Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Canonet QL17 G-III

The Canonet QL17 G-III is one of the most popular fixed-lens compact rangefinder cameras of the 70's. It features shutter-priority and fully manual exposure modes, with shutter speeds from 1/500 to 30 seconds and bulb. The lens is a 40mm Canon lens, while not as sharp as some of the competition at the time, is perfectly usable and creates nice images.

The finish of the QL17 is top-notch with beautiful trim. It feels quite heavy in the hand for its size, giving a sense of good quality. The namesake quick load system is a joy to use; pull out film to the indicated position and close the door. No more putting film headers in slits. In the back, there are indicator windows to give assurance that film is being advanced when the level is wound. One odd thing is the shutter button. It is a little wobbly with some play...just does not give the same solid feel as the rest of the camera.

The focus ring has a finger tab. It is a necessity given how thin the focus ring is. I can imagine it being very useful when I have gloves on, but I find it awkward because I have to take my hand slightly off the lens barrel to push the tab. I also find the aperture and shutter speed rings a bit stiff. They are thin and does not provide enough traction.

The Cds meter is activated during shutter-priority mode. When the aperture ring is turned to the 'A' position, the meter needle indicates the chosen aperture as the shutter speed ring is moved. It almost feels like aperture-priority when looking through the viewfinder. If the chosen aperture is out of range, the shutter release will lock and cannot be depressed. The photographer can then switch to manual mode to override the settings. I think this works better than the sometimes hard-to-see arrows on the Yashica Electro 35 cameras.

Inside the meter window right above the lens, there is a ring with holes of various sizes that correspond to each shutter speed. Sometimes I wonder if the meter will work accurately if the hole is off center when I change the shutter speed. In the Yashica Elector 35 cameras, the holes are tied to the ASA selected which I think is a better implementation. Nonetheless, all the pictures came out great in my test roll, so I guess it works well enough :)

My biggest complain with the QL17 is the viewfinder. It's nice and bright, but it makes the rangefinder spot quite hard to see in low light. My Yashica GX has a viewfinder with a dark green cast. At first I thought it's kinda dark; now I understand it helps to create better contrast with the golden spot so it is easier to focus.

I personally feel the QL17 is a camera for the more deliberate shooters. It works great if there is time to adjust the shutter speed till the desired aperture is reached. Manual mode is also a nice thing to have for street photography.


(Canonet QL17 GIII x Fujicolor Pro 400H)


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