Canon Canonet QL25

A Budget Rangefinder Review

6 min read by, with images by
Canon Canonet QL25 is a fixed 45mm f/2.5 lens 35mm rangefinder. Launched in 1965, Japan.

Canon Canonet QL17 GIII is a popular rangefinder film camera, known for its quality glass and great overall performance. But what about its older, cheaper sibling, Canon Canonet QL25?

I shot this dynamic photo with Canonet QL25 at night with minimal lighting at the venue — a tricky situation for even the best film cameras. Despite its relatively slow 𝑓2.5 lens, it was made possible with Ilford PAN 400 pushed to 1600 ISO.

Released just four years after Canon’s inaugural Canonet model, QL25 features a decent 𝑓2.5 45mm lens with a close focus of one metre, a shutter that fires as slow as 1/15s and as fast as 1/500s — triggered by battery-powered shutter-priority mechanism or mechanically in full-manual mode. Designed to take 1.3v mercury batteries, this camera may need some modifications to work with the modern 1.5v cells. Its rangefinder window is reasonably bright and, for the most part, easy to use with the glasses.

Canon Camera Museum lists it as “The lowest-priced Canonet QL camera yet,” with the only changes relative to its front-running QL-series being limited slow shutter speeds, a slightly slower lens, and a minor change to its flash sync system. “Other specs were identical to the QL17 and 19’s.”

In my case, this camera came by as cheap as it possibly can: as a gift from a family friend. But even if you are looking to spend your hard-earned money on a decent Canon rangefinder with a fixed lens, QL25 won’t break the bank: it still goes for under $100 on eBay in 2021.

Build quality.

Canonet QL25 top plate and lens barrel. Not a bad-looking camera!

Canon Canonet series is meant as introductory cameras for those who had a tighter budget yet still wanted a decent camera. Nevertheless, this Canonet does not feel cheap; it’s a step down from the Leicas and the Vitessas, of course, but it’s no Diana. While the camera features some plastic components in the lens assembly around the glass and a couple of small pieces on the top plate, it’s mostly metal.

Of course, the bulky 60s design and plenty of metal components make this camera feel rather hefty in hand. Weighing a solid 760 gram, this camera is heavier than the Soviet FED-5 — the largest rangefinder in my collection. Still, I found that it’s built a little better than the Russian beast, with what I feel is a more refined design, tighter tolerances, and finder materials.

But my favourite QL25 element is its leather case that’s made as well as the best ever-ready accessories of the time. A well-stamped, well-stitched hide with an integrated metal logo.

Just like all other ever-ready cases, it’s a little odd to use, with the top piece flapping in the wind as you expose your camera to take a shot. But it still looks really nice closed.

Canonet QL25 in use.

QL25 is easy to load and easy to use. As QL — quick-loading — implies, this camera requires no fancy film catch technique to get the 35mm film in. Just pop in the canister and stretch the leader across to the left.

Focusing is also easy. The short-throw tab at the bottom of the lens makes switching from infinity to up-close very quick with enough fine control to get the details right when shooting wide-open. The rangefinder patch on my copy seemed reasonable.

Winding film and the shutter button are also straightforward. Nothing fancy, nothing overly complex.

I’ve decided to ignore the battery modifications on my camera and opted-in to using it in manual mode with a light meter app on my iPhone — I used Lumu, but you can have your own pick. This has decidedly given me more creative freedom though it took a little longer to compose each shot. With the camera this big though, nothing’s quite fast.

Despite its size and weight, the camera’s leaf shutter is very quiet — suitable for candid shots.

The lens’ relatively simple construction also made taking it apart and cleaning quite simple. With the right tools and technique, it may take just over ten minutes to clear all the elements of dust and fungus residue. Adjusting the rangefinder patch was as simple as turning the tiny screw at the back of the camera.

Ql25 image/lens quality.

I’d say it’s impressive. Particularly if you take into account how much these cameras go for these days. Plenty of soft, pleasing bokeh at 𝑓2.5 and a decent amount of detail at 𝒇5.6-8. The lens does show some light aberration in highlights and doesn’t pick up as much as, say, TC-1 would — but it costs just a fraction of the legendary Minolta.

Overall, it’s very good.

Canon Canonet QL25 with Kodak Ektar 100.
Canon Canonet QL25 with Kodak UltraMax 400.
Canon Canonet QL25 with Fuji Color 200.
Canon Canonet QL25 with Fuji Color 200.
Canon Canonet QL25 with Fuji Color Industrial 100.
Canon Canonet QL25 with Fuji Color Industrial 100.

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