I love to photograph cars, especially when I can move in close and photograph their details. But have you noticed how I almost always post such photos of classic cars? They have so many interesting details to focus on.
Cars today so often have flowing lines, and even their lights are molded into the overall shape. It makes it challenging to even find a good angle for an interesting composition.
Thank heavens for Chrysler, which still puts good creases into its designs. As on this Dodge Charger R/T. It makes it pretty easy to find an interesting up-close composition.
1972 Lincoln dashboard Canon TLb, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C. Kodak Gold 200 (at EI 100) 2018
Notice how the turn-signal and gear-selector stalks have no buttons or switches on them? They do just the one thing each. I can’t remember the last car I owned where that was the case.
This whole dashboard seems so strange now, with its strip speedometer and gauges in individual binnacles, rather than big, round gauges in a pod mounted high. Heck, even gauges are going away, replaced with screens that simulate gauges.
And when was the last time you saw a car with a blue interior? They all seem to be black, gray, or beige now.
As a kid I remember thinking how primitive and strange cars from before World War II were. But now this car is that old to a kid today. What is a modern youngster’s impression of such a machine? Do kids even dream of cars anymore?
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By the way, if you like Canon SLRs, check out my reviews of the FT QL (here), the T70 (here), the AE-1 Program (here), the EOS 650 (here), and the EOS A2e (here). Or check out these non-SLR Canons: the Canonet 28 (here), the Canonet QL17 G-III (here), the Dial 35-2 (here), and the AF35ML (here). Or have a look at all of my camera reviews here.
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 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 brought the TLb with me one day after work when I met my brother Downtown for a drink. He likes rye; I like bourbon. Liberty Street has an impressive selection of both.
I liked this TLb, shot after shot. It handled easily, moreso than many other manual, mechanical cameras in my collection, including the similar FT QL.
The 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.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.