160608 FD CLRV - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

4127 eastbound on Dundas at Elizabeth, looking south at City Hall.

Photographing streetcars might be a perfect way to test out a new camera. They're abundant, and since I'm unlikely to capture anything of artistic value when I'm really just checking for light leaks, perhaps I can capture something with archival value. After all, the old streetcars will eventually go away, and I won't be able to photograph them any more.

4004, one of the Swiss-built CLRV prototypes, eastbound on Dundas from University.

While I have occasionally photographed streetcars before, it's particularly fitting in this case. The Canon A1 and the Canadian Light Rail Vehicles are contemporaries from the late 70's, with the camera entering production around the same time that prototype 4004 was first attracting attention on Toronto's streets. They're both consumer-friendly workhorses, combining a solid build with then-modern conveniences, and both continue in service despite being overdue for replacement by their slicker descendants. But inevitably the newer models just don't have the same charm.

Northbound 4046 and southbound 4020 cross at College on Bathurst.

The classic 50mm f/1.8 FD lens is a large part of the Canon A1's charm. This is as natural on an SLR as a 35mm lens is on a rangefinder, and the old Canon actually has a larger and brighter viewfinder than my modern ZM Zeiss Icon. The manual focus works very nicely as well, except that all of these wound up being taken at infinity, so it wasn't exactly a challenge for either the gear or its operator.

I've been surprised at how comfortable the 50mm has been; I usually like slightly longer lenses than that. Perhaps it's just a result of spending more time with my wide angle cameras, but after I finished this roll of film my usual 75mm-equivalet felt too long.


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