5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Canonet QL17 G-III – By Wen Zeng

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.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/weennnz

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  • Avatar
    January 6, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Really nice photos! What film did you use?

    • Avatar
      Wen Zeng
      January 7, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      The first 4 shots were on Portra 400, and the last was on Fuji C200!

  • Avatar
    Chi Fung Leung
    January 6, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    Wonderful photos. They make me long to return to Hong Kong. Sad deal about your M2. Hope that gets resolved soon.

  • Avatar
    January 6, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    I got one of these in 2008 when I finally put down my DSLR and properly tried film. Much of me regrets not sticking with it – it’s a lovely thing, and in plenty of ways “all you need”, though you’re right about firing the shutter being less satisfying than a Leica. I love the M6 I now have, and all the other film cameras I’ve tried in the past decade, but sometimes I wonder what might’ve happened if I’d just stuck with this alone.

  • Avatar
    January 7, 2019 at 9:13 am

    Nice photos. Like the composition and colors. Same question if you dont mind to answer : which film do you use ?
    I have used this camera nearly one year in China and Taiwan with Kodak Ektachrome E 100 and was surprised by the general great rendering. It was replacing my M6s when I do not want to carry them, or do not want use M3 or one more time do not want to use M7. I have replaced it with a Minolta Hi-Matic 7Sii which has the same great rendering but more artistic. The only issue with Minolta is small viewfinder but his size is gorgeous compare to the Canon. The advantage of the Canon there is so much. I have a Konica CF 35 FD which is superior which I want to sale for 120 US $ in mint condition with leather case but I do not use his great automatic mode, i only use manual mode reason why I do not use my M7 😉

  • Avatar
    Tom Miller
    January 7, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    Excellent photos! I too would be interested in knowing what you used for the 35mm film.
    I own a QL19 (2nd Generation) and agree it is a solid performing camera. Light seals were replaced
    and I use a silver battery instead of the suggested zinc air battery. I don’t see any problems with it.
    It should make a great travel camera but for the weight, my Nikon N65 with a 28-200mm lens may take
    more trips. I think the N65 with that lens makes for a more versatile choice.

  • Avatar
    Matt Ashbrook
    January 10, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    Great images.
    I have one of these I recently had CLAd. It’s a great color film camera.
    For batteries, you can use 675 hearing aid batteries. They’re 1.4v and work fine. They only last a couple of weeks, but they maintain voltage right to the end.
    Plus, they’re widely available and cost about $7 USD for a pack of 6.

    • Avatar
      Wen Zeng
      January 11, 2019 at 6:42 am

      Good to know about the batteries! Thanks

  • Avatar
    Burger Chef
    January 14, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    If your shooting style includes shooting a lot of frames, look into the half-frame 60’s cameras. The default vertical format will give a different look than the standard “35”, which just makes it all the better. Most of the time.

    • Avatar
      Wen Zeng
      January 15, 2019 at 6:22 am

      Haha I’ll keep that in mind!

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