Monday, October 15, 2012

Canon Demi Half Frame Camera

The Canon Demi (Demi is French for half) is a camera I’ve owned for over ten years.  I was shooting with a number of 35mm rangefinder cameras from the 60’s when I heard about half frame cameras.  The Canon Demi was a response to the Olympus Pen half frame cameras.  In the 60’s colour films were very expensive to shoot and process.  When Olympus introduced the Pen series of cameras, enabling users to shoot 72 photos from a 36 exposure 35mm roll of film, it was an instant hit.  Other manufacturers quickly introduced half frame cameras also.

My Demi was purchased from eBay and listed as not working.  Since these cameras were all mechanical I was sure I could repair it.  The shutter was stuck due to lubricate drying up and the light seal on the back of the camera turning into gunk.   I took the shutter assembly out, cleaned it and put it back.  Then I removed all traces of the light seal on the back of the camera and replaced with new material.  It was all very simple but time consuming work.  I shot with it for a while and happy with the result I got.  I love the retro design and must be quite modern at the time.  It is all metal and is quite solid.

The camera itself is very simple to operate as it is automatic.  First thing you would do after loading the film is to set the ISO which goes from 10-400.  I think in the 60’s 100 ISO is considered a fast film.  You would focus by zone as indicated on the back of the camera by turning the lens to the correct position.  It works well enough, but do not expect absolute 100% accurate focusing all the time, although it works well for landscape photos.  Do remember it was designed in the 60’s when expectation was much lower than now.  After focusing, you then adjust the shutter speed so the dial needle on the top of the camera is in the middle and shoot.  The selenium light sensor on my camera still works after all these years and got some reasonable exposure out of it.  The lens on this camera is a 28mm F2.8 which is equivalent to a 56mm lens on a 35mm camera.

Unfortunately, the negatives I shot with are in a big box in my loft and I do not have time to scan example images shot with this camera.  There is no shoe for mounting a flash, although a separate bracket is available for purchase so you can mount a flash gun.  When I did shoot with flash, I just held it with my left hand.

Thing have come full circle now in the current digital age.  Micro Four Third cameras are now very well received and rapidly gaining acceptance.  It is interesting the MFT sensor is the same size as the half frame image.  In fact the size of the Demi is very similar to my Olympus E-PM1.  The E-PM1 has many advance features and the image quality is far in advance of the half frame cameras.  It is interesting to see how photographic technologies have developed in 50 years.

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  1. Hi! My mom got a camera like that in the sixties and most shots of me as a child were taken with it. Later I borrowed it and still have. It has very good optics. Have not used it for years now. It has the same problem of light seal turning into black goo. What did you use for replacement material?

  2. Sorry it took me a while to answer. Yes, the light seal on my camera also turned into black goo. I was able to purchase replacement material from a camera repair shop. It does not cost much but it took while to clean up and glue new material on.

    I also had to clean up the aperture blades. They were stuck together. The front lens element was easy to remove and I cleaned the blades this way.

  3. Hi!

    I just purchased a cannon demi and everything seems to be in good working order (although the light seals have been removed) however my rewinder dosen't seem to engage when being turned (i.e. to rewind my roll once it has been finished).

    To be more specific, my rewind crank rotates as expected however my rewind fork will not rotate along with the crank. I can however manually rotate the rewind fork from within.

    I wonder if you have any suggestions about how to fix this or what specifically is wrong that would be causing this? I understand that's a hard question!

    Thanks :)