Santa Fe New Mexico Family and Children Photographer – David Moore» Blog Archive » My new old precious – Canon Canonet QL17

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This is the photography blog for photographer and writer David Moore. He's based in Santa Fe, New Mexico but speaks with a funny accent.


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    March 13th, 2008

    My new old precious – Canon Canonet QL17

    My Canonet QL-17Call it the poor man’s Leica, call it indestructible, call it whatever you want, but I love my Canon Canonet QL17.

    Made between 1962 and 1971 the Canonet offers everything you could look for in a small flexible film camera:

    • 40mm f/1.7 lens is sharp, flexible and great for low light conditions
    • either go fully manual or (with the addition of a battery) use the metered mode that gives you a pretty good shutter-priority mode
    • quick-loading film mechanism makes it easy for digital-heads like me to make sure the film winds on properly
    • cheap and relatively easy to find (I got mine on eBay for around $35)

    Small but mighty

    It’s a great camera for carrying around with you all the time – its chunky all-metal body will stand up to knocks, but it’s light and small enough not to overwhelm the bag you’re carrying.

    The Canonet QL 17 group on Flickr had some good advice when I got mine. One of the issues is with batteries – the old mercury batteries they were designed for are no longer available, but you can use several viable substitutes (requiring varying degrees of hacking with bits of silver foil or O-rings).

    UrbaneI went with the cheap and readily available Radio Shack alkaline option, and as instructed, adjusted the ASA on the camera to correct the metering, which doesn’t handle the extra voltage too well.

    It also seems that the gaskets round the door can degrade, letting light leak in. The only way to find out was to run a roll through it, and on the advice of the great folks at Santa Fe Camera Shop I plumped for Kodak Professional Ultra Color 100UC – ‘I want something saturated and contrasty,’ I said. The film delivered.

    Home on the Range(finder)

    Getting the hang of the rangefinder focusing is a little tricky, especially as my viewfinder was a little darkened by the years. You have to align two images on top of each other to focus, and depending on the light and the subject, it’s not always entirely clear if you’ve got it right.

    There’s something amazingly mechanical about the camera – the language is the same I talk to my Rebel XT with: focus, aperture, shutter speed, but when you’re turning the rings on the lens and hearing the very quiet click of the shutter, it’s hard to imagine all the cogs functioning to deliver (say) 1/125 at f/4.

    Quick on the drawBut it works. I nearly tore open the envelope when the film was developed and printed yesterday. And the results were great – especially as I was mentally prepared for a roll of white nothing from the possibly leaky door.

    Especially with the rich film I used, and some expert printing, there’s a warmth and depth to the shots that I really love.

    I won’t be ditching the DSLR any time soon (especially as the film and printing cost about as much as the camera), but I really enjoyed my first roll, and will definitely be back for more.

    Extra links:

    Favorite Classics
    My Ultra Cool Canon QL17
    Camera Quest
    Canonet QL17 FAQ


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    4 Responses to “My new old precious – Canon Canonet QL17”

    1. paula Says:

      Your picture looks great. Very professional look.
      I have a old Canon it takes great picture too. The only thing about my Old Canon is that I cant find the model anywhere or even on the web. Its just said Canonet, canon camera co. inc, made in japan 1156686. I wonder if you know anything about it?
      P.S.. Love your Wedsite.

    2. firdaus Says:

      hey, i’ve been reading your review.. and you’ve just help me a lot.. i used this canon as well, and i was desperate, coz the battery issue. but now i can use the auto mode just because the silver foil, thx to you… LOVE THIS CANON CANONET QL17.
      thank you very very very much.

    3. David Says:

      Glad I could help. I’ve not fired mine up for a while, but I definitely should.

    4. Nick Bedford Says:

      Lovely portrait. I’m waiting on a Canonet QL19 with the slightly longer 45mm F1.9 lens. The last time I shot film was in high school over 10 years ago so I’m glad to be going into this with the knowledge of portraiture and photography in general that I have nowadays (I began photography properly in 2010).

      45mm should be a nice focal length for portraits. I’m going to try some Kodak Portrait 160 first.

      Tell me, does the camera work fine without a battery in manual mode I assume?

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