Back in March when I won a Minolta Hi-Matic 7S at the Film Photography Project Walking Workshop, I had been looking to get a 35mm rangefinder camera. Shortly after that, my friend Mike Williams sent me a Yashica Electro 35 GS, another great rangefinder. And now, the Canon Canonet G-III QL17 rangefinder. I actually found the Canonet at a local thrift store for $35 USD. In the past seven months, I’ve had the chance to own and test three of the best consumer rangefinders. This version of the Canonet is the top-end of the series that was manufactured during the 1960’s and 1970’s. My friend Maurice, being a Canon reseller tells me this story from his camera store experience. The President of Canon at the time went to his engineers and asked them to make him a camera. His first requirement, it had to be the smallest rangefinder they could produce, 120 x 75 x 60 mm, 620 g. The second, it had to have the best glass lens that Canon had to offer at the time, 40mm f/1.7 (6 elements in 4 groups). The result was the G-III QL17, selling more than 1.2 million units from 1972 to 1982.
The Canon Canonet G-III QL17 was manufactured from 1972 to 1982, features a 40mm f/1.7 lens, Copal leaf shutter, speeds from 1/4 to 1/500, and flash sync at all speeds. The G-III fit into a new group of high-end rangefinder cameras with lenses faster than f/2. The “QL” part of this model was Canon’s new Quick Loading film feature, making the process of threading 35mm film on to the take-up spool easy and very advanced for the time. The camera has a CdS cell meter that is mounted above the lens and provides shutter-priority, and unmetered manual mode. The location of the CdS cell above the front lens element allows it to take lens filters into account when metering. The exposure indicator needle can be seen in the viewfinder, indicating over/under exposure.
Out of the three 35mm rangefinders I currently own, the Canonet is my favorite. It has the sharpest lens, has the smallest footprint, and has more features that I want compared to the Minolta Hi-Matic 7S and Yashica Electro 35 GS. They’re all great cameras. At one point this past summer, I had all three in my walk around camera bag at the same time. My biggest complaint about all three cameras is they have what I would call a mushy shutter. There’s no solid click. I’ve found when I compose a shot, focus, check exposure, and press the shutter down, down, down some more, down, down, and then there’s a soft click. The images below were shot on Ilford Pan F Plus 50 B&W Film, processed by RepliColor in Salt Lake City, and scanned on an Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner.
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5 thoughts on “Canon Canonet G-III QL17”
Oh man. I have two of these. I love them. Both of them have gooey light seals and leak light. I have a set of new seals to install — have had them for three years now, but never get around to doing it! I really need to. You’re right, this is pretty much the most enjoyable fixed-lens rangefinder to use. Mushy shutter notwithstanding.
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Jim, when I found this camera at the thrift store, it was still in the box, with all the original paperwork and receipt. It was in good condition, but the first thing I did was replace the seals. It’s kind of a messy job, but after you do it a few times, it’s not too bad. It’s a great camera, and probably the closest thing I’ll ever get to a Leica. 🙂
Nice review – I’d like to try pick up any one of these cameras if I’m lucky enough to find one on one of our antiquing excursions. I do have a nifty little Vivitar 35ee rangefinder that I bought in an antique shop for under $20 that’s fun to use.
on the mushy shutter feel, it might be the type of shutter. Yashica has a leaf shutter whereas the Pentax have a focal-plane shutter. noticed the different feel when I tried a Yashica.