Fully Mechanical - Canon FT QL Camera Review

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: May 28, 2019
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Canon FT QL Camera Review

The Canon FT QL was released in 1966 and sold through 1972. In 1971 the Canon FTb QL and F-1 were released as replacements for the FT QL.

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

QL stands for "quick load." Living up to the name, the camera is very easy to load film into.

Canon QL quick 35mm film loading mechanism.

Battery - 625A

A 625A battery powers the light meter. Other than the light meter, the camera 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 battery check 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, replace the battery.

625A battery and camera battery door.

Shutter Speed + Other Modes

Shutter speeds 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 sync port 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 rewinder.

Settings ASA, DIN, ISO

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.

Viewfinder & Metering

Metering is done by TTL (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.

Lens Mount - Canon FL

The camera has a Canon FL lens mount, but can also use FD and FDn lenses.

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

Camera Features

The Canon FT QL camera is light on features.

Above the viewfinder is a cold shoe. On the lower right front of the camera there is a PC sync port for a flash.

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

The film door lock 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 camera with the film rewind lock and film door switch.

Accessories

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

Canon FT QL Manual

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

Speedlite 102 & 200

These are the two Speedlites that are listed in the manual. I could not find any Speedlite 200's available for sale. The Speedlite 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.

Canon Booster

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. Another option is a light meter.

Missing Features

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.

Price & Where to Buy

eBay usually has the best prices and largest selection.

A Canon FT QL camera body can be purchased for around $20. If you want the camera with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, that will run you $50. If you're patient enough to play the auction game, you can get a much better deal.

Buy on eBay or Buy on Amazon (affiliate links)

The camera 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.

Conclusion

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

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

Comparable Cameras

Canon AE-1

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 a electronically controlled camera. For more read my Canon AE-1 Camera Review.

Canon TL QL

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.

Pentax Spotmatic

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.

Pentax K1000

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

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