Two months with the Canonet Ql17 G-III

A review of Canon’s venerable pocket rangefinder.

First impressions: Awesome little machine! Would make a first film hack.

I am a big believer in the concept that the best camera you have is the one that you have on you. In this way a humble smartphone camera can often trump a full-frame DSLR, or even medium format beast if you’re unable to shoot with it or choose to leave it at home. Good news is this camera is so tiny you always have it on you. The photos below don’t really illustrate how much more pocketable this camera is over the Olympus 35sp below.

I travel to work with a packed 16L backpack with my laptop, an external monitor, my lunch and still manage to fit it in.

Riight to Left: Minolta Autocord LMX, Olympus OM4, Olympus 35sp, Canonet QL17 G-III. The latter being the same size as a €20 bank note.

The QL17 is meters strictly with shutter priority only. I was initially pensive having used aperture priority 95% of my life. However you you quickly get used to it and I’ve come to appreciate for street shooting.

Another feature I wasn’t aware of through my research was the physical shutter blocking mechanism that’s activated when the light meter drops below the cameras aperture range (f1.7 — f16).

If the exposure is calculated to be too bright or too dark for your chosen shutter speed, a mechanism will physically block you from pressing down the shutter button. If you’re looking to over-/under-expose you can simply use the meter to gauge exposure, before switching to full-manual use. It may sound annoying, but the shutter block does come in handy.

The camera features a zone focus gauge which is useful for street shooting as is the quick loading (hence the name “QL”) film mechanism. Loading film quickly is super easy and fast.

The finder is large and bright and the rangefinder focusing image is also quite large which is useful. However its no super bright Leica focusing image, so pulling focus in tricky lighting can be difficult.

The focusing image looks a bit bigger with the eye. The meter needle is currently reading ~F7.0 as correct exposure for 1/500 sec in sunny Lisbon.

Another point to mention is that the meter is connected to the “A” setting on the aperture ring. So! If you’re storing the camera for extended periods of time I suggest you select an aperture value instead of the “A” setting to conserve battery.

“A” engages the meter. Its best to use a manual aperture setting when not in use to conserve battery.

Lens quality and sharpness is high. It out-resolves my Epson V500 scanner which is about all I need.

The Canonet is almost always in my pocket or backpack and will likely continue to do so. I’m sure Ken Rockwell would say that this camera offers “no backtalk”, its just fun to use and takes nice photos.

For a first film camera, this should be high on your list.

All photos taken on Portra 400

Originally published at on November 21, 2016.