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Canon T70 SLR


Back when Sarah Connor was saving the world from computerized machines on the big screen, Canon introduced a computerized machine of a much friendlier sort:  the T70.  Looking at this camera, you might think it's a lot newer than it is.  In 1984 when this camera was introduced, we were hearing Pat Benatar, The Cars, and Duran Duran on the radio, and it wasn't an oldies station.   Some people were still listening to eight-track tapes.   The Breakfast Club, which for many was the defining movie of the generation, wouldn't hit the screen until next year.

I recently picked up a T70 by chance.  Let's see what we have here.

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In This Article

Some Specifications

Basic Use & Features

Film Rewind Issue

Modes & Metering

Tele Program

Wide Program


Some specifications:

Lens:  Canon FD 50mm f/1.8
Focus:  Manual only
Metering:  Center-Weighted Average or Selective Area metering
Exposure Control:   Programmed AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual
Film speeds supported:  ISO 12 through 1600
Shutter speeds:  Bulb through 1/1000th
Viewfinder:  92% coverage
Batteries:  2 AA alkalines.  Also takes a CR1220 lithium (backup).
Weight (no batteries):  530 grams (1.17 lbs)

Basic Use & Features

In keeping with the theme of modern, smart design, the T70 has a few features that really set it apart.  They're little features, but they make a big difference. 

For one, you can't accidentally open the film door.  You have to press a button and slide the latch mechanism at the same time.  In the digital age this is a very good feature to have on a film camera, because people who are accustomed to swapping out memory cards have more of a tendency to open the film door without thinking.  (I usually tape it shut with a piece of electrical tape.)  The additional step of pressing another button is not going to stop you if you're really determined to switch out that non-existent memory card, but it might give you that pause to say "Hey, wait a minute!  This ain't digital!" 

Another thing I like is the extra button to activate the exposure indicator in the viewfinder.  It's that one inside the ring that says "L" on the front of the camera.  (That ring is the shutter speed shift lock.)   It's hard to describe why this extra button is convenient, until you use the camera.  I think maybe it's a function of the ergonomics.  It just works.  Of course, the other reason I like this button is that it doubles as a metering lock.  If you have the main switch set to "Partial (AE L)", and you meter on the subject, simply hold the button on the front of the camera and recompose the shot. 

The mode selection and shutter speed controls are intuitive.  I was able to figure out how to set them in about ten seconds without the manual. 

"Self-timer" is clearly marked.  You don't need to figure out some arcane combination of buttons.

Here's one more feature I really like:  the power-on button has a lock, so you won't bump the camera on and drain the battery while it's in your camera bag.  If I had the money for every battery I wasted in my N6006 over the years, I'd have probably a few hundred bucks (it's an expensive battery type).  It took me a while to learn to keep the battery outside the camera.  (This has its own drawbacks.)  With the T70 you don't have this problem.  It also takes AA batteries, instead of some expensive lithium proposition. 

Double-A batteries.  The way it should be.

Film Rewind Issue

One annoyance, probably the only one I can find, is the film rewind.  Because I didn't have the manual in front of me, and because the film rewind counter stopped on "7", I thought the film was stuck.  I took it into a totally darkened room and opened the back of the camera, and of course while fumbling around I accidentally pressed on the shutter curtain.  Argh!   (Don't do this.  Later I had to inspect them to make sure the shutter was still light-proof.  It was.)   The film had actually rewound completely into the canister, even though the indicator didn't say so.  

Another thing that can happen when the camera is empty is that the rewind mechanism will just keep going and going.  The frame counter will not count down.   Turning it off will stop the rewinder, but it does not reset the counter.  In fact, I'm unable to reset the counter.  I think this might be one of the malfunction points of the T70.   Film counter or no, the camera seems to work fine otherwise. 

Modes & Metering

It's actually very pleasant to shoot in any mode.  I have a couple favorites, though.

Canon T70
f/4.5 @ 1/1000th
Fuji Superia 200

It's easy enough to use program AE mode and just take pictures, but I first decided to try out the camera's Manual mode.  With 200 film on a sunny day, try selecting the highest shutter speed (1/1000).  The display inside the viewfinder will then show the correct aperture setting, which will be somewhere between f/4 and f/5.6 at this shutter speed in full sun.  So when you see that number in the viewfinder, you turn the aperture ring so it matches that number.  If your setting is way off, the camera will adjust the shutter speed automatically to get the right exposure.  You can override this with the lock ring (the "L" on the front of the camera).

I'd rather try to adjust a needle between a "+" and "-" indicator, but the T70's manual mode just requires some acclimation.  After a while you start to learn what the different blinks mean.  This camera has some impressive processing power for its time, but we're still dealing with early Eighties LED technology here.  Remember those big bulky calculators with the red LED numbers?  

Speaking of LED's, it's fun to mess with colored filters sometimes.  This tree in bloom was perfect for it.   Since this filter loses about three stops of light, I simply reduced the shutter speed by a corresponding amount.    Like most any other SLR, the T70 doesn't care what kind of filter you put over the lens;  the metering system cares only about the light intensity. 

Canon T70
Cokin filter
Fuji Superia 200
1/125 at f/4.5

Here's something interesting.  On older cameras, you were stuck with whatever aperture / shutter speed combination the camera offered, and that was that.  It could have been off by half a stop.  The Canon T70 will adjust the shutter speed a little bit from what it actually says, if necessary, to yield the perfect exposure.  That makes it a great camera for slide film. 

Tele Program

One extremely cool thing about this camera is the "Tele Program AE" mode.  

Normally when you use a program mode on a camera, it just sort of picks whatever aperture / shutter speed it wants.  The Tele Program AE mode on the T70 will pick the fastest shutter speed possible for the lighting conditions.  That means (you guessed it) the camera will also pick the widest aperture that matches that shutter speed. 

This is great for shallow depth-of-field.  (Some people call this "bokeh", and sometimes I do, too;  but technically "bokeh" is not the shallow field itself.  It's the overall character or quality of that shallow field.)

With 200 film, the T70 should be indicating f/4.0 to f/4.5 on a sunny-partly sunny day.  That's because the camera will be maxed out at the highest shutter speed (1/1000th).  This is where you might want to use 100 film if you're really after the shallower depth of field;  then you could be hitting f/2.8 to f/4.0. 

Actually, better yet, pick up some Velvia 50 (5-roll pack here). 

Tele-Program was designed for use with telephoto lenses.  Long focal length requires a fast shutter speed.  But this is also how you get that nice, shallow depth of field for portraits.  You can use Tele Program with the 50mm lens, or any other Canon FD lens you want.

Wide Program

As you might guess, "Wide Program AE" mode does the opposite of Tele-Program.  

Wide Program picks the slowest practical shutter speed and the narrowest aperture.   It was designed for wide-angle lenses, which are often OK with slow shutter-speeds hand-held.

This is good for scenery shots where you want long depth-of-field so you can get everything in focus.

Here, the T70 will use shutter speeds as slow as necessary for the lighting conditions, and no faster.  If you don't have enough light, it could be down to 1/10 of a second or less.  That means Wide Program AE can easily be tripod territory.  But that's OK, because film landscapes often use a tripod anyway, even at 1/60th or 1/125th.  (No image stabilization, remember?)

The T70 has some intermediate speeds like 1/45 and 1/90, and here you'll see the camera using these.  (The viewfinder display does not tell you shutter speed.) 

Wide Program AE seems to prefer f/8 through f/11, occasionally going to f/16.   Even with the lens pointed at the sky, I couldn't get it to go f/22, but that's because I was using a slower film.  At ISO 800, Wide Program AE finally chose f/22 when the camera was pointed up at the sky.  For a regular land scene it chose f/16.  

Just a reminder... to use the program modes, you have to set the lens ring to "A", rather than one of the numerical aperture settings.  If you forget, the "M" will keep displaying on the LCD, and you'll be in manual mode.


I actually like the T70 a lot, even though it lacks aperture-priority AE mode.  The manual mode doesn't have that old-fashioned needle indicator that many of us prefer, but it works. 

Tele Program AE mode is also a great feature.

You can get a used T70 on Ebay.  Please use this link to buy your T70 and help keep my website on-line.  There are usually quite a few T70's for sale, and they're not that expensive.  Don't forget to grab some film (links at bottom of this page).  It really helps me out if you use any of these links to buy your stuff. 

By the way, when you buy a used camera that hasn't been made since the 80's... make sure you ask the seller in advance if everything works.  Scan the search results;  there are a couple sellers on the bay that occasionally have refurbished T70's.  This would definitely be worth it.  The Canon T70 is a good little camera.

I hope you enjoyed this page.  Thanks for visiting my website!

If you want to use Tele-Program AE and get shallow depth-of-field, use the slower films:
Portra 160 (color / 5-pack);  Ektar 100 (color / 5-pack);  Delta 100 (black & white / single rolls)


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