The Canon TLb film camera is a great little fully manual camera along the lines of the Nikkormat FT series including the FTN, FT2, and FT3. Just like those cameras, there are no frills here, just a picture-taking machine. I hope this Canon TLb review helps to inform you about this camera and answers all your questions. If you have any additional questions you can email them to me and I will add them to this Canon TLb FAQ.
The Canon TLb FAQ is written and maintained by me, Allan Hall.
Specifications for the Canon TLb:
Size – 144mm X 93mm X 43mm
Weight – 680g
Power – Originally a mercury cell which has been banned, use a 1.5v 625A Alkaline Battery instead
ASA/ISO range – 12-2000
Flash sync – 1/60sec
Viewfinder coverage – 94%
Production dates – 1974-1977
Manual Mode – Full manual control from 1/500sec to 1sec and B. This works with all Canon FD mount lenses and FL mount lenses if you stop down.
ASA/ISO Dial – Just like most cameras the Canon TLb uses a dial to manually set the film speed. In this case, the dial is under the shutter speed dial and is adjusted by simply grabbing the sides of the shutter speed dial, lifting, and turning.
Flash Sync Port – Works with non-dedicated flash units only, requires the use of a flash sync cable that plugs into the front of the camera. I use mine with a Vivitar 285.
Depth Of Field/Stop down lever – The lever on the front is not a timer as you might think, but a depth of field or stop down lever allowing you to see what the focus will look like before you fire the shutter. It also allows you to use the older FL series lenses on the Canon TLb.
General Information on the Canon TLb:
The Canon TLb is a cheaper version of the Canon FTb QL. They basically dropped the maximum shutter speed from 1/1000sec on the FTb to 1/500sec for the TLb, removed the hot shoe (it has a cold flash shoe meaning no electrical contacts) and removed the Quick Load film mechanism. Everything else remains almost identical inside and out.
This is just a basic, well made, hard-working, all manual camera for those more into the Canon FD lens mount crowd. The only reason you need a battery at all is for the Canon TLb light meter.
I often see discussions about the Canon TLb vs ae1 and I feel that is not a fair comparison. The AE1 is a much newer, smaller, lighter camera with a hot shoe and a computer that allows shutter speed priority mode. The Canon AE-1, however, lacks the robustness and feel of the TLb. They are essentially made for two different people.
This is one of those cameras that is perfect to carry around everywhere you go, throw it in the floorboard, stuff it in a backpack, leave it in your trunk, you will be hard-pressed to hurt it. The only thing to remember is, at least here in Texas, don’t leave it loaded with film as the heat will kill it. The camera, however, will keep right on working!
Q&A about the Canon TLb:
Q: What functions does the Canon TLb have without a battery?
A: The Canon TLb retains complete functionality at all shutter speeds since it is a fully manual camera. Your metering will no longer function, however. Just use your smartphone, a handheld meter, or the sunny 16 rule!
Q: I have heard that the Canon TLb does not meter correctly with alkaline batteries, is this true?
A: Canon TLb cameras are old and the meters can degrade over time anyway so even if you did have access to the mercury batteries the odds are that the meters would not be perfectly accurate. I have found that for the most part, the meter is reasonable even with the replacement alkaline battering. Testing of several cameras against handheld meters show a maximum of about a stop of issues with any single camera, most being within a half stop. To me, that is well within a reasonable margin of error.
Q: Will the Canon TLb use the older FL series lenses?
A: Yes, the Canon TLb can! You will have to stop the lens down manually when using the FL series lenses with the lever on the front of the camera. Once you have set the shutter speed and aperture with stop-down metering, you can release the lever and fire away.
Q: What kinds of flash units can I use on the Canon TLb?
A: You can use any flash that has a flash sync cable with the Canon TLb, just watch to make sure there are no electronic connections on the flash that you are about to put into the metal shoe. I like the Vivitar 285 personally and have had no issues using it in its auto mode.
Q: Is the Canon TLb a good camera for a beginner or someone just getting into film?
A: Absolutely! The Canon TLb is a robust and reliable camera that does not do a lot of the work for you, allowing you to control every aspect of the photograph. Even if you don’t put a battery in it or let the one in it die, just use the sunny 16 rule and go. The best part here is these cameras can be had for next to nothing in the resale and auction market, even with the lens.
Q: Is the Canon TLb a good camera for a professional or serious amateur getting into film photography?
A: Sure! A fully manual robust camera is always a great tool for anyone getting into film and this one is no exception. The 50mm 1.8 SC lens that came with the Canon TLb is a good lens as well.
Q: Does the Canon TLb come in black or just chrome?
A: The Canon TLb comes only in chrome.
Q: Can I change focusing screens in my Canon TLb?
A: No, the screen is fixed in the Canon TLb.
Here is the Canon TLb camera manual (Canon TLb how to use, Canon TLb manual).
I hope you enjoyed this Canon TLb FAQ!
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