Canon Photura - an interesting blip in 35mm evolution


In the early 90s, Canon thought it would be a good idea to try something different. It turns out it wasn’t such a good idea.

The Photura (marketed also as the Epoca and the Autoboy Jet, in Europe and Japan respectively) looks like a camcorder, but does much less. Don’t get me wrong, it does some things well for a non-SLR auto-focus camera; one-handed operation, decent flash built in to the swing-open lens cover, 3x zoom, and auto-loading is also beneficial at times. The tripod mount and timer also increase its versatility.

However, and it’s a big however, there are a few reasons this model was only sold for a few years before it disappeared. The padded hand strap and the added shoulder strap give the sense that you’re cradling a precious instrument, yet the bulky size and loud “power” zoom make it look and sound like a cheap toy. The small viewfinder, while offering the option of viewing from the top or from the back, doesn’t seem to be as large as it could have been, considering the bulk of the 1-1/2 pound camera.

I try not to buy too many cameras that require a battery; the good news here – I found the batteries for $2 each. The bad news? It was in the clearance bin and they only had 3 left. You can still find a 2CR5 on ebay, but I’mm not sure how long they’ll be available.

The biggest attraction in this camera, for me, is its novelty factor. A one-handed 35mm camera with a hinged lens cover that conceals a built-in flash? How many of these do you have kicking around?

If you’re looking for a tool that takes decent 35mm pictures and serves as a fun conversation piece, and you already own several dozen other cameras, this might need to be the next one on your list. :)

Canon Photura Commercial from 1991

written by dirklancer on 2011-05-16 #gear #people #35mm #review #zoom #dirklancer #1990s #novelty #auto-focus


  1. duckduckninja
    duckduckninja ·

    I recall most of these style cameras using the film discs. How does loading work on this thing?

  2. sthomas68
    sthomas68 ·

    Looks like the Canon evolutionary genepool took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

  3. nobodyowens
    nobodyowens ·

    Is the pirate ship from West Edmonton Mall?
    I remember something gitganic like that from when I was there as a little guy.

  4. dirklancer
    dirklancer ·

    @duckduckninja there is an autoload feature, you pop in the 35mm and the motor pulls the film into place.
    @nobodyowens yes :) it is indeed the ship at West Edmonton Mall!

  5. dallas-cheked
    dallas-cheked ·

    I just got a Canon Photura for practically nothing. I had to have it because it is unusual, unlike any other camera ever made. I just shot a roll of film this weekend to try it out. I have to say it gets tiresome to carry it around after a while! I prefer my pocket-sized Olympus digital by a factor of 10!
    The shape of this beast reminds me of the Hubble telescope, right down to the hinged lens cover which also houses the flash unit. (Could that possibly be the design's inspiration?)
    I was intrigued by the Photura when it first came out on the market and even considered buying one, but I felt they had too big an asking price, especially being that there were no manual features to play around with, so I opted for a Pentax K-1000 with a 28-80 zoom for a lot less money. But now that I got a Canon Photura for almost free, I'm not going to argue.

  6. anon-y-mouse
    anon-y-mouse ·

    Maybe I'm just weird. I used to own the first Epoca model which I left on a plane, so I bought a Photura 135. I loved it. I can understand why it didn't catch on, but my rationale was this: as a photographer it's all about the lens. The Photura is a lens with a camera wrapped around it. It was a lot more manageable than an AE-1 or T90 and a bunch of lenses when traveling light, yet still delivered the goods.

    Along with the rest of my 35mm gear it went away in a burglary. I just got one back for $10 on ebay, and I love it to have the feel of that innovation in my hands again. Also decided to get my AE-1 and T90 babies back. They feel good in my hands.

    Now I'm having fun buying decent vintage Canon glass and converting it to EOS for Digital bodies with Ed Mika's conversion kits. Melding the old world with the new is fun.

    What comes next? Will Silicon Photonics have an impact upon the photog's world? It's going to change the IT world.

  7. novista
    novista ·

    I saw the Photura in Florida in 1993 and liked the uniqueness. On return to Zustralia, I found it allegedly wasn't available here. Marketing tricks weren't unusual i the land of oz.

    So I had my mother buy one at Wal-mart (I think) and post it over. Loved it, and was suc a talking point everywere it went.

    Still have it.
    (Most every thing in the photo line I ever, got, too. Including an Argus C3, Christmas present about 1948.)

  8. fotophriend
    fotophriend ·

    My Dad had one. Since then I have seen some great images on flickr from this camera so the lens is very good and the autofocus seems to be spot-on. He passed away 5 years ago but the camera is still in his closet. Perhaps I will try it out.

  9. alakran
    alakran ·

    I purchased the Photura in 1992 while I was stationed in Okinawa. The version I had came with a remote that attached to the shoulder strap. If not for this camera all my photos at that time would not have included be, I loved that camera. I lost it in a house fire after leaving the service 1994. It’s funny that just 2 weeks ago I found an album that I misplaced 10 years ago after moving and it had my Photura photos from my time in the service and the last time I visited family in Mexico. I scanned the photos and posted them on Facebook to share with all my lost lost family. We are so enjoying those great photos. Yes it was a big camera but to me it took great photos. I did get lots of questions about it since they were not widely available in the states.

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