lenses. They did not take Canon FL or FD bayonet mount lenses. It has a typical shutter speed dial, but the aperture adjustment is on a dial on top of the camera instead of on a lens ring. The dial does not have all the intermediate apertures but you could read what they were in the viewfinder. Shutter preferred automatic exposure was achieved by setting the aperture dial to EE. The correct aperture would then be set for whatever shutter speed you selected. When used with a Canolite D flash and the 50mm f1.8 lens, flash exposure was also automatic with the subject distance calculated automatically. While geared towards those new to SLRs, the camera is very well built and quite sophisticated. Mine was purchased on eBay on 7-28-06 as part of a lot of cameras for $10 plus $19.80 shipping. (The other cameras included an Argus A-2, Minolta Hi-Matic AF (good looking but not working), Tower 18B (not working) and a Coronet B light meter.) The Canon EX-Auto is in excellent cosmetic and working condition. Aperture, shutter, meter, focus, etc. all work perfectly. It included a case, manual and Canolite D flash. The flash works but the battery door on top needs to be held down to get a good electrical contact. A beautiful camera and a great deal.