I’ve been feeling like my learning curve for photography has started to plateau again. And, somehow, I decided that going backwards and shooting some film and vintage cameras might make things roll again. So I decided to add a Canonet QL17 mark iii to my camera bag, and head out and shoot a roll of film.
It was my first time shooting film photography in over 20 years. And though I’m not sure if I learned a lot, or if I was just reminded how much easier we have it now with digital photography, I had a lot of fun.
This post, then, is about going retro with my camera and testing the Canonet QL17 mark iii some 44 years after it was released.
Donate a Camera
Before I get into this post, I want to point out that you can learn how to donate or lend a camera to my vintage camera series on my YouTube channel.
Quick Facts About the Canonet QL17 III
- It’s a fixed focal length rangefinder camera
- It sports a 40mm f/1.7 lens – which is where the 17 comes from in QL17
- It was released in 1972
- When it was released it cost $92 which is inflation corrected to about $400 today.
- Max Shutter Speed of 1/500sec
- Includes a bulb mode (although mine didn’t work)
- Syncs with a flash at any of it’s shutter speeds.
- Has an auto exposure mode which works as a shutter priority mode.
The Light Meter App I Used
I nearly bought a light meter off of Amazon for this video. Then, I realized that I could just use my Canon R to get an exposure meter. Then, I remembered that there are apps for everything and found a cool app that uses your phone’s camera to figure out your exposure.
This is a google play app for the android version of what I used. It’s just called “Light Meter”. I’m sure there’s an iPhone version too.
If you haven’t seen it yet, this is the video of my attempt with the camera. I think the video came out kind of cool, and I’ll definitely be doing a couple more like this in the future. I like the idea of the retro-tech videos, and I had a lot of fun messing around with the QL17 iii. I’d love to get my hands on a twin reflex camera or something like that.
The Images from The Video
I shared about 5 images from the QL17iii in mz video, I wanted to share them below. Obviously, they’re not edited. They’re scans from the films that were printed in Las Vegas.
FYI, I used Photo Shack in Las Vegas for the printing. They do awesome work. I highly recommend them.
The Images from Southern California and Arizona
Before I started this video, I actually shot a roll of film because I wanted to make sure the camera was working. The plan was to get them printed in San Diego or San Francisco before I did this video, just to make sure it was working properly.
But, I didn’t have time to get that roll print. Instead, I essentially filmed this video on the fly with no safety net for failure. I had no idea if I got a single keeper. Amazingly, nearly every photo I took was sharp and exposed right. These are 5 images from that first batch.
Thoughts on Shooting Film for the First Time in 23 Years
- We take editing for granted. I really needed to lock in on images that would look good straight out of the camera. Some images really pop with an edit. You can’t shoot those on film.
- I suck at getting a straight horizon. I must have one leg longer than the other.
- There’s a lot of value in shooting film today from a learning experience. With no ability to edit, or re-shoot, I really had to lock in on my compositions to make sure they were right. That doesn’t mean that they were right in the end, but I had to do it.
- It’s fun.
- It’s liberating not constantly chimping the LCD to see how the image camer out. You kind of live in naive bliss that everything is OK until you expose them.
- It’s scary. I can’t imagine taking a dozen rolls of film on assignment and not knowing if they’re going to come out until you get home. I’d cry if they didn’t.
Next Vintage Camera?
I do have the next vintage camera ready to go. I had thoughts about filming it in Iceland, but I forgot my roll of ISO50 film in the car in the US. So instead I think I’ll do it in Berlin. It seems like the right sort of city to make that happen.
And, again, if you want to contribute a camera to the cause. Head over to my Facebook page and see how you can do that!