I have been, and still am, very fortunate to have owned many cameras during my life. But the one person who has enabled me to do this, with relative impunity, has been my long-suffering wife. Several times I have had to move with a certain stealth and deception whenever I needed to add to my camera collection, as she always monitors our bank account like a seasoned accountant.
Any visitor to our house would be astonished to see virtually every nook and cranny filled with cameras and photographic apparatus. Mind you, my wife didn’t take it all without raising objections. We have had many arguments, some heated, others not, but at the end of it all, we still remain friends!
Out of my present collection, one of my favourites is the Canon FTb. This camera reminds me of that other solidly-built tank of a camera, the Nikon F which I also have several examples of.
I have fond memories of this camera, as it was the one I used a lot when I was studying in England. At that time, it cost a princely sum, which I was only able to meet by working part-time in a bar, supplemented by washing dishes in the kitchen as well!
It was the film from this camera that I was developing in the darkroom where I was studying, when an incident happened that was to redden my face for days afterwards. I’d joined the photography club, which allowed me to use their well-equipped darkroom in the evenings. On that day, a couple of other club members had also booked in to use the darkroom, and so it was that there were four of us in there, some doing their developing while others trying their hand at printing etc.
Sometime later, and darkroom users will know how fast time flies when you are doing something really interesting, the other 2 users decided to leave, leaving myself and another person who was working in another section, within the darkroom.
At that time I was unaware who that person was, but it later transpired that she was a very pretty student whom a lot of their guys had their eyes on shall we say! I later finished my work and was about to leave as well, but found that the door from the darkroom was locked from the outside. Either the 2 previous people had done this deliberately, or had mistakenly thought there was nobody else inside and had locked the door upon leaving.
Of course, I alerted the lady about the situation, the door being locked etc and she was also slightly perturbed to say the least, being locked in a room with another stranger!
Anyway, cut a long story short, the door was finally opened a few hours later by the security guard, who’d heard noises inside. The next day, myself and the lady were the talk of the town, with all sorts of stories going around about what had happened to 2 people locked in the darkroom! Needless to say, I had a red face for some time afterwards! And no, sorry to disappoint, but noting did happen that evening!
Now, back to the Canon FTb. It was so well designed that when you hold one, it somehow feels very natural indeed. Exposure is as easy can be, with the meter using the match-needle principle. Aside of that, there is nothing else in the viewfinder to distract you from your shot, and therein lies the secret of manual film cameras.
On the top plate of the camera, from the left to right, there is the film rewind knob, together with a 3 position switch which turns the meter on or off and checks the battery condition. Then we have the hotshoe for flash, followed by the large round dial that sets the shutter speed and film ISO setting. Next is the shutter release button, which has a threaded inside for cable release uses, and also can lock the shutter release to prevent accidentally firing off a shot.
Another unique touch that the Canon FTb has is the QL (quick load) function. Nobody else had ever done anything like this before and it was really a very useful thing to have, especially if you were on a shoot and had to reload a new film mid-shoot.
Very simple to use–all you do is drop your film into the space on the left of the camera just as in any film camera, feed the film through the metal plate to the red mark near the right where you would normally thread the film to, close the back and wind on to the first frame…no fiddly bending the film leader etc.
At the front of the camera, there is a multifunction lever. This allows you to use it as a depth of field preview, self timer and mirror-lock up control (mirror lock-up…sounds a bit technical eh? Basically it prevents the mirror in any slr from causing tiny, unwanted blurring to your shot, caused by the mirror slapping upwards at the instant you take your shot….with lock-up, the mirror flips up well before the shutter fires, giving enough time for any vibrations to disperse).
All in all, a fantastic little camera and one well worth using. Mine, including the one I owned first as a student, are all still working good as new!