Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff

Canon Pellix and Pellix QL

I think this is the point where Canon began to take the SLR seriously, even if this is a camera that is not taken seriously today. The Pellix is one of those kind of cameras that seemed like a good idea at the time, one that was better in theory than in practice. At the time it was considered revolutionary. But it was a design that didn't stand the test of time. The principle was not repeated (with the exception of high speed motor drive cameras) until the late 1980' Canon, with the EOS RT.

The big difference between the Pellix and the rest of the SLR world is the mirror. On almost all SLR cameras, the mirror swings out of the way before the shutter opens. One some cameras the mirror is split in half, part folds down, part swings up. On some cameras the mirror is part of the shutter. The Pellix uses a pellicle mirror, which allows 70% of the light to pass through to the film, 30% is reflected upwards for viewing. The lack of a swinging mirror eliminated two of the biggest drawbacks to the SLR, mirror vibration and image blackout. However, these drawbacks are replaced with others which are more detrimental.

The most readily apparent drawback is the loss of light in both exposure and for focusing. The light reflected for viewing causes a drop in exposure of 2/3 of a stop. Not really a big concern in a world where 400 speed film is considered moderate. It is when you are shooting color slide film with an ASA of less than 50, and using a lens with a speed of 2.8 or 3.5. The 30% of light used for focusing is adequate in daylight, but becomes more difficult as the light becomes dimmer. The eyepiece has it's own shutter for use when your eye is not at the viewfinder during exposure. Most SLR designs use the mirror to seal off stray light that enters through the eyepiece. The Pellix has no solid mirror to block the light. Canon also recommends that you use an eyecup at all times.

The biggest detriment is the pellicle mirror itself. It is a thin sheet of plastic material, which as it is exposed during the changing of lenses, gets dust on it. And in cleaning, the soft plastic gets scratches. And someone always ends up touching the mirror, leaving a fingerprint. Unfortunately, this is a bad place for anything that interferes with the image. A dirty filter in front of the lens is much less of a problem to a sharp image than one behind the lens. And with age, most of the mirrors have yellowed and deteriorated. Finding a Pellix with a good mirror is very difficult today.

Although the Pellix is free from mirror vibration, Canon managed to design a shutter that is every bit as noisy as a typical SLR. The Pellix uses metal foil curtains like the ones used in the Canon rangefinder cameras. Like a rangefinder camera, it lacks a solid mirror to shield the shutter curtains from becoming pin holed by the sun focused upon them like a magnifying glass.

This was the first Canon to have through the lens metering. A selenium cell was mounted on an arm, which swung in front of the shutter curtain when the self timer lever was pressed towards the lens. This also stopped the lens down to the taking aperture. A similar design was used by Leitz on the Leica M5 and the Leitz CL a few years later.

The Pellix was introduced in early 1965. After the first year, another feature was added. Film loading was simplified with the Quick Load system. It was used in most of their amateur SLR cameras until the A series came out. Cameras equipped with the Quick Load system are marked with a plaque on the front with the letters QL.

Although the vast majority were made in chrome, the Pellix was available in black finish. It was discontinued in 1970.

The Canon Pellix in chrome, with 58/1.2 Canon FL and original box.

The Canon Pellix QL in chrome, with 50/1.4 Canon FL and original box.

Open, showing the QL mechanism.

The Canon Pellix QL in black.

The Canon Pellix cutaway.

Notice the serial number. This is the 18th Pellix they built.

The QL and non-QL boxes side by side.

An unusual Bell & Howell box.

List Prices, August 1970

Canon Pellix-QL with 50/1.8 lens . . . $299.95
Canon Pellix-QL with 50/1.4 lens . . . $349.95
Canon Pellix-QL with 50/1.2 lens . . . $388.95
Canon Pellix-QL body only . . . $223.95
Black finish add $24.95