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Canonet QL17 GIII: Long Name, Great Camera

My film camera acquisitions typically fall into one of three categories.

1) I never heard of this camera until 5 minutes ago and now that I know it exists I must have it.

2) It exists on an unpublished, subconscious bucket list of cameras or types of cameras that must be purchased when I happen upon an affordable copy.

3) A spec dossier comes to mind I then research for the best quality and bang for a buck hybrid.

The Canonet falls into group 3. My spec was a compact rangefinder with a fast lens, in built auto exposure, and excellent build quality. Good looks always welcome. The QL17 GII rose to the top quickly.

Canon: Pretty straightforward.

Canonet: No idea. Seems redundant. Possibly the inspiration for Ferrari LaFerrari.

QL: Film quick load system. Quite awesome and I would throw it in the name if I were Canon also.

17: f/1.7 lens. Fastest of the Canonet line up.

GIII: Generation 3. I think. Yeah. Not Googling it. Going with that.

Spoiler alert. (Not really. I tend not to write about cameras I do not like.) This camera is awesome. If you are okay with one focal length find a good one and buy one. Got mine at KEH.com.

Pluses:

  • Fantastic lens. Just an amazing lens.

  • Easy to use exposure meter is spot on. Default is shutter priority when the aperture is set to A where a display in the viewfinder tells you what f stop the camera has chosen.
  • Framing lines move with the focus lever to accommodate parallax correction. Simple genius only bested in usefulness by the significantly more complex Contax G series which automagically blocks the captured frame entirely.
  • Focus lever is a joy to use. Short, 90 degree throw and perfectly damped. Focus patch is generously sized and the viewfinder is bright.

  • Great control set up. Everything right on the lens.
  • Hot shoe and PC port w/ a leaf shutter so you get flash sync at all speeds up to 1/500s.
  • Very small. And silent. Unobtrusive.
  • Nice focal length compromise. 40mm falls right between the 35mm and 50mm focal length camps.
  • Light sensor is inside the filter ring at the top so ND filters, like the variable one I picked up (more on that below), will compensate automatically. In bright sun I often use the variable ND filter to drive the camera’s f stop selection. Also cool that since this is a rangefinder you do not have to deal with an alternating dim view of proceedings since you are not looking through the lens like when I use an ND filter on the Olympus PEN FT.
  • With the QL quick film load system changing film rolls is a breeze. Make sure the film lead is under the flap close the back, wind a few times, and you are good to go.
  • F/1.7. Useful f/1.7 on an all in one.
  • I could go on, but I will stop here.

Minuses:

  • At this price point absolutely nothing.

This camera is closer in price to the cameras I recently listed as bargains, but performs like cameras that could deplete your savings.

Suggested accessories:

  • Just get the Canolie D flash. It works great and looks good on the camera to boot. Interestingly the vertical flash orientation and elevation away from the lens center point provides very nice scene coverage and would seem to minimize red eye.

  • Variable ND filter. To suit the 48mm I got this $16 ND filter and a $7 48mm-49mm ring. Combined they do not seem to interfere with the metering eye.

With these three pieces you are pretty much covered no matter what comes your way.

As stated earlier I am very happy with this camera. This is on my proverbial one camera on a deserted island short list… Although if I were on a deserted island the least of my concerns would be a camera.

Some may quibble about this or that, but in the right hands this camera is capable of great things. It is also so compact and easy to use that I ran through multiple rolls of film more quickly with this camera than just about any other film camera I own.

I close with a link to the ongoing gallery. 

Happy shooting.

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