Canon Canonet GIII QL17

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Classic Fixed Lens Rangefinders:

Canon Canonet GIII QL17

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Canon Canonet GIII QL 17 has an impossibly long name but is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered 35mm camera with fully shutter-priority automatic exposure as well as full manual shooting. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

The GIII was released in 1972 by Canon. The Canon Museum notes that its original retail price was ¥29,000. The yen was fixed at ¥308 to US$1 at the time so the dollar price was about $94 for the camera. According to the AIER, $94 in 1972 is worth approximately $412 in current 2003 dollars. The camera was made for about ten years until 1982 and according to Canon, over 1.2 million were produced.

Canon also produced a simplified f/2.8 lower-end model, the Canonet 28 which is also featured on this site. They also made a slightly smaller aperture GIII QL19 which is identical to the GIII but with an f/1.9 lens.

The Canonet came to fame with the movie Pecker. It's been called the Poor Woman's Leica (or Poor Man's Leica if you're a chauvinist). It's small, light, reliable, quiet, the lens is fairly bright and contrasty, and it costs about 1/100 of a Leica M series.





Interesting quirks

The Canon shutter ranges from 1/4 to 1/500 sec. It's not TTL metering as the CdS cell is located right above the taking lens, but it still does a great job.Since the CdS cell is on the lens mount itself, a handy feature is that if you forget to leave the lens cap on (a common mistake with rangefinders as the viewscreen doesn't go black as with SLRs), the meter will tell you you can't take a picture. And you can use filters (such as polarizing filters, or red/green filters for B&W work) without having to dial in a filter compensation.

Unlike the lower-end Canonet 28, the GIII has full parallax compensation. The gridlines move as you focus in and out. Using the text or images on this website without permission on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

Although it uses the much hated PX625 mercury battery that is no longer available in the U.S., the camera is fairly resistant to higher voltages as long as you're using print film. The exposure will be slightly off, but this usually isn't a problem. This means you can use a standard alkaline PX625A battery which you can buy at most larger drugstores or a LR/SR44 battery with liberal amounts of tin foil.

The Canonlite flash that came with it can be coupled with the metering system through an extra pin on the hotshoe. This allows for full "plug-and-play" nighttime shots.

If there's one major complaint, it's that the camera only supports a maximum film ASA speed of 800. This rules out most of the neat ISO 1600 and 3200 films that are now out there. Phooey!









Technical Details

Camera Name
Canonet GIII QL 17  
Canon, Inc.
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture
1972 ~ 1982
Focusing System

Coupled rangefinder with parallax compensation
0.6x magnification

Lens use helicoid focusing


40mm, f/1.7, Canon lens (6 elements in 4 groups)

Minimum focusing distance = 0.8 meters (~3 feet)

Right focusing (infinity on right side)
Filter Thread: 48mm


Copal shutter 1/4 - 1/500

X-flash sync at all speeds

Metering System

CdS cell mounted above lens on lensmount
Shutter priority and full manual exposure.

Needle in viewfinder gives current aperture

EV x- xx(at ISO 100)


f/1.7 ~ f/16 manual


External hot-shoe
PC Connector

Hotshoe has extra pin for dedicated Canolite D flash

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 25 to 800

Battery type
1.35v PX625 mercury-silver (PX625A alkaline OK)
Dimensions and weight
120 x 75 x 60 mm, 620 g
Retail price
¥29,000 (~US$94) in 1972
Note: Using the text, tables, or images on this site in an ebay auction without permission is a violation of your ebay Terms of Service. I will report you to ebay if I discover such a violation taking place. This may result in your account being cancelled. I also reserve the right to file claim for civil penalties.



About Canon

Canon started out its life as Seiki Kohgaku Kenkyuujo (Precision Optical Research Company). Its first goal was to produce domestic inexpensive Leica clones, and it released the Kwanon, its first camera in 1934. Interestingly, they used Nikon lenses since Nikon was already established as an optical lens manufacturer and was not making any of its own camera bodies at that time. Canon soon gained the ability to make their own lenses and never looked back. Nikon also went on to produce some reasonably popular cameras of its own as well.

The name 'Canon' comes from the Buddhist deity Kwanon and early Canon cameras were actually spelled 'Kwanon' and the lenses were named 'Kyasapa' after another deity.

Side note: Canon is my favorite Japanese company along with Honda. I actually interned for Canon Japan (ok, Canon Sales Japan, a part of the Canon keiretsu) during a summer in college and loved my coworkers to death. They keep coming out with innovations that take your breath away.


On the Net


Cult of the QL17:

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