On a whim I picked up a Canon rangefinder recently; it was being offered for buy-it-now at a sensible price well below the silly money I’ve seen some of these go for. Film-tested, it said, and recently CLAd, it also said, I decided to take a punt. I’ve used compact 35mm cameras regularly but have less experience with a rangefinder camera. Today was the day I popped a roll of film in and tested it out. Not very good light but I needed a walk anyway so off I went.
The Canonet QL17 is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered, fixed-focal-length 35 mm camera first manufactured by Canon in 1965 so whilst it doesn’t predate me it’s still a venerable age for a camera being used in 2021. Like me however, it is a bit stiff in the joints which hopefully is simply down to a lack of use. No battery was supplied and as it’s not a common type I’ve had to order one but as the camera still functions without a battery I simply popped a light meter in my pocket and set off.
The Canonet G-III QL17 is arguably the more sought after model in the small Canonet range, born out perhaps by the price differential, but the QL is larger and I felt that it would fit in my hands better. I’ve certainly no complaints with the handling even wearing gloves. The focus lever has a fairly short throw which concerned me until I started using it. The short throw means that I can keep one finger on the lever and focus from close to infinity very quickly. So far, I have only used the camera this one time but already am focusing very quickly and effectively. Indeed, I think I can manually focus more quickly with this camera than any of my other cameras. A bold claim indeed!
One thing that attracted me to the Canonet was the f1.7 lens which gets reasonably good reviews generally although that’s not the primary attraction for me. With the clocks having gone back, I have in mind a series of urban evening images using streetlights and the ever-present Yorkshire rain. With it getting dark by 4:15pm at the moment I can do some “night” photography before tea. A fast f1.7 lens will be a boon for this project as will the discrete size and shape of the camera.
The lack of a battery meant that I couldn’t test the auto exposure function nor could I assess the accuracy of the meter. I was pretty confident from my test firings however that the different shutter speeds would work without the battery – at least that’s what my ear was telling me! Working fully manually has never bothered me though. I decided to adopt the approach I often take when spontaneity is more important than 100% accuracy – meter once and use my nous thereafter. I started at f11 and 1/125th second and during the walk used apertures from f1.7 to f16 and shutter speeds from 1/60th to 1/500th. So, not quite the full range but enough to check if things are generally working OK.
The film I loaded was one I hadn’t previously used, AgfaPhoto APX 400. Today wasn’t about testing a new-to-me film however, so I’m not going to comment further on that apart from observing that the negatives were not overly contrasty and therefore scanned very nicely. For the record I developed the roll in my old-faithful, Ilford ID11 which I diluted 1+1. Post-production was carried out in Snapseed on my tablet.
So, there we have it. My first outing with the Canonet QL and on the evidence of these negatives it won’t be my last. In fact I’ve already loaded it with a fresh roll of film ready for the next.