Classic Cameras; The Canon 7 And The “Dream” Lens; Would You Believe f/0.95? Page 2

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The rangefinder was a coincident image type, and no doubt anticipating its use with the Dream Lens at wide apertures, Canon lengthened its base by about half as much again as that on the company's previous rangefinder cameras. But with the meter cell also larger than usual, it got in the way of the rangefinder, a problem that was overcome by cutting a small square aperture out of the cell to accommodate the second rangefinder window.

The Canon 7 also had a different lens mount than other Canons. Like those, it had an internal screw thread that allowed the use of the traditional Canon lenses. But that small screwmount wasn't enough to accommodate the huge diameter and weight of the Dream Lens. So Canon added an external, three-lug bayonet, which worked on a breech-lock principle, similar to that found on the early Canonflexes.

The Canon 7 had a metal focal plane shutter, also similar to that used in the then current Canonflex SLRs, and with the unusual addition of a "T" setting for time exposures as well as the more traditional "B" setting. The curtains were made of stainless steel sheet 0.018mm thick, with a black plastic coating. Top speed was 1/1000 sec and the shutter could be locked when the camera was not in use or when fitting a cable release--an action that could inadvertently trip the shutter.

At the time of its launch, there was a wide range of lenses to fit the Canon 7, from 25-1000mm, although the longer focal lengths had to be used in conjunction with the Mirror Box, which used the same bayonet mount as the Dream Lens, and effectively turned the camera into an SLR.

The Canon 7 body on its own weighed 1 lb, 7 oz, but with the Dream Lens attached the weight went up to 3 lbs, 4 oz. The specification comprised of seven elements in a five-group combination that aimed to kill flare and give perfect edge-to-edge sharpness. That was what Canon claimed, anyway. In practice, photographers back in the '60s soon found that although the lens was outstanding when stopped down a little, it wasn't as sharp as it might be at the wider apertures, especially at the edges, and was rather soft and prone to flare at its maximum setting.

At the time of its launch, some doubt was expressed by some as to whether it was truly an f/0.95 lens. Some reports claimed that it might actually have been closer to f/0.99 in the strictest sense of mathematical calculation. But since the Japan Industry Standards (JIS) allowed error margins of 5 percent, Canon's claim of f/0.95 as a maximum aperture was perfectly legitimate.

In '65, the Canon 7 was upgraded, replacing the big selenium cell meter with a smaller, neater CdS version and adding the accessory shoe that had been missing from the original model. The new camera, which was still sold with the Dream Lens, was called the Canon 7s. Two years later, in '67, a final version, called the Canon 7sZ, with just a small cosmetic change to the rangefinder, appeared for a very short run. But by this time, SLRs were killing the sales of rangefinder cameras for good and neither of these cameras ever enjoyed the popularity of the original model.

The Canon 7 was a truly great camera of its time, but it is tempting to wonder if there really was any serious use for a lens of this type, and whether its introduction was more of a marketing ploy than any real landmark in camera/lens design. Such a lens might have been useful in the world of movie and TV cameras, for which similar optics were made, but as far as 35mm still cameras were concerned, one has to wonder if Canon perhaps produced it for no better reason than to show they could.

A couple of years ago, a Canon 7 in chrome with an f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens would have cost you around $600 for a mint condition camera, plus another $600 for the Dream Lens. However, during the past few years, prices have fallen back and these days, although dealers still try to maintain the higher price levels, a Canon 7 complete with f/0.95 lens can sell on eBay for something more like $700-$800. Deduct about a third from these prices for a camera in good, but used condition.

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ClivePhoto's picture
Just saw one on ebay

7s with Dream lens, starting bid £2750. Ended with no bids.

Have prices suddenly risen or is someone desperately optimistic?

Item No. 271160902368