For years, I’ve been searching for a fast, easy to carry, inconspicuous film camera to take with me wherever I go. I’ve gone through a number of the usual suspects, including the Lomo LC-A, Olympus XA, Voigtlander Bessa R, and the Canonet QL17 GIII, as well as a few medium-format folders. Each had something worth recommending it, but all had small annoyances that made me question my choice, and over time I’ve disposed of most of them in one way or another.
What makes a camera treasured? Often, it was owned by a family member. Or it may simply become an invaluable part of a photographer’s arsenal. This beautiful, tank-like, Canon VI-T rangefinder was neither. In fact I almost sold it for parts on “the ‘Bay.” But quickly decided not to.
A Flawed Beauty
I paid just $5 for it at a garage sale around 30 years ago. It looked beautiful, and the left-handed Trigger Winder in its base plate (extended in the photo) still seemed to work
In a way, this Canonet review has been 43 years in preparation. I was a teenager when I got into photography. I used to borrow my father’s various rangefinder cameras: fixed lens cameras with f/2.8 lenses. One was a Super Frankarette, another was a Konica C35. The Super Frankarette is a heavy German Camera, with a selenium cell meter and manual shutter speeds and apertures. The Konica is a small compact automatic with programmed exposure.
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.
Analogue photography is one giant and almost never-ending rabbit hole. You start somewhere, are inspired (or made jealous) by someone else’s gear. You end up scouring online web stores week after week, reading multiple conflicting reviews until you eventually just hit the “buy now” button.
That was my journey with interchangeable rangefinders; my first was a Fed 5b around the middle of 2017 which was quickly replaced by the slightly better built Zorki 4k. I then jumped ship when I got lucky during “garage sale” find with a Contax IIIa but the lens options were pretty limited, and the squinty viewfinder wasn’t very user friendly.