Camera Reviews

Canon T70

From its invention the SLR moved inexorably from all mechanical and manual toward full electronic automation. My favorite SLRs offer open-aperture metering and aperture-priority autoexposure, but manual everything else. That places them in the mid-to-late 1970s. Older SLRs feel like too much work with stop-down metering or no metering at all. And later SLRs are too easy: just frame and press the button.

Canon’s T series SLRs represent the last transitional step before full automation. The 1984 T70 automates everything but focusing. A few years later, Canon’s EOS series would finally automate that.

Canon T70

T-series cameras were the first SLRs to proudly look like they were made of plastic. Camera makers had been using more and more body plastic since the mid 1970s, but had the decency to paint those parts to sort of look like they were still metal. With the T series, Canon said nuts to it. They also said nuts to dials and knobs, changing over to little buttons with an LED window that shows settings.

Canon T70

Two aspects of the T70 felt familiar: setting the aperture ring to A for automatic exposure, and mounting Canon FD lenses onto the body. Beyond that I was in uncharted territory. I liked that the T70 wound and rewound the film for me. That’s why the T70 looks kind of lopsided, by the way: the winder and the battery chamber are hidden within that enormous grip. And the heavens sang Hallelujah: the T70 takes two AAs, not some hard-to-find button battery like so many old cameras. However, somewhere deep inside that body lurks a lithium battery that remembers your settings. Replacing it involves taking the camera apart. Ick.

Canon T70

The big and bright viewfinder takes a little of the sting out of knowing that the internal battery will die one day. Will that render this camera inert? I hope never to find out. Also, despite that big grip making the T70 look unbalanced, it doesn’t feel that way in the hands. I found it to be quite comfortable.

But I found the controls to be uncomfortable. It would be several more years before camera makers figured out that it’s easier to twist a mode dial than to press buttons to cycle through modes. A dial makes it obvious just by looking how to set your mode. The buttons? You have to read the manual to figure them out.

At least the T70 offers a generous range of exposure modes: three program modes, a shutter-priority mode, a couple of flash modes, and even a stop-down metering mode for when you’ve adapted older FL-mount lenses. The T70 even offers full manual mode; you press DOWN and UP to select shutter speed. The T70 even offers two metering modes: center-weighted average and “selective area” which meters just the center 11 percent of the frame. Whatever modes you choose, your settings appear in the easy-to-read LCD panel.

My T70 came with an FD 50mm f/1.8 lens — a fine lens, as I learned when I shot one on my Canon AE-1 Program.

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By the way, you might also enjoy my reviews of the Canon TLb (here), FT QL (here), AL-1 (here), and AE-1 Program (here). Or dip your toes in the EOS waters with my reviews of the EOS 650 (here) and EOS A2e (here). Or just look at all of my camera reviews here.

I shot an entire roll of Fujicolor 200 using center-weighted average metering and normal program mode. I forgot to set ISO — thank goodness whoever used this camera before me shot ISO 200 film too. Cameras that set ISO by reading the film canister’s DX code were just starting to appear when the T70 was new, but alas, the T70 missed that bus.

This angel lighting the way is my favorite photo from my test roll.

Angel lighting the way

I spent some time at a park near my home where the city recently built this building. I think it has something to do with the sanitary sewer system recently installed in my part of town, as enormous pipes were laid from the street into this building — a pumping station, perhaps? Anyway, the T70 handled easily, in no small part because I kept my fingers off the top-plate controls. Seriously: this is a great point-focus-and-shoot camera. It just goes.

Glass

I used to bring my sons to the former playground here when they were very young. That construction obliterated this park for more than a year, and I worried that the playground would not be rebuilt. But this much nicer playground was installed at the end of the project.

Shadows 2

Unfortunately, by that time my kids were too old to care. I come here every now and again just to make photographs, as the colors are good. The light wasn’t very interesting this day, however.

Teeter

I took the T70 to work. This is the corner of my desk. The Magic 8 Ball is for my guests to play with. I’ve had it for years and remain amused by how many people pick it up and ask questions of it.

In my office

I spent a little time photographing the Episcopal church over on Meridian Street. The shapes and textures are interesting there. I had just looked through a book of Ansel Adams Polaroids and noticed how often he had at least three “layers” in his photographs. It helped me notice this three-layered scene.

Planter

I’ve shared more photos from this roll in my Canon T70 gallery.

If you’re looking for a lazy day of shooting, it’s easy to like the Canon T70: frame, focus, press the shutter button, get nice photographs. Heck, sometimes I even found myself wishing the T70 would just focus for me already.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t find it easy or obvious to futz with the UP and DOWN buttons. But I did learn the much more complicated controls of my Canon S95 digital camera. It’s my main camera; I wanted to get the most from it. If I were similarly motivated, in time I’d learn the T70’s nuances and become quite adept with it.

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33 thoughts on “Canon T70

  1. bodegabayf2 says:

    Your ’84 Canon reminds me of the ’83 Chevy Cavalier I used to own. It was a downright homely car. Under powered with a klutzy manual transmission. The Cavalier served me well though, going back and forth across the US a few times and lasting me almost 100,000 miles before I sold it to a college kid. The Chevy was ugly on the outside but capable on the inside. Like General Motors during this time period, Canon and Nikon were trying to find ways to make cameras more affordable and lots of plastic was the only way to incase the developing technology. Homely camera. Very nice photos!

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  2. I have one of these also along with the T50 and T90. To me the T70 is the camera in the series that is just right. It does enough without being overly complicated. If I had to I could probably use the T70 as my main camera and be happy with it.

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    • I”m with you. If the cosmic forces all stymied any effort I undertake to shoot any camera other than the T70 for the rest of my life, I’d just continue to get great images from the T70. At least, until I find out what happens when that internal lithium battery dies.

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  3. Christopher Smith says:

    I also have the T50, T70 and T90 although I have only used the T90 so far which is a really nice camera to use. Nice photos and write up Jim I will try and get out and shoot the T70 this year.

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    • It’s a pleasant enough camera, Christopher. It should be lighter and simpler to use than the T90. But reviews I’ve read elsewhere say that the T90 is really the ultimate T camera.

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  4. Anaïs says:

    Do you think that Canon T70 is a good camera to start argentic photography or is it too complex ?
    I really like those photos you took with it !

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  5. I like the captures you took vbery much and the camera is a faszinating plastic thing! Is it possible to start shooting pictures without reading (having) a manual? I’m photographer since more than 40 years, but I had an early digital cam about 15 years ago, the Olympus E100RS, which you couldn’t get under control without studying the manual for hours and hours and every day again.

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  6. Richard Armstrong says:

    Hi Jim

    Just caught up with your review of the T70, being a dyed in the wool Canon Fan I’m pleased you enjoy using it, I brought my first T70 body(I didn’t need any lenses as I already had several) new back in late 1984, having the built in motordrive it soon became my everyday go to camera, producing great shot’s quickly and easily. It wasn’t until I got a T90 3 years later that got relegated to an occasional use camera. For a camera that is quick and easy to use the T70 can be as simple as you want it to be or if you want to be more involved in the photographic process there’s a mode in it to suit.

    As I’ve said before you must one of these day’s try out the T90 it’s a big step up to a whole new level, don’t bother with the T60 or T80, I’m sure you will be disapointed with those two.

    Gotta love those those Canons.

    Regards Richard

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    • Richard, plenty of people have recommended the T90 to me and it is now on my list. I’ve never been much of a Canon SLR fan, but I admit I really like the results I got from this T70 and the 50 1.8.

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  7. Donna says:

    I still have my T-70….. your article makes me want to go buy a roll of film for it.
    Back in the day I also owned a Canon AT-1. Unfortunately I sold it many years ago. Wish I still had it and my first camera ever- a Brownie!

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  8. Ciprian says:

    Dear Jim, I recently bought a Canon T70. I am unable to change either ISO or mode, by pressing the button simultaneously with the up or down. When I press ISO it appears 125, but makes no change if I press up/down. I’m inclined thus to think that the up/down buttons are not functional. Any advice? Shall I try to open it, and give it a clean..? Thank you

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    • Without seeing your camera it’s hard to troubleshoot it, but I wonder if you’re somehow not in the right mode? But if that’s not it, I wouldn’t dream of trying to open a camera with this level of electronics. It’s probably busted beyond the average user’s ability to repair it.

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  9. Terry says:

    Jim,
    I like 2 of my T70’s. I have a 28mm wide angle Canon and a couple zooms. My third T70 has a broken battery door which I jerry-rigged and shot a nice roll of 35mm. However, the mirror has now locked up and I cant get it to do anything……….. Oh well! BTW, they were all three under $15 each with lenses off FleaBay
    Terry
    de wd4aon

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  10. Ken H. says:

    I bought my first T70 new in 1985. It still looks and functions like new, in fact I was out shooting with it yesterday. Since it was my first SLR I was not burdened with switching from dials to buttons. Because of that learning its functions was a very easy process. About 10 years ago I picked up a second one to keep in case I needed one for parts some where down the road but, is was such a nice camera i regularly use it also. As I am typing this I am waiting on a 3rd T70 that I found on eBay that looks to be in excellent condition. The camera also includes a zoom lens, a 277 flash and a bag for $26. I couldn’t pass it up

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  11. Someone gave me their AE-1 a while back and it piqued my interest in film photography. I was never rich enough to own a nice camera as a kid, so the first non-toy camera I owned was all digital. Unfortunately it had not been stored properly (inside a non-breathing “leather” bag) so the lens was hazed and the body quit without warning, which didn’t matter because the foam seals felt apart the first time I opened it and crumbled into the focusing screen, destroying it.

    So I managed to pick up a T70 from a nice lady for an absolute steal about a year ago. Mine is absolutely mint, and were it not for it’s horrendous 80s design (this is an extremely ugly camera, IMO) it could easily be mistaken for brand new. I got a 50, 28, and I believe a 70-210 lens along with it.

    It’s not the camera I wanted, I wanted an Olympus OM3 or 4, but couldn’t justify the prices those models command when they are in good shape.

    The T70 is a bit annoying is it’s lack of manual control, but it can be worked around. It’s certainly proven to be a capable camera, even if it’s noisy and ugly.

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  12. Pingback: Updated review: Canon T70 | Down the Road

  13. I enjoyed reading this! I never could get into the looks of the T70 but man you know how to take beautiful photos with ugly cameras! I have that 50mm f/1.8 on a Canon F1n and love it! Great write-up.

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