I love gifts to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. I wasn’t in the market for any more all-manual Canon SLRs, but when this TLb landed in my hands, of course I had to shoot with it. Turns out, it’s a competent basic performer.
Produced for a few years starting in 1974, the TLb was Canon’s entry-level 35mm SLR. It was based on the earlier, more fully featured FTb QL, removing three features: the 1/1000 sec. shutter speed (the TLb tops out at 1/500 sec), a hot shoe, and the Quick Loading (QL) film-loading system. Everything else is the same, down to the match-needle metering.
The TLb, along with the FTb QL and the F-1, were Canon’s first cameras for the new FD lens mount. It replaced the earlier, similar FL mount; indeed, all of these cameras take FL-mount lenses, but then you have to stop down to meter.
The TLb follows the 35mm SLR idiom well; all the controls are in the typical places. The only quirk is that the battery cover is on the side of the top plate, next to the rewind crank, rather than on the bottom. The meter runs on a dreaded, banned 625 mercury battery. As usual, I substituted an alkaline 625 cell with its slightly different voltage, worries about misexposures be damned.
I’ve owned a few Canon cameras with the QL system, and I always manage to screw up loading film with them. But I got film loading right with the QL-less TLb on the first try. Go fig. With Kodak Gold 200 inside and a 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C lens out front, I took the TLb out on my recent trip with my friend Dawn along the National Road (US 40) in eastern Indiana. This scene is from a building in Greenfield. I can imagine it as a painting. Maybe I’ve seen one like it before.
When we reached Cambridge City, the sidewalks were lined with antiques for sale. We always seem to stumble upon some sort of festival or fair on our road trips. One of the dealers had this pottery for sale.
The antiques sale spilled into an alleyway off the highway. All of my daylight images seemed just a shade too bright. But detail is good.
Up in Centerville, this old iron railroad crossing sign stands inexplicably in a courtyard, no tracks in sight.
The white and green Huddleston Farmhouse is hard to miss as you pass it by. It’s an Indiana Landmarks property; tours are available. I always manage to stop by when the house is closed, but the grounds have always been open for self-guided tours. This photo is of the well house on the property.
I could have taken all of those easy touristy photos with any of my cameras. Part of the point of owning an SLR is that you can do more than that with it. So I moved in close to this flower.
And inside an antique shop, I braced myself and the camera, opened the lens wide, and got this lovely shot of this old toy truck on a shelf. The depth of field is probably an inch or so here.
I brought the TLb with me one day after work when I met my brother Downtown for a drink. I like bourbon; he likes rye. Liberty Street has an impressive selection of both.
I always like to see what kind of bokeh I can get out of a prime lens, so I moved in as close as I could to these mums in my front yard, opened the lens wide, and made this photo.
I liked this TLb, shot after shot. Strange, because I also own a similar (though FL-mount) FT QL and I thought it was just okay. These cameras share a basic body and mechanicals. Maybe it was because the FT QL required stopping down to use the meter. I also recall my FT QL being stiff to use; maybe it needed a CLA. But this TLb is a fine shooter. If you want a decent basic body for your FD mount lenses, one that still works (except the meter) when the battery dies, one you can pick up for cheap every day on eBay, the TLb is a fine choice.
Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out all of my gear reviews!