I didn’t intend to buy another camera. Yet, in a way, this camera found me, like a wand to the witch in certain famous fantasy novels by a certain famous fantasy author.
The camera is the Canon L3. An underrated rangefinder with no light meter and possibly the best shutter sound in existence. The story of how this camera found me actually begins with a different camera, a FED 2 rangefinder, another underrated mechanical wonder. This time, instead of Japanese design (Canon), it was from the former Soviet Union.
I had heard about the FED series after browsing the internet for the best and cheapest film cameras. West Yorkshire cameras had one in stock and for an attractive price. So the FED 2 became mine. After shooting with it and realizing just how good the results could be, I started to think about expanding the lens collection for it.
That’s when I became aware of the Jupiter lens series. A fantastic series made yet again in the former Soviet Union. Lenses that would fit my new FED 2, or so I thought.
See, wide angle street photography is one of my favorite ways to photograph, so of course, I opted to look for a Jupter 12. This is a 35mm f2.8 lens and it is hard to find copies in the UK as I discovered. The local camera shop in Cardiff didn’t have one and they carry a large amount of used film gear! Ebay was next, but there were only three copies, two of which didn’t seem in very good condition. So, I paid a bit more than I was expecting, but still affordable, for the Jupiter 12 in pristine condition.
A few days later, I found myself staring at the black paint that I had accidently scratched off from the rear element of the lens, trying to fit it onto the FED 2. What happened? I had assumed that the Jupiter 12 would fit the FED 2, but I learned very painfully that it only fits certain versions of the FED series. Not the one I had!
So I had the decision to make, return the damaged item to the seller with a large amount taken off to account for what I had done or find a new camera that the lens would fit. You can safely assume from the title of this article that I opted for the latter.
A few hours later of online research and the L-mount rangefinder series popped up as a suitable alternative. Searching on EBAY, I instantly came upon the L3. The photos were in bad light and the camera looked worn around the edges and not in the best condition, but it was cheap! And that’s what I needed as I couldn’t part with any more large sums for my already very expensive hobby. So the Canon L3 became mine. And when it arrived, it wasn’t in a bad condition, it was beautiful. Better yet, it was clean and it worked!! An EBAY Christmas. Moreso, the Jupiter 12 fit perfectly.
The first roll was impressive, the next even more, until I started to feel the rest of my camera collection growing with envy (and dust) as I paraded around the streets of London and Cardiff with my new find. My FED 2 was positively glowing green on the inside.
I learned to shoot with Sunny 16 and zone focus with this camera & lens combination. For each shot, I would pre-focus and estimate the distance, then pray. Most of the time this turned out alright as I was shooting higher than F5.6 with a shutter speed faster than 1/60 (usually 1/125). For the shutter and aperture settings, I used the Light Meter app (Android) to check often, and then use judgment to make slight adjustments if the weather changed. I’m still surprised by how forgiving color negative film can be if the exposure is not “spot on”.
These 5 frames were from a roll shot on a cloudy photowalk in London along the Thames, all the way from Chelsea through Battersea Park and across to Big Ben. Shanghai Light 400 color (24-27 frames) was my choice of film. And what a film!
The film was made by a camera brand in China but went into bankruptcy upon the dawn of digital. It was revived recently and brought back to market. I couldn’t find much more than that on this film, except for one Youtube video of the creator shooting with it. That being said, the film has become one of my favorites. I ordered a 10-pack brick of it from a site that looked a bit dodgy, but hey it was the cheapest color film at the time that I could find. Kodak driving me to dark places! It was actually fine and the film is great. I would definitely restock once my supply runs out.
It’s a 400 speed film which is perfect for cloudy days in the UK. The frame count is also less, which is why it is likely cheaper, but I actually prefer less frames. 24-27 is the sweet spot for me. The more I shoot film, the more I get used to shooting less and thinking more so the harder it becomes to finish a roll of 36 exposures. How that feels like a luxury of shots!
So there you have it. Each time I use the Canon L3 on the street now, I still think about how often the best things in life come to us through an unexpected and sometimes frustrating journey.
Thank you for taking the time to read the article! You can find me often at my blog or instagram or even my Youtube channel now.
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12 thoughts on “5 frames with the Canon L3, Jupiter 12 lens, and Shanghai Light 400 in London”
The Canon L1-3 cameras are uniformly excellent. Compact , quiet and a wonderful rotating prism finder. The P and the 7 get the attention but for me the L series or the closely related VL series are the sweet spot in the Canon rangefinder line up. Lovely review and images.
Hey Arian! Yes, the P and 7 are also excellent and the Ls seem to be lesser talked about, but all quite similar and really wonderful to work with. Thanks for reading and commenting!
Dear Molly K,
Your article is exactly the type I love to read on 35mmc!
You’ve found a style of photography that you enjoy, and you make it work with minimal equipment.
The gear you work with would be passed over by other photographers, either by snobbery or lack of knowledge (I’m in this camp.) Yet, you’re producing 1st rate images and loving what you do. It shows in your work.
You remind me of my late brother; he loved to fly fish, but he used old, obscure poles that he found in flea markets or tag sales. It was the love of the sport, of being on a stream that mattered, not the best or most expensive equipment. Keep shooting away!
Thanks Dan! Yay! It does feel quite satisfying to do something with older less newer, and sometimes these days the newer equipement is not built as well as before. That’s really lovely about you late brother, and I’m sorry for your loss, but it is a beautiful thing to remember about him. Thank you for sharing, reading, and your awesome comment!
You are lucky that your Jupiter 12 fits your L3. I have the same combination and the lens won’t fit without rubbing. The L3 is a real gem. The mirror for the rangefinder has a real gold surface which is which it looks good. Mechanically the L3 is the same as the L2 , L1, and VT. It is just missing a couple of features. It was design as a home market (Japan only) camera. If you have a chance to try the parallax correcting viewfinders on it jump at it. They are amazing and work brilliantly.
You are getting very nice, sharp results. Thanks for sharing.
Ah interesting! Yeah, it is a total gem and I’ve realized there aren’t so many around, especially in the UK. Thanks for the tip on the parallax viewfinders! Thanks for reading and the nice comment 🙂
“how this camera found me”. I tend to have a bit of that problem, too. Regardless, your Jupiter lens looks good. Well done. Maybe I need to find one that “finds me.” Have fun!
haha it’s somehow more justifiable that way! 🙂 Thank you!
Nice camera & nice photos!
You seem to have lucked out with the Canon. Further research will have no doubt revealed to you that earlier copies of the Jupiter 12 also tend not to fit properly on the Canon LTM rangefinders. These would be the silver versions of the lens. There tends to be some interference with the older Jupiter 12 and the upper light baffle of these Canon rangefinders. Later copies of the lens, from the 1970’s and 1980s, which are all black (like the one you bought) tend to fit Canon rangefinders without issue. Research, research, research.
I envy your Canon rangefinder but I was especially interested in your Shanghai Light 400 film which seems to have interesting colours. So I straight away did a search for it on Aliexpress and found mainly Kodak 200 film at a higher price than I can buy it in New Zealand. But there were some other mysterious unbranded colour films available. They are 18 exposures, which is conveniently half of a 36 exposure.
I wonder if these were obtained from 36 exposure film chopped in half and reloaded for more profit.
What I would be interested in is the edge markings printed on your Shanghai Light film and whether it turns out to be Kodak or Fuji or something else.
Nice photos, nice camera.