Canon Canonet QL17 G-III: Poor Man's Leica

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Can be found easily, compact, easy to load, automatic or manual override, and equipped with fast and sharp lens make it one of the best and affordable rangefinder camera ever made. Some people call it poor man’s Leica.

Photo from theunderdahls.com

Canonet QL17 G-III is the last Canonet series of produced by Canon, which manufactured from 1972 to 1982. The “G” in the camera designation stood for “Grade Up” which referred to the quality improvement. The “III” indicated the third-generation Canonet series, following the original Canonet QL17 and the New Canonet QL17 (taken from canon.com).

I bought mine cheaply, around €20, from a flea market in a good working condition with clean lens. I was surprised by its compact size compared to other rangefinder cameras. One thing I like the most is its 40mm 1:1.7 lens which is much faster than the lens on my other cameras. Along with self-timer, I am able to shoot portrait and self-portrait without having much distortion. Usually, I treat this camera the same as my LOMO LC-A+ in terms of fast operating by using automatic mode (shutter priority) and zone focusing (the layout of focusing lever is also the same as LC-A+). However, I can also switch it to manual mode and focusing precisely with the rangefinder. Inside the viewfinder, coincidence rangefinder and the automatic parallax correcting frame can be seen on the middle while light meter reading for the aperture is shown on the right side.

For film loading, a brilliant system called QL (quick loading) is installed, so I can simply put the film leader on the sprocket, close the back cover and I’m ready for shooting 40 frames from a roll. No need to worry that the film won’t advance because there is a sign that confirming film movement and a sign that turns red when the shutter is ready. Automatic mode for ISO 25-800 is operated by using a 1.3v mercury battery (battery checking function is also available).

It is not so easy to obtain the specified battery, but hearing-aid battery is said to be suitable as an alternative. I prefer choosing used LR44 battery from LC-A+ because the voltage is almost the same (I guess) and I don’t really care about a little under or overexposed metering and I usually conform the meter reading with sunny 16 rule.

A rangefinder camera like this is known to be used for street photography and made popular by Leica. If you don’t want to spend much money on a Leica, Canonet QL17 G-III is the best choice for you whatever your style is—automatic or manual, day or night, bokeh or sharp lover, panning or motion stopper, zone focus or rangefinder, for street or portrait.

written by nerdcist on 2010-04-25 #gear #35mm #rangefinder #review #bokeh #manual #fast-lens #lomography #automatic #canon-canonet-ql17-g-iii #user-review

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24 Comments

  1. trash-gordon-from-outer-space
    trash-gordon-from-outer-space ·

    Such a beautiful camera. And also a pretty gallery.

  2. riki_87
    riki_87 ·

    yeah nice Canonet!

  3. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    A fantastic camera and I'm so happy to have this camera in my collection! :) I fully agree with you about the fast shooting, the quick loading, the possibility to shoot 40 pictures on a 36exp roll and the amazing sharp 1.7 lens... a true jewel of photography! I used it by night with Fuji Press 800 and it gave some stunning results.... bit.ly/9yHPkz and bit.ly/aL4QfE

  4. stijn_b
    stijn_b ·

    Interesting camera, I didn't know about the fast shooting and loading capabilities. Thanks for that! Guess I've got another camera on the wanted list : )

  5. nicolas_noir
    nicolas_noir ·

    Lovely gallery, but 18 would get you arrested over here! Love the long shadow on 25! Great review!

  6. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    very precious gallery! I have one in my collection but sadly didn't work at all, however...a fab paper weight!

  7. stouf
    stouf ·

    Glorious B&Ws !

  8. wuxiong
    wuxiong ·

    Great camera. I've been wanting it for years. But it seems that its price is still too high here in used camera shop in China...wuwuwuwu... Like your photos::))

  9. -a-l-b-e-r-t-o-
    -a-l-b-e-r-t-o- ·

    I know it's a great camera and your gallery is fantastic

  10. falsedigital
    falsedigital ·

    I got lucky and found this camera in practically mint condition at a thrift sale for only $4. Crazy eh? It's a great camera for sure. One of the best fixed lens rangefinder cameras. Nice gallery, happy to see you use it well :D

  11. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    I got this from my grandfather :D really great review :D :D

  12. adi_totp
    adi_totp ·

    Love no 12 :D

  13. paramir
    paramir ·

    great review and gallery!

  14. zulupt
    zulupt ·

    Great review & gallery!!!

  15. nerdcist
    nerdcist ·

    thanks everyone

  16. kylewis
    kylewis ·

    Fantastic review and congrats on Camera of the week!

  17. frenchplaymo
    frenchplaymo ·

    Great review..;and now I want one Canonet more than ever!

  18. stickyvinny
    stickyvinny ·

    Great review!

  19. stormer
    stormer ·

    These are GREAT cameras. I don't know why lomography.com does not have a camera section for them.

  20. tamsoam
    tamsoam ·

    Great article man. I 've just got mine today from the french ebay !!! load first time with tungsten. My christmas present so happy !!! thanx to make me wait impatiently with your review.
    see ya maybe when i'll developp my first film. X tungsten i choosed. first with that too !!! :)

  21. 110isnotdead
    110isnotdead ·

    I will totally second the "poor man's Leica" moniker given to it. I inherited mine from my mom (she is still living, mind you). I took it to the grand canyon last winter and got some amazing shots. And it totally held up to the below freezing temps that we encountered (seriously it got into the mid 20s after the sun set).
    Great article, can't wait for more.

  22. 110isnotdead
    110isnotdead ·

    Hey does anyone who uses this know how to get the double exposures. I'm not sure how to do it since it doesnt have a MX switch. THoughts?

  23. pikicoy
    pikicoy ·

    have this one and cannot wait to process the film later :D

  24. cybot
    cybot ·

    Very nice Canon~! I love your review and description with excellent photos! Very impressive. I have a Canon Canonet QL17 G-III, as well and I love it. In my humble opinion, it's the best range finder camera ever made. The Canonet GIII QL17 was Canon’s best-selling camera for over 11 years, and is the world's top selling rangefinder (with inbuilt light meter) a record unlikely to be broken. The G-III became a best seller with over 1.2 MILLION SOLD from 1972 to 1982 per the Canon web site. This probably makes the G-III the best-selling 35mm rangefinder with built in lightmeter of all time!
    *** The sensor is located on the forward part of the lens, which allows use of filters without manual compensation of exposure. The Canonet can use standard flashes, or the Canonlite D which was custom-designed for the Canonet.
    *** Many users will use a 1.4-volt hearing aid battery or adapters with Schottky diodes that allow use of SR-44 battery with better results. A zinc-air replacement battery can also be used. This battery has the same voltage as the PX625 mercury battery, and therefore is seen as a viable replacement by many
    (I get my batteries from www.weincell.com/) They're cheap and work just like the old school batteries designed for the camera. No over or underexposure with these batteries. I tested it myself!
    Unlike the notoriously difficult film loading system of the Leica the Canon’s QL (Quick Load) film-loading system is a joy to use, taking only seconds before you’re ready to shoot the first frame.

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