Fully Mechanical - Canon FT QL Camera Review

The Canon FT QL is a single-lens reflex camera (SLR) that was released in 1966 and sold through 1972. In 1971 the Canon FTb QL and Canon F-1 were released as replacements for the FT QL.

This is Canon’s first camera body with TTL (Through the lens) metering. With this new feature, you can be confident that you will get the correct exposure.

QL stands for “Quick Load.” Living up to the name, the Canon FT QL is very easy to load film into.

eBay usually has the largest selection of cameras, but check several places for the best price. Look for cameras with the 50mm f/1.8 FL mount lens.

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Check prices on Amazon or check prices on eBay.

If you’re patient enough to play the auction game, you can get a much better deal. You’ll also be able to find cameras in like-new condition by doing this.

If you want a faster lens, be on the lookout for cameras bundled with the 50mm f/1.4 or 55mm f/1.2. Any of the f/1.2 lenses are expensive, not sharp wide open, but can be fun to use.

The FT QL does also pop-up for sale from the big online camera retailers. They can be worth checking out as they should be able to reliably verify a camera is in working condition.

Canon FT QL quick 35mm film loading mechanism
Canon FT QL quick 35mm film loading mechanism

Showing the “Quick Load” mechanism on the Canon FT QL.

625A battery and camera battery door
625A battery and camera battery door

A 625A battery powers the light meter on the Canon FT QL. Other than the meter, the FT QL is purely mechanical. You should expect a battery to last about a year.

There is a battery check lever below the film rewind crank. In order for the check lever to work, the shutter speed needs to be set to X and ASA set to 100.

With a good battery, the exposure indicator will move above the circle. If the indicator is below the circle, it is time for a replacement.

Shutter speeds on the Canon FT QL range from 1 second to 1/1000, with a bulb mode. Flash sync is 1/60 sec. I do not know if the X setting on the shutter speed dial needs to be set for the PC flash sync socket to fire.

The center of the shutter button is threaded for a remote release. The outside of the shutter button can be rotated to lock the shutter button.

Shutter speeds, film winder, shutter lock, and film rewind on FT QL
Shutter speeds, film winder, shutter lock, and film rewind on FT QL

The ASA (ISO) is set by pulling up on the shutter speed dial and rotating to the desired ISO. The ASA range goes from 25-2000 in 1/3 stop increments. You should be able to use any film speed currently available.

An interesting quirk of the camera is that the film rewind knob is not used to open the film back. Instead, there is a lock on the bottom of the camera that needs to be folded out and turned.

The Canon FT QL uses TTL metering (through the lens). This was easier to use than external meters that would only give EV (exposure value) readings.

The light meter is a circle and line design.

Metering is center-weighted. Looking through the viewfinder will show a slightly grayed rectangle. That rectangle shows what is being metered.

Unless the lens is wide open, stopped down metering needs to be used. FL lenses can be set to manually stop-down when the aperture is changed.

The lever next to the QL can be pushed towards the lens mount. Doing that will stop the lens down and give correcting metering. It can also be locked in place by moving the smaller lever below it.

Microprisms are used for focusing. I found it difficult to focus on subjects that were not completely covered by the microprism circle. I prefer split image focusing screens.

The FT QL has a Canon FL mount which is compatible with FD and FDn lenses. However, the additional features in the FD and FDn lenses will not be used.

With FD and FDn lenses, stop-down metering will have to be used. This is because the Canon FT QL uses the FL lens system that does not have a pin to relay aperture information.

A benefit of the FL/FD lens mount is the availability of glass. Canon made a complete lineup of lenses for the mount. It is easy to get any focal length you could want, and they will be relatively inexpensive.

For example, the 50mm f/1.8 is an excellent lens that is inexpensive due to how many were produced.

The Canon FT QL was released a year after the Canon Pellix. There are a couple of differences that make the FT QL a better option than the Pellix.

The FT QL uses a normal quick-return reflex mirror and the ability to do stop-down TTL metering.

On top of the viewfinder is a cold shoe. On the lower right front of the camera, there is a PC sync port to sync with an electronic flash.

Also on the right of the camera is a mirror lockup switch.

The film door lock to the back of the camera is located on the bottom of the camera.

There is a self-timer. Setting the time is done by rotating the stop-down lever counterclockwise when looking at the front of the camera. It will lock into place at the 6 o’clock position and release when the shutter button is pressed.

Bottom plate of the Canon 35mm camera with the film rewind lock and film door switch
Bottom plate of the Canon 35mm camera with the film rewind lock and film door switch

Just like with lenses, a full assortment of accessories are available for the FT QL. You can obtain bellows, extension tubes, right-angle viewfinder, copy stands, dioptric adjustment lenses, and more. There is a list on page 39 of the manual.

A scanned copy of the original Canon FT QL manual is available on Butkus.org.

These are the two Speedlite models that are listed in the manual. I could not find any Speedlite 200’s available for sale. At the time of release, the Speedlite model 102 cost more than the camera.

If you need a flash, any flash with a PC sync port will work. A modern flash with adjustable output and a flash light meter will give the best results.

The Canon Booster is an auxiliary meter for measuring exposure in low light conditions. It can be helpful if you are doing indoor or night photography.

There is no way to do multiple exposures. Beyond that, there isn’t anything else I miss after taking the camera’s age into account.

For $100-$150 the Canon AE-1 is a great choice. The big advantage is that lenses don’t need to be stopped down for metering. A disadvantage is that it is an electronically controlled camera. For more read my Canon AE-1 Camera Review.

The Canon TL QL has been described as a “simplified version” of the FT QL. It does not have a mirror lockup. I am also unsure if there are any differences with shutter speeds or metering.

If you’re willing to use M42 screw mount lenses, the Pentax Spotmatic is worth looking at. The Spotmatic was so popular when it was released, Canon had to come up with the FT QL as an answer.

The Pentax K1000 is in the same price range as a Canon AE-1. The most important feature is that other than the meter, the K1000 is fully mechanical. It is also slightly smaller and lighter than the Canon FT QL.

I like the Canon FT QL because it is a mechanical Canon camera. I find it more fun to use than fully electronic cameras. Lenses are also inexpensive and able to be found.

Having the FL lens mount instead of an FD mount means lenses like the 50mm f/1.8 are going to be cheaper. The FT QL is also less expensive than the AE-1 and all of the proceeding cameras that use the same body design.

The only thing I dislike is the microprism focusing screen. I find split prisms easier to focus with.