While some cameras sit along the sidelines, some just take center stage. This camera did both. The Canon P was supposed to be Canon's lower end model in their VI rangefinder series but easily became their best selling rangefinder (until the Canon 7). Wondering why? The answer is simple — Canon created an excellent rangefinder with exceptional build quality when they made the Populaire.
A lot of Canon and rangefinder enthusiasts will surely know the Populaire just by seeing one. It's one of those cameras that sticks to you due to its sheer beauty and appeal. The chunky top plate adorned with the “Canon Camera” engraving, the well-designed rewind lever that nests on top of the camera, the small rangefinder window jutting out in front, and the film advance lever that begs you to try its winding action — all these beautiful little details add up to make the Canon P a gorgeous looking camera.
The black versions of the Populaire offer a more sleek look but are very rare. It's estimated that only a few hundred black Canon P's were produced so you can expect the price to be higher compared to the regular chrome plated model (which is by the way still very much beautiful). It's safe to say that there was no scarcity of inspiration the day the Populaire was designed.
Feature-wise, the Canon P brought the basics with some nice little extras. The viewfinder is 1:1 so subjects appear naturally as you take a peek. It's also parallax corrected so it takes the guess work out of shot composition (parallax error is a common problem with rangefinders since the viewfinder is more likely offset and away from the lens. There are also bright lines for 35 mm, 50 mm, and 100 mm lenses. The Canon P also used a coated stainless steel shutter that was more durable compared to cloth shutters that often burned due to sunlight. Later on, the company used even more durable titanium shutters on the Canon SP and Canon F which proved to be a capital choice as far as camera shutters are concerned. Lastly, using a Leica M39 (screw mount), the Canon P is able to use may high quality optics. This added to the Canon P's appeal to rangefinder users and photographers who prefer modular systems to proprietary ones.
With all these things considered, the Canon P could have fetched quite a pretty price in the market but Canon decided to sell it for a more affordable price instead. This mixture of good features, great build quality, and stunning appeal made an impact on the Canon P's sales. An estimate of over 87,875 units were sold in its three-year production period. The original cost of a Canon P with a 50 mm f/1.4 lens back in the day was just USD 146.
Even after 60 years, the Canon P still turns heads with its remarkable design and build quality. It's a bit difficult to imagine that this particular rangefinder model was introduced in 1958. Some cameras seem to just get better with age. They're just timeless.
Photos Taken by Our Community with the Canon P
Lens: 50 mm f/1,4, 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/2.8
Lens Mount: Leica M39 screw mount
Focusing Sytem: Coupled rangefinder, x 1 magnification, parallax corrected, 35/50/100 mm frame lines
Shutter: Horizontal focal plane stainless steel shutter, 1 sec to 1/1000 sec + B & X (1/55 sec)
Flash: External cold shoe, PC cable connector on left side, 1/55 sec on X flash sync
Meter: None, External selenium cell shutter speed coupled meter applicable
Film: 35 mm
Dimensions: 144 × 76 × 71 mm (body + 50 mm f/2.8 lens)
Weight: 790 g with lens