Canonet QL17 G-III
This is one of the most appealing compact rangefinders. It’s small but big enough to handle. It’s fully manual and will function without a battery.
It was the third and final generation of the Canonet series, indicated by the ‘III’. The “G” in the camera designation is said to stand for “Grade Up” which referred to an improvement in quality, but it seems more appropriate that it stand for Generation.
Like the original QL17 it has an impressive and fast Canon f1.7 lens, but is a 40mm instead of 45mm (which widens the AOV by 5.4° to 56.8°, has one less group and a more advanced multi-coating. It’s impressively sharp even wide open, but with considerable vignetting (almost a full stop at 59% fall-off). You can expect bold colour and fine details from this lens and it is very highly regarded.
Although it features a new Copal shutter design which lacks the suave near-silent operation of the Copal SV, and has less speeds (lacks 1 second and half second), the G-III has all the desirable manual features of the original QL17 but in a much smaller, lighter package
A major draw is that it has flash sync at all speeds (SLRs generally only use 1/60 or 1/125 for flash). Designed exclusively for use with the G-III was the Canolite D, an optional electronic flash unit with direct contact. By attaching the Canolite D and setting the aperture ring to A the camera is switched to the automatic flash control circuit. The proper f/stop corresponding to the shooting distance is set automatically. There is no need to worry about M or X settings or guide numbers, and when the subject is too far or too close (which would result in either under or over exposure) the shutter button cannot be depressed.
This is a handsome, well-finished, solid little package and feels like Canonet quality. With the addition of some plastic—shutter speed ring, film advance lever, battery compartment cover, flash socket cover—and an electronic battery check button with a light on the plastic eyepiece, it marks the end of an era, and heralds the arrival of the new generation of plastic bodied fully automatics.
Because of its popularity it is often compared to many cameras including the (Minolta-made) Leica CL (with the supplied 40mm f2 normal lens), for similar size and more importantly performance, but is more directly comparable to the Hi-Matic 7sII and the Konica Auto S3 (both shutter-priority and battery dependent). The improved Quick Loading (QL) system, reliable Auto mode, excellent flash sync and compact size make it a great street shooter and much more suitable for capturing the spontaneous than its bigger brother, but it lacks a sense of the latter’s class and authority.
|Canon 40mm f/1.7
|6 elements in 4 groups, spectra coated in amber, purple and magenta
|f1.7 - f16
|B, 1/4 - 1/500.
|Viewfinder combined with rangefinder, bright frame with automatic parallax correction and aperture scale, 0.6x magnification
|2.6ft - ∞
|Manual & Auto, shutter priority
|Built-in CdS cell
|25 - 800
|Single full stroke or multiple short strokes
|120 x 75 x 60mm
|620g / 1.6lb