While on vacation in China and Hong Kong this past month, I realized that my poor condition Leica M2 had a malfunctioning shutter – speeds above 1/250 were entirely unusable, and there was a tiny hole in the curtain. Luckily, I was in Hong Kong, which has an abundance of film camera shops. I picked up a Canonet QL17 G-III, a camera I’ve heard wonderful things about but have never got to try.
Compared to the Leica, the QL17 was feather-light and much nicer to carry for hours and hours of sightseeing. Firing the shutter was significantly less satisfying – it has little resistance and makes a quiet, muddled click. Otherwise, the camera is a joy to use and generally feels quite reliable. I was used to shooting completely manually, so the option of a shutter-priority shooting mode and a built in light meter were welcome additions, especially in Hong Kong’s shifting lighting conditions. The meter requires a PX625 1.3v mercury battery, now replaceable with an MRB625 1.35V zinc-air battery or some other more fiddly solutions.
I used the camera in a variety of conditions. It remained slung around my neck on a sunrise hike to Lion Rock at 4:30am, on a 50km bike ride from Shatin to Tai Mei Tuk, through the neon painted streets of Mongkok at night, to the seaside rocks at Hok Tsui, and inside the wet markets of Sai Kung. It never once failed me, never once got in the way of a shot.
I purchased the camera initially as a temporary replacement to my beloved Leica, but I’ve fallen in love with it in the process. It’s a reliable rangefinder with a killer lens, the very best kind of travel companion.
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