Canon 19mm f/3.5 ultra-wideangle lens 1964            Seite auf Deutsch

by Frank Mechelhoff                 New February 2023

Canon 19mm f/3.5 at Canon

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 (1958).

Canon 19mm f3.5 @ Canon

Canon 19mm f/3.5 Rangefinder Lens - Diagram 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 19mm f3.5
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 1960s.

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.

Biogon 21mm f4.5 Design
              20mm f5.6 Design
S-Angulon 21mm f/4 Design
Nikkor-O 2.1cm f/4 - Design
S-Angulon 21mm f3.4

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 width.
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 distort more.


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


Total number 980 according to Randol Hooper (LHSA)

Canon 19mm f/3.5 on Leica M240

Canon 19mm w. Cap and
With original covers front and back and leather case, which also has a compartment for the viewfinder.

Canon 19mm f/3.5 focussing

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 Sonorama, 1996

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 Guide, 2008

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