Canon P – Rangefinder Film Camera


  • Type: 35mm focal-plane shutter rangefinder camera
  • Picture Size: 24 x 36 mm
  • Lens Mount: Leica threaded mount (M39)
  • Shutter
    • Two-axis, horizontal-travel focal-plane shutter with metal curtains.
    • Single-axis non-rotating dial for X, B, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, and 1/1000 sec.
    • Equipped with built-in self-timer.
  • Flash Sync: FP- and X-sync (automatic-switching sync contacts, X-sync speed of 1/55 sec., and bayonet terminal socket on camera side).
  • Viewfinder: Coincidence rangefinder integrated with Lumi-field viewfinder featuring frames for 50mm and 100mm lenses within the full field for 35mm lens. Automatic parallax correction.
  • Film Loading & Advance: After opening camera back, insertion onto spool. Advances with camera-top advance lever (130 single or partial strokes).
  • Frame Counter: Counts from 0 to 40 and resets automatically when camera back is opened. Film advance and rewind status indicator provided.
  • Film Rewind: Collapsible crank.
  • Dimensions & Weight
    • 144 x 76 x 71 mm, 790 g (with 50mm f/2.8)
  • Exposure Meter
    • (Canon Meter: sold separately) Aperture-reading selenium photocell coupled to the shutter speed dial.
    • Metering range (at ISO 100) switchable between EV 10 – 19 (high) and EV 4 – 13 (low). With the low-light booster attached, metering to EV 2 is possible.



I’ve been wanting to try the “magic” of the rangefinder mechanism for some time and in my search to scratch this itch, I stumble upon the Canon P camera. As history goes, this camera was produced from 1958 to 1961 and is among the last of the rangefinder by Canon (the next one was the Canon 7). It uses the Leica threaded mount (LTM or m39) and with that is usually dubbed as a Leica copy camera. This and the Canon 7 are pretty similar to the Leica M3.

I’ve managed to grab and excellent copy for around $300 USD, clean viewfinder, clean rangefinder mechanism and the shutter curtain has no wrinkles at all. With that, a Canon LTM 50mm F1.4, for around $200 USD, with some external sign of use but optically really great.

So with that, here’s my impression and review of this “legendary” rangefinder camera that by now, it can be considered as a senior citizen.


  • October 03 2021
    • Added “taking photos”.


If you’re in dire need you can bash this camera in someone head, produced a mild concussion, and surely with a little bit of cleaning you can keep taking photos with out much trouble. With that, it’s not uncomfortable at all, the weight is well distributed and it feels very sturdy in your hand.

Paired with the 50mm , the whole package it’s very compact and “pocketable”, (a big pocket indeed).

Frame lines

According to the internet, inside the viewfinder you will find parallax corrected finder for 35, 50 and 100 lenses, and that’s the case. Check the photo below to have a clue on how it looks. The viewfinder is bright and big, and the frame lines are hardly intrusive. One massive advantage is the 1:1 reproduction, that means that you can compose the scene with “both” eyes, although it requires a little practice. In comparison to an SLR viewfinder, I find it more comfortable to use and I can nail the focus with more ease.

Macro photo of the frame lines in the Canon P viewfinder. I know it's a little bit dirty.

Focusing mechanism

Overall view

Loading film

Loading and unloading film is kind of familiar if you have done it in another analog camera. Check the video below for an in depth look.


Check the review of the Canon 50mm F/1.4 LTM

Taking photos

Being completely mechanical, it does not have a light meter of any sort. You could attach external ones and have that sorted out, but with out this you have to rely on other methods. You could rely on the sunny 16 rule to taking photos, but nowadays an smartphone app is your best tool to correctly expose a photo. Besides that, takes a little time to get used to the frame lines in the viewfinder, but then they take a backseat and you forgot about them. I like the shutter sound of the metallic curtains, the feeling of the knob and the winder mechanism. Although this last items are somewhat dependent of the state of your camera, they make the overall experience of taking a photo, more enjoyable.



Considering that it has over 60 years old, it’s build like a tank and can enable you to do photography in the most basic (and useful) form, I think this camera is a must have for any photographer that want to hone the basic skills of a photographer or re-kindle the feel of awe that occurs when the shutter is pressed and the final photo awaits in the chamber, before reaching your eyes.

The bigger challenge lies in the rangefinder mechanism, that has a learning curve that feels really good when you surpass it. As you have access to a 1 to 1 reproduction of the scene, is somewhat easy to prepare the photo before hand and you quickly learn to select and focus your subject almost by feel. With this you’re forced to think your photo, to commit to it before pressing the shutter, but this enables a better ratio of good photos overall (I think).

Anyway, taking in consideration that your buying a camera to be used in the most basic form of photography, this is a really great choice that wont disappoint.


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