Everybody who collects rangefinder cameras knows Canon’s Canonet line. Canon made something like 14 different models of Canonet from the early 1960s to the early 1980s, and sold millions and millions of them. I’ve wanted Canonets for my collection for a long time. 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 Canonet 28, certainly among the least-loved in the series.
It’s not that the Canonet 28 is a poor camera. It’s just that on the used market, a working top-of-the-line QL17 GIII can be had for under $50. I routinely see Canonet 28s go for well 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.
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.
The Canonet 28 was made from 1971 to 1976. (Many call it 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. Unfortunately, it uses a banned mercury PX625 battery, although size 625 Wein cell (zinc-air) batteries should work well enough. Without the battery, setting manual exposure is limited. You can set aperture, but the camera fixes the shutter speed (at about 1/60 second, so I’ve read), limiting its usefulness.
My Canonet 28 arrived in good cosmetic shape, although only a thin sticky goo remained where the light seals had been. The camera seemed to work right mechanically, though, as best as I could tell without a 625 battery to test the autoexposure system. So 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. If I had thought I’d get decent results, I would have chosen subjects more interesting than the futon in my family room!
This is my bedroom. I haven’t bought curtains yet; I keep spending home-decorating money on vintage cameras!
Three shots showed colored spotting. Unfortunately, all of those shots were of my sons, and my policy has been not to publish photos of them online. Most of the spots were a faint blue, but one photo had a big red blotch in the middle of it. Another of my bedroom photos had a funny marks on it, which turned out to be scratches on the negative. I haven’t figured out whether the camera or the photofinisher scratched the film.
While I’m pleased that these photos turned out, I’m not in love with the 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.
Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out my entire collection.