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 Canonet 28, certainly among the least-loved in the series.
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.
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. 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; 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 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.