Until 1971, Canon was quite happy to enjoy popularity in the amateur section of the fast expanding photographic market. Nikon, with its F-1, had left all competition far behind and, given the reputation that F-1 had enjoyed during the Vietnam war, it was the camera that professionals wanted to be seen with.
Canon made an entry in the professional sector in 1971 with the all black F-1. The F-1 was a rock solid professional 35mm SLR and for the first time for a Canon camera, had interchangeable screens, alternative prism, waist level and high view point viewfinder and a high speed motor drive. Other features included instant return and lock up mirror, self-timer, shutter lock, depth-of-field preview and a removable back. The F-1 was coupled with Canon’s new full aperture metering FD lenses. The F-1 achieved a substantial following and an excellent reputation for reliability.
In 1976, Canon introduced the F-1N, the only obvious difference between the F-1 and F-1N being a plastic tipped rewind lever and a film reminder socket on the back door of the camera. The maximum ISO setting was also increased from 2000 to 3200.
In 1981, Canon launched a new F-1N. The F-1N was smaller than the original F-1 and came with a changeable battery compartment hand-grip. It featured a titanium shutter that electronically selected speeds from 8 sec. to 1/60 sec and mechanically from 1/125 sec to 1/2000 sec. The F-1N was the first camera in the world to offer three metering choices, namely 12-percent center weighted metering, center average, and 3-percent spot. 32 interchangeable screens were on offer. Exposure control included aperture preferred AE, shutter preferred AE and full manual. The camera was accompanied by a whole host of accessories including close-up equipment, motor drives, auto-winders and dedicated flash guns. The hybrid shutter used by the F-1N made it possible to use the camera without a battery for shutter speeds from 1/125 sec to 1/2000 sec. Canon increased the maximum ISO speed to 6400 and used a silicon diode photocell for exposure metering for the first time.
The Canon F-1N saw a lot of popularity although the Nikon F2 and the F3 were launched during its life time. Even today, secondhand versions of the F1 are sought after and mint versions fetch good values.
H. S. Billimoria