There have been at least two cameras called a Canonet 28. The first was a very basic viewfinder camera with a selenium cell. This is the second one, sometimes called the ‘New 28’. It is a rangefinder camera, launched in 1971 as a cheaper alternative to the Canonet QL17. It features a 40 mm f/2.8 lens and programmed automatic exposures. For flash, the camera can be taken off ‘A’ and set to a particular aperture. When it is out of Auto mode the shutter will fire at 1/30 second.
Screws around the body of the Canonet 28 are not inset. The ring controlling auto and the aperture settings is a fairly disappointing grade of plastic. The wind on lever is the standard Canonet one of the time, which is not elegant. The shutter release is fairly heavy. This is typical for a Canonet and may be why Canon made the shutter releases wider with a plastic collar. The focusing ring (in aluminium) is ridged for grip, but does not feature a focusing tab. The satin trim that the focusing scale lines up against is a flat strip of metal, held by two exposed screws under the lens housing. ISO range is limited to 25-400. All quite unimpressive.
But – the Canonet 28 wears its faults on its trim. Look inside and you see some very well laid-out and well-built innards. This points to a rather practical little camera.
The px675 battery sits under a plastic door in the base, it is easy to change the battery without recourse to a low-denomination coin and it even features a little plastic strip to aid in hooking the old battery out. Then there is the viewfinder. It features:
- a rather neat and effective rangefinder mechanism,
- a good exposure scale showing shutter speed and aperture combinations in the viewfinder,
- quite acceptable frame lines with parallax marks and
- a clear rangefinder patch.
As I found out when doing a strip down for a previous 35mmc article, it also gives easy access to adjustments for vertical alignment of the rangefinder.
The focus throw on the Canonet 28 is short, but very effective. The rangefinder base is perfectly adequate and comparable with many contemporary rangefinder cameras with faster lenses. The Canonet 28 has an indicator on the back of the top-plate to give reassurance that the film is travelling across the gate. In addition the rear door seems to wrap around sufficiently that I wasn’t worried at all about the light seals. Film advance is nice and smooth too.
On the whole, the Canonet 28 is a very capable little camera. The flashiest thing about it is the Canon logo on the front. Everything else appears quite modest, from the satin chrome finish to the made in Taiwan plate on the back. When you look at it, you start to be quietly impressed by the build and the practicality. It even does up to 1/600 exposures, which is quite nice and high for a leaf shutter (OK, so because it is a combined shutter and aperture the shutter is only having to open up to f/16 but it is reasonably impressive all the same). It lacks a shutter lock, but given that it won’t take pictures if the exposure is below 1/30 at f/2.8, all you need to do is put a lens cap on it, or slip it in a pocket.
The thing about the Canonet 28 is that it is pocketable. It is also not precious. It is expendable, so you are more likely to carry and use it in hostile environments. You might just get shots with this camera that you wouldn’t get or wouldn’t risk otherwise.
This is never going to be the most desirable Canon camera, but it has my respect, not least for its lack of pretension. It has emphasised for me that there is a difference between quality of build and design (which this camera has in spades) and finish.
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