Canon Pellix (1965) - the pellicle mirror SLR

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Canon Mount (FD/FL/EF) SLRs:

Canon Pellix

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Canon Pellix is a unique manual focus SLR introduced in 1965. Instead of the regular, moving SLR reflex mirror, the Pellix has a fixed mirror that is composed of an ultra-thin (20/1000 millimeter) Mylar film coating. The mirror allows 2/3 of the light to go through to the film, and 1/3 to be transmitted upwards to the viewfinder. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

Because the pellicle mirror is fixed, there is no mirror black-out even at the moment of exposure. While the original Pellix didn't have a motor drive otion, the pellicle mirror system in theory allows for extremely fast frame rates since the camera doesn't have to wait for the mirror to go up and down each time you shoot. The Canon F-1 High Speed could reach 9 frames per second, faster than anything else. This was the main selling point of the Pellix and the cameras that followed it (including the EOS 1nRS and RT). With the Canon 1vHS (which has a standard mirror), you could reach 9 fps without a pellicle mirror, so the idea of a pellicle mirror SLR was dropped.

The original Pellix in 1965 had a regular film loading. In 1966 it was replaced by the Pellix QL which had Canon's new QL (QuickLoading) feature which allowed for instant film loading simply by pulling the leader out to the red line.

Because the pellicle mirror is fixed, there can be a problem if you're taking a photograph on "bulb" or using the self-timer and you take your eye away from the finder. Light can enter the finder window, travel through the prism, bounce of the pellicle mirror, and cause internal reflections and metering problems. In order to prevent this problem, Canon put a retractable internal finder shutter on the Pellix. Just turn the dial around the rewind lever to the dark square to close the Pellix finder shutter. If you turn it to the 'C' position, you engage the battery-check (also turn the ISO to 100 and the shutter speed to 'X' and see if the match-needle goes up to the circle area). The Pellix takes the now discontinued PX625 mercury-oxide battery.


The Pellix only support stop-down metering. The enormous self-timer lever is also the stop-down metering lever. Push in inwards and the lens will automatically stop-down and the metering circuit will turn on. Match the internal needle with the center-circle by adjusting the shutter speed or aperture.

I ended up listing my Pellix on ebay in April of 2009 as I wasn't using it and felt someone else should enjoy this wonderful machine.



Interesting quirks

The Pellix came with the 50mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 lens. With the 1/3 stop reduction from the pellicle meter, these operated like 50mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.7 lenses.

You can use most FD lenses without problem on the Pellix. There's a 38mm f/2.8 that's specially designed for the Pellix, although I'm not sure what makes it so special.

I've read that there is a problem with some FD lenses on the Pellix but the ones I have seem to work fine. In general, FD is pretty compatible with FL

Mystery of the 38mm f/2.8 Pellix lens... solved!

While reading through the many camera articles [on your website], I saw the one of the Canon Pellix.
I have a Canon FT-QL  acquired in Hong Kong, 1969, and am familiar with the Pellix's specs, since I was also considering a Pellix at the time (I was then very interested in close up photography, so the Pellix lack of mirror movement was appealing . . I ended up buying an FT instead though. I've kept it for 35 years and have not regretted the decision).
You mentioned a mystery about the special 38 mm f2.8 Pellix lens. I think I can help. I recall from reading  a Popular Photography article about the camera in late '67 or during '68) that the lens was designed to be very compact, projecting less from the front of the camera body than usual. To achieve this, the rear of the lens projected farther into the body of the camera.

As such, an ordinary SLR mirror could not move up when the shutter was triggered, else it would hit the lens, so this special lens could only be used on the Pellix, and not on the FT.
I hope that this helps. Good luck with your research and your avocational interest in classical cameras.
Dave James,
Associate Professor, Civil Engineering, UNLV (Las Vegas NV)



Technical Details

Camera Name
Pellix Pellix QL
Canon, Inc.
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture
1965.4 1966.3
Focusing System

Single-lens reflex with pentaprism eye-level viewfinder
0.9x magnification. 93% coverage.

Lens Mount
Canon FL bayonet mount

Horizontal travel titanium focal plane shutter
1 sec.- 1/1000
X-flash sync at 1/60

Metering System

CdS through the lens (TTL) metering
12% Partial Metering

Full manual match needle metering (full aperture)

EV 1-18


External cold-shoe and PC connection

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 10 to 800

ASA 25-2000
Battery type
1.35v PX625 mercury (discontinued)
Dimensions and weight

141 x 900 x 43 mm (body only)
755 g (body only)

144 x 91 x 43 mm (body only)
755 g (body only)

Retail Price in 1965
¥70,800 w/ 58mm f/1.2
¥58,800 w/ 50mm f/1.4
¥72,800 w/ 58mm f/1.2
¥60,800 w/ 50mm f/1.4 II
+¥1000 for black paint


About Canon

Canon started out its life as Seiki Kohgaku Kenkyuujo (Precision Optical Research Company). Its first goal was to produce domestic inexpensive Leica clones, and it released the Kwanon, its first camera in 1934. Interestingly, they used Nikon lenses since Nikon was already established as an optical lens manufacturer and was not making any of its own camera bodies at that time. Canon soon gained the ability to make their own lenses and never looked back. Nikon also went on to produce some reasonably popular cameras of its own as well.

The name 'Canon' comes from the Buddhist deity Kwanon and early Canon cameras were actually spelled 'Kwanon' and the lenses were named 'Kyasapa' after another deity.

Side note: Canon is my favorite Japanese company along with Honda. I actually interned for Canon Japan (ok, Canon Sales Japan, a part of the Canon keiretsu) during a summer in college and loved my coworkers to death. They keep coming out with innovations that take your breath away.

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