Canon Canonet 28 (with Canolite D)

Everybody who collects rangefinder cameras knows Canon’s Canonet line. Canon made 14 different models of Canonet from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, and sold millions and millions of them. When I wanted to add a Canonet to my colleciton, I was most attracted to the original 1961 Canonet with its “electric eye” (selenium) light meter all around the lens, and the the highly regarded “poor-man’s Leica” 1971-1982 Canonet QL17 G-III. But I ended up buying a Canon Canonet 28, certainly among the least-loved in the series.

Canonet 28

There’s nothing wrong with the Canonet 28. It’s just that, at the time I was shopping for my first used Canonet, a working top-of-the-line QL17 GIII could be had for under $50. Canonet 28s routinely sold for under $20. But the QL17 G-III’s features are so much better that the 28 just isn’t as interesting for that cost difference.

Canonet 28

Why, then, did I buy this 28? Because it came with a working Canolite D flash, which syncs with several Canonets including the QL17 G-III I still planned to buy. I’d been watching them sell for $10-20 by themselves, so it was hard to pass this one up when it came with this Canonet 28 for $12.

Canonet 28 with Canolite D

The Canonet 28 was made from 1971 to 1976. You’ll see it called the “new” Canonet 28, because Canon made a different camera with the same name in the 1960s. It’s 40mm f/2.8 lens has five elements in four groups – not as fast or as fine as the QL17 G-III’s glass, but still many steps up from most other cameras aimed at the casual photographer. Its quiet leaf shutter is tied to shutter-priority autoexposure; it meters light through a cadmium sulphide (CdS) meter on the lens barrel. It’s powered by a dreaded, banned 625 mercury cell. A 625 zinc-air Wein cell offers the same voltage, but they’re pricey and don’t last long. I tend to use alkaline 625 cells — the voltage is slightly different, but most negative films have enough latitude to cover it. Without the battery, setting manual exposure is limited. You can set aperture, but the camera fixes the shutter speed at about 1/60 second, limiting its usefulness.

If you like rangefinder cameras, also see my reviews of the Canon Canonet QL17 G-III (here), the Olympus XA (here), the Konica Auto S2 (here), the Yashica Lynx 14e (here), the Yashica Electro 35 GSN (here), the Yashica MG-1 (here), and the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

My Canonet 28 suffers from a common Canonet affliction: badly deteriorated light seals. The camera works right mechanically, though. I didn’t have a 625 battery handy, but with my usual why-wait attitude I dropped a couple AA batteries in the Canolite, loaded a roll of Fujicolor 200 into the Canonet, set the aperture at f/8, and went around the house snapping shots hoping for the best. I was very surprised that all my photos turned out, with no sign of light leaks. Here’s my son at the computer, playing a game.


This is my bedroom. I haven’t bought curtains yet because I keep spending home-decorating money on vintage cameras!


I know these photos aren’t all that exciting — I just shot stuff around the house to blow through the roll quickly.


Meet my dog. The Canolite lit close subjects too brightly. I reduced exposure and toned down bright highlights in Photoshop.


The Canonet handled well. The controls all fell right to hand, and all felt reasonably solid under use. This isn’t a luxury camera but it’s also obviously not a cheapie.


Here’s my other son, with his turn at the computer. The flash really is better suited to subjects at medium distances and beyond.


To see more from this camera, check out my Canon Canonet 28 gallery.

While I’m pleased that these photos turned out, I’m not in love with the Canon Canonet 28. It is competent enough, but nothing about it felt special. I may try dropping a battery in it one day to see how it does using autoexposure, but I expect it to sit on my shelf for quite some time first.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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14 responses to “Canon Canonet 28 (with Canolite D)”

  1. David Avatar

    And compared to curtains, a wise use of funds! You have blinds anyway.

    1. Jim Avatar

      The great thing, I guess, about being single is that if I don’t get around to decorating the house, nobody really cares!

  2. Mike Roe Avatar

    I’d rather have a vintage camera over curtains any day. Now, vintage camera vs. vintage curtains? Hmmm…

    1. Jim Avatar

      If you have both, think of the great photo ops!

  3. Lone Primate Avatar

    It’s a strange thing indeed for me to see “Canon” on something that uses film. :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Long and rich history, my friend! Check it out:

    2. Jim Avatar

      PS: And next Monday, even more Canon film strangeness is in store. Stay tuned!

  4. pamela nwuruku Avatar
    pamela nwuruku

    hey, im kinda new to camera, esp vintage ones, so am wondering is this canonet 28 series a film camera, do u think i could get a modern version like with the usb cord and memory card so i could just transfer the pictures cos i dont really know this whole film thingie, very confusing.
    am sure, i sound very naive. :(

    1. Jim Avatar

      Pamela, unfortunately vintage cameras are film only. You can still easily buy 35mm film for the Canonet 28. You can also find manuals online for many old cameras that will explain how to load the film and take photographs.

      Or you can just buy a digital camera!

  5. sherman Avatar

    im wondering if i can use a Canon/CANOLITE D on my 20D?

    1. Jim Avatar

      I don’t know!

  6. Tina Avatar

    Hi, Jim
    I have an older Canonet QL17 that I’ve recently found. Haven’t bought film for it, but wondering if it’s only going to be good for parts. The shutter doesn’t open and close when I test it, but the battery indicator test shows that the battery is good. Does this camera “know” there isn’t film? Thanks!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Stuck shutters happen. You might search for “Canonet QL17 stuck shutter” and see if anybody has any advice on simple repairs. Sometimes it’s just a matter of using a little (very little) lighter fluid on the shutter blades to unstick them.

  7. […] writes a blog that I follow that covers film photography and he has a post specifically about my camera. Jim’s blog also had some suggestions about film and batteries and generally was a good […]

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