In the 1960s half frame 35mm cameras enjoyed some popularity and several manufacturers offered models for this format. The idea was that the standard size of the 35mm frame (24×36 mm) was divided into two, which produced a frame half the size at 24×18 mm.
Taking normal 35mm film cassettes, the cameras themselves were smaller than the full-frame cameras of the time and since a standard roll of film produced 72 exposures instead of the normal 36, the cost per frame was reduced. At the time, this only applied if slide film was chosen. Photo labs would obviously charge for 72 prints from negative (aka “print”) film.
In the mid-1960s I was at school and I had a Saturday job working in a local photographic shop. It was my dream job and it gave me a small income with which I could indulge my hobby of photography. The camera I most remember from this time was the Canon Demi. It was a nice camera to hold and use. It had a built-in exposure meter which required you to turn a dial to match the meter needle. The dial was coupled to both the aperture and shutter speed, enabling relatively speedy exposure settings.
Another half-frame camera I remember well was the Canon Dial. This was quite revolutionary at the time, having both automatic exposure on the aperture and a clockwork-driven motor wind.
Well, the long lockdown due to the Covid Pandemic, which has been somewhat more onerous in my adopted city of Leicester which has never been out of lockdown for nearly twelve months, led me to the decision to look on eBay for one of these cameras.
I decided to purchase a Canon Demi — several, in fact –advertised as not working so I could teach myself camera repairs. It has been a long and time-consuming process but I have learned much about the Canon models of this era.
Canon Dial, Demi, Demi S, Demi C, and a modified Demi with which I have converted the meter to CdS cell (Light Dependent Resistor) because the old Selenium cell was no longer of any use.
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I have worked my way through different versions of these models and invariably they have required major strip-downs in order to free jammed aperture and shutter blades. Three of the models had suffered damage due to previous owners trying to force controls to free the jammed mechanics.
I have found that it is necessary to completely dismantle the shutter and iris diaphragms and thoroughly degrease the delicate blades in order to effect a repair. This has been very time-consuming and intricate work but very satisfying when completed.
The final problem I’ve encountered with the Canon Demi models is that the meter is powered by a Selenium cell which ages and produces less power to drive the meter, resulting in gross over-exposure in bright lighting conditions. I have had moderate success by changing the series resistor in the metering circuit. This has produced good exposure accuracy on two of the models but has not proved to be universally successful with all cameras, depending on the efficacy of the old selenium cells.
It’s worth noting that the Canon Demi C version which comes with two interchangeable lenses is set up in the factory to match the two lenses with the body, so the purchase of separate lenses on eBay may lead to disappointing results.
So in conclusion is all this worth the effort? For that, I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions from the results above – ILFORD XP2 Super shot in my adopted City of Leicester earlier this year.
Thanks for reading.
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