Canon Canonet QL 19

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Classic Fixed Lens Rangefinders:

Canon Canonet QL 19

by Karen Nakamura

Overview and Personal Comments

The Canonet QL 19 is a coupled-rangefinder, leaf-shuttered 35mm camera with fully automatic exposure. 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 Canonet QL 19 was released in March 1965 by Canon and sports a 45mm f/1.9 Canon lens. The Canon Museum notes that its original retail price was ¥20,800 with an additional ¥1,800 for the leather case.

There was a QL 17 version released at the same time. It had a slightly larger lens, a 45mm f/1.7 and was priced ¥3000 more, or ¥23800. The f/1.7 lens was made with 6 elements in 5 groups; as compared to 5 elements in 4 groups of the f/1.9.

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. It's been found in garage sales and goodwill stores for much less than its real value.


Interesting quirks

The Electronic Eye (EE) is mounted right above the lens element. This allows for metering through filters without having to dial in a compensation value. The camera can be full-manual or shutter-speed priority automatic exposure. Inside the viewfinder, the camera will display the aperture it is setting (f/1.9 to f/16). It's a very nice finder with parallax compensation



Technical Details

Camera Name
Canonet QL 19  
Canon, Inc.
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture
Focusing System

Coupled rangefinder w/ parallax compensation
0.7x magnification

Lens use helicoid focusing


45mm, f/1.9, Canon SE lens (5 elements in 4 groups)

Minimum focusing distance = 0.8 meters (~3 feet)

Right focusing (infinity on right side)


Copal SV shutter 1 - 1/500
M & X sync
X-flash sync at all speeds

Metering System

CdS cell mounted above lens on lensmount
Shutter priority automatic exposure

Needle in viewfinder gives current aperture

EV 2.5 - 19 (at ISO 100)


f/1.9 - f/16


External hot-shoe only and front PC connection

Hotshoe has extra pin for dedicated Canolite D flash

Film type / speeds

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

ASA 25 to 400

Battery type
1.35v PX625 mercury-silver
Dimensions and weight
140 x 79 x 33 mm, 800 g
Retail price
¥20800 in 1965
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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.

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