Canon Canonet


click for sample



The camera that launched a thousand ships, or at least caused a rush on Canon Company stock at the time of its release. The original Canonet, here as imported through their American distributor at the time, Bell & Howell, was Canon’s first foray into the mid-class consumer market with some impressive features: a very fast 1.9 lens, EE shutter-priority autoexposure or full manual operation, and a price tag consumers could sink their teeth into.*

If you only know the “New” Canonets like the rightfully famous QL17 GIII, you’ll be surprised at the size of the original series which is more akin to the size of an SLR. This model eventually gained a CdS meter and the Quick-Load system to become the QL19. I think the film loading here is perfectly fine as is, it’s easier than many other cameras I’ve used. Slip in the leader and go.

*18,000 yen, which according to a helpful reader was about fifty 1961 dollars, low enough that it actually angered other camera companies! (Thanks Tom!)

This little goodie was a donation from a longtime site supporter James Boykin, who’s concentrating on medium format these days. (Thanks James!)


Took off the top (three small screws) to clean the rangefinder glass and put a dab of grease on the post the shutter button sits on, which was occasionally sticking. And replaced the door mating groove light seals with some black cotton string. The other seals were black felt and still nicely intact. Cleaned the lens glass. Other than those minor things, it’s in good shape.

Tips & Tricks

To open the back you have to simultaneously press a lever and a button underneath the camera, which is also where you’ll find the rewind knob AND the collapsing wind lever. This is the same style wind lever you’ll find on some old Ricoh rangefinders like the 500, Five-one-nine, and Ricohmatic. It’s actually a delight to use, you get to use one hand for winding and another for shooting, you can actually shoot much more quickly that way.

Canonet bottom

Other things: the meter range is limited by the short ASA range of 10-200. The A setting is for shutter priority Autoexposure and the shutter will lock if there is insufficient light when in automatic mode. Otherwise the camera can be used in full manual mode. (However, the meter readout only shows the recommended aperture in automatic mode.) There’s also a T setting ring around the shutter release, not much in demand any more. You have a B setting already anyway.

Related Links