It doesn’t surprise me one bit that the one Canon SLR I like is the most mechanical, most metal one of my bunch. It’s also typical of me to like the simplicity of entry-level gear, which the TLb certainly was upon its 1974 introduction. Its 1/500 sec. top shutter speed is the tell. More expensive cameras go to 1/1000 sec.; top-tier cameras to at least 1/2000 sec.

Canon TLb

On earlier TLb outings the 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C. lens that came with it delivered creamy results on consumer color film like Kodak Gold 200, as here:

Allied Van Lines

Not one to mess with success, I loaded more Kodak Gold 200 for this outing. This time, however, I exposed it at EI 100. I like Kodak Gold 200, but sometimes its highly saturated colors are a little much. Exposing at EI 100 softened them beautifully.

Super Bird

Something is wrong with my 50/1.8 lens — when I adjust its aperture, the viewfinder dims or brightens. This doesn’t happen with other FD-mount lenses I own, so the mechanism that keeps this lens wide open for composing is broken. It made for some frustration on this full-sun day, as shooting at f/11 or f/16 made for a dim view. I took to composing at f/1.8 and then setting aperture and shutter speed as I wanted.

Mustang dash

You have to set both aperture and shutter speed yourself on the match-needle TLb. Even though I prefer aperture-priority shooting for its ease and speed, I never felt frustrated or hindered setting exposure on the TLb. It does what every good camera does: performed well and got the heck out of my way.

Another dashboard

To begin this TLb outing I met my buddy Jim at a cars-and-coffee gathering. I met Jim through writing for Curbside Classic, the site for old parked cars. He lives across town. He brought his little red Miata out for the occasion,

Buddy and his car

We spent the most time lingering over a lovely blue 1972 Lincoln Continental. Here’s my favorite photo of it, with a Mustang reflected in the paint.

Mustang reflected

Jim knows his Lincolns: his dad owned a few during Jim’s childhood. Here’s a story of Jim, his dad, and a ’72 Mark IV.


The event was at a dealer of classic cars, and of course they invited us inside to see their inventory. I bumped the camera up to EI 200 to get more depth of field.

Camaro light

The TLb functioned well and was a pleasure to use. Yes, I said it: a pleasure. You might know that I haven’t been a giant fan of Canon SLRs, but this metal, mechanical camera feels and works great.


I shot two rolls with the TLb, finishing up the second roll on some usual subjects around Fishers, where I work. I’m so impressed with how this lens rendered color and bokeh. This 50/1.8 FD S.C. should be optically the same as the later 50/1.8 Canon FD lens I shot on my Canon AE-1 Program, but I like the results this older lens returned much, much better. If I were going to keep my Canon gear, I’d invest in another one of these FD S.C. lenses.


To see more from this camera, check out my Canon TLb gallery.

I guess I’ve tipped my hat: this camera is not long for my collection. I made the choice easily, with my head: I’m planning on using my Pentax and Nikon SLRs going forward, meaning this TLb will get little or no use. It deserves a new owner. But my heart aches a little, because this camera is such a gem. I use a simple heuristic when judging a camera: if the rest of my cameras vanished, could I just get on with making great images with the one that remained, and be happy? The answer for this TLb is hell yes.

Verdict: Goodbye

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12 responses to “Operation Thin the Herd: Canon TLb”

  1. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

    Wow, I thought it was just Cars & Coffee – I had no idea that I was getting in on Operation Thin The Herd!

    And I am all in favor of your decision to let this one go. It added years to my age and pounds to my physique while completely failing to pick up my great summer tan. A defective camera for sure. Strangely, the Miata cane out just right. A mystery.

    1. DougD Avatar

      Well you sure dodged a bullet by not getting thinned out of the herd yourself JPC!

      I really like the short focal length on that Camaro shot. The one of the dapper gentleman partially blocking the view of that Miata is pretty good too. :)

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        That Camaro shot is almost epic. Just a couple composition tweaks is all it needs!

      2. J P Cavanaugh Avatar

        Haha, you are right! “If the rest of my friends vanished, could I make do with just you? Sorry JPC – goodbye” would have been a much worse ending to this chapter. :)

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      These days if I have a camera in my hand you may be certain it is on the bubble and I’m evaluating it! This camera does have some mysterious inner filters to be sure.

  2. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    The fact that a nearly 50 year old machine still works so well and gave you a few rolls of fun is testament to good design and build quality. In today’s throw away world, that’s pretty amazing!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If I had shot one of these as my first Canon SLR, I might have formed an entirely different opinion of Canons. It’s a delightful machine.

  3. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    Nice shots as usual. Do you remember what car the second dash shot is? (The red one with the black dice.) My gut feeling is mid ’50s GM, but I don’t recognize it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeahhhh no idea. I should take notes when I photograph cars.

      1. Dan Cluley Avatar
        Dan Cluley

        After a little Google work, I think it is a ’54 or ’55 Cadillac.

        Rather than notes, I’ve been trying to make a habit of shooting something to identify the cars with my digital. Once the good shots get named, the boring ones get deleted.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Thanks for running that to ground. When I shoot cars digital I do the same as you, but I”m reluctant to burn a film frame that way.

  4. […] got this only a week or so ago thanks to Jim Grey’s thinning of the herd.   I couldn’t wait to try it out and took it to Hermosa Beach last weekend with a roll of […]

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