Canon 19mm f/3.5 ultra-wideangle lens 1964
by Frank Mechelhoff
The CANON 1:3.5 19mm was the latest
addition to the range of lenses for the CANON RANGEFINDER
cameras (Leica Screwmount, M39 or LTM). The cameras were sold
until 1968, some of the lenses until 1975. The 19mm lens came
onto the market in 1964 and thus took the title of the world's
widest-angle 35mm lens from the RUSSAR MR-2 20mm f/ 5.6
||The construction of the Canon 19mm f/3.5
consists of 9 elements in 7 groups and was quite complex for
its day. It was probably the first retrofocus lens built for
a rangefinder camera. In parallel the lens was released in
SLR mount, which had a shorter body and required mirror
lock-up and also an extra viewfinder for the accessory shoe.
It seems, at least in the beginning, that there were two
different viewfinders, with the viewfinder of the lens with
a Leica mount being slightly shorter. However, both lenses
were given the same type of case.
With 200g weight, 30.5 mm length and 55 mm filter it
was pleasantly compact. Unlike other ultra wide angles,
operation with the front aperture ring with click stops was
like a standard lens. Also, the black and silver style with
a knurled focus ring (as in the 35/1.5 and 50/1.2 from 1956
or the 50/1.4 since 1959) was quite standard (the last six
releases since 1960 however had been all black).
The original price was 40,100 ¥ without taxes - converts to
1.270 € (2023). This was 20%
more expensive than previous widest-angle, 25mm f/3.5 from
1956 at 32,500 yen, but significantly less than the
superfast "dream lens" 50 f/0.95 which costed ¥ 57.000,- or
2.170 € (2023) plus taxes.
|Canon FL R 19/3.5 . The first super
wide-angle CANON for SLR without mirror lock-up (R for
retrofocus, which means here: no mirror lock-up needed) came
just a year later and was much larger and bulkier with a
weight of 500g, a diameter of 82mm and a length of 68mm. The
original price was almost the same (45,000 yen).
Both lenses were designed by Shuujo Koyanagi, who developed
and patented numerous wide-angle and film lenses in the
The Russar was a completely symmetrical and quite simple design
(6 elements/ 4 groups). The BIOGON 21/4.5 from CARL
ZEISS (West) had been available since 1954. This was not
entirely symmetrical and had one more converging lens in front
of the diaphragm. A Super-Angulon 21 f/4 manufactured by
J. SCHNEIDER has been available with the LEICA since 1958, and
since 1963 an improved 21mm f/3.4, also almost symmetrical.
There was a 21 f/4 from NIKON, both in S-mount (for the Nikon
S3/SP) and for the Nikon F (with extra viewfinder and mirror
lock-up). The Nikon lens was very close to symmetrical, the
Schneider lenses a bit less.
All of these early super wide angles have in
common that they protrude very far into the camera, which can
cause problems and damage if care is not taken when attempting
to mount them. The rear lens is very close to the film, in
modern cameras to the sensor, and the optical exit angle is
therefore very oblique. This results in increased light
fall-off and blue/violet color shift towards the corners
(slightly less with the newest and most expensive sensors). As
a retrofocus design, the Canon 19mm f/3.5 is not quite as deep
as the others mentioned here and also has a narrower tube,
which is less likely to offend. Certain CANON cameras for 35mm
film, such as the CANON 7, are also somewhat critical with
third-party lenses because their light shafts protrude limit
However, the Canon 19mm f/3.5 in LTM fits modern cameras
(tried with LEICA M240 and SIGMA FP-L).
The color shift on the SIGMA FP-L is limited, surprisingly
also the flare in backlight, even sun stars can be produced.
However, the drop in sharpness towards the edges is quite
visible at open aperture, and less with f/8. Chromatic
aberration is not very pronounced.
The viewfinder has no bright-line frames, is solidly made and
looks quite good, the dimensions are also acceptable and not
too big. Of course, the newer Voigtländer viewfinders with
plastic housings are a bit lighter, brighter and more
practical (21mm without framelines should be fine), but they
|19mm f/3.5 Type 1
|SN 10016 - SN 11284
|CANON LENS 19mm
1:3.5 No. Xxxxx Canon Camera Co. Inc.
LENS MADE IN JAPAN
|19mm f/3.5 Type 2
|SN 12003 - SN 12296
|CANON LENS 19mm 1:3.5
Xxxxx CANON LENS MADE IN JAPAN
|Total number 980 according
to Randol Hooper (LHSA)
With original covers front and back and leather case, which
also has a compartment for the viewfinder.
The CANON 19mm f/3.5 focuses to 0.6 m; at about
1.0 m a slight click stop indicates the end of the coupling
with the rangefinder.
Miyazaki Yōji (宮崎洋司)
(キヤノンレンジファインダーカメラ) / Canon Rangefinder Camera. Tokyo: Asahi
Randol Hooper: The Other 35. The Screwmount Canon Lenses,
Article Series for LHSA, 1992-1993
Canon Camera Museum
Peter Kitchingman, Canon M39 Lenses 1939-1971. A Collector's