I'd been toying with the idea of getting a rangefinder for a long time. You
hear the rants on rec.photo.* all the time from Leica owners, "only a rangefinder
can be used for yadda-yadda-yadda" with words like "quiet" and "quick focusing",
"unobtrusive", thrown in there. So, I sort of wanted a rangefinder, but I
didn't want to shell out $1,200 for a Leica to find out how fast focusing
and quiet a rangefinder was. I thrust it into the back of my head, toyed
with the idea of getting a Fed or a Zorki, but was turned off by their ugly
apperance and rediculous knob winding. I figured maybe I'd invest in
one of the new T81's when they came out, but the dates keep getting bumped
back, so I back burnered it again. Then while at a gallery opening, I saw
someone running around with this nifty little Canon QL-III rangefinder --
it was so small! I talked to him for a bit and he let me play with it. Definately
way-cool. I went out looking for one, found a bunch on-line but the going
rate seemed to be about sixty bucks, -- still more than I wanted to spend
to find out if rangefinders were quiet or quick focusing.
Over the years, I've developed the power to control what cameras my local junk shoppe will sell just by wishing hard enough that I'll find one there ... crazy, it worked for a pair of Diana's and a darkroom thermomiter. I've not tried to make any Leica's appear, though I once did make a Nikon N2000 appear for $40. (I've discovered that I can also use these weird psionic powers to make the Discovery Channel show programs about submarines, but that's another story....) About two weeks after I saw the QL17 at the gallery, bang, one appears in Ye Local Junk Shoppe for $20 in pristine condition.
Origionaly sold in 1965 the QL stands for "Quick Loading" -- you don't have to wind the film around the take up spool, it's very similar to today's "drop and load" cameras. You put the film in, close the back and wind away.
My first impression is just how small it is. Much smaller than an SLR, even my Nikkormat. A lot of this compactness is the low profile lens -- which becomes something of a detriment. The rings, focusing, apature and shutter speed are all so close together that moving one sometimes means moving all three. I'd also really like it if the shutter speed dial wasn't on the lens, but rather on the body.
|Very small (fits in my coat pocket)||No interchangeable lenses|
|Extremely quiet||Rings on lens are too close together|
|Quick loading||Shutter speed dial on lens rather than camera body|
|Shutter priority auto exposure||Probably will not take much of beating|
|40mm lens very useful focal length|
The Quick Load really works, it's not a gimmik and I wonder why no one really followed it when it came out ... only recently now do you see mainstream cameras with any type of drop and load, though we know the technology has been available and reliable for over thirty years now.... You just pull the film leader out, streach it across the back and close the rear cover. as you're closing, a foot comes down and holds the film in place while the door closes. Very suave.
Let's do a little comparison between this Canon and today's top of the line
(20 years newer) flagship Leica rangefinder. If you want, you may feel free
to flame me for this. If you
make a good point, I'll be happy to include it.
Canon QL 17
|Film loading||Open back quick loading||Two part, removeable base plate "can you hold this for a second? let me fiddle with the back now," significantly slower loading.|
|Weight/ Dimensions||Height 75 mm, Length 120 mm, Depth 60 mm, Weight 620 Grams (including lens)||Height 79.5 mm , Length 138 mm , Depth 38 mm), Weight 580 g (without lens)|
|Shutter Speed||1/4 sec - 1/500 + bulb||1 sec - 1/1000 + bulb|
|Lenses||Reasonably sharp 6 element 4 group 40mm f/1.7 fixed lens.||Legendary optics. Wide range of oustanding quality interchangeable lenses, also inexpensive 3rd party Russian optics some of which are extremely high quality.|
|Flash Sync||leaf shutter syncs at all speeds to 500||~1/45 sec|
|Auto exposure modes||Shutter priority||None|
|Flash||on camera hot-shoe or PC sync, no TTL though does have GN flash metering.||Hot shoe or PC sync. TTL on newer flagship models|
|Durability||Questionable, certianly wouldn't take a serious pounding. If it breaks though, throw it away, get another.||Legendary durability, can't be crushed by a tank.|
|Price||~$80 used with never-ready case.||~$1,790, used w/ 35mm f 2.8 lens.|
New York City with Famed Spanish Fashion Photographer Bernardo and Supermodel Agneshka.
I used a small manual flash that came with my Minolta X-370. The QL-17's leaf shutter allows you to sync the flash at any speed. This shot was 1/500 second at f/16 on Ilford HP5. Since the flash doesn't have any settings on it, the image was quite overexposed. There is whopping big grain. Someday I will be fameous enough to only have one name.
Philadelphia Mayoral hopefull Happy Fernandez greet supporters at her election night party. May, 1999. A reporter from the Tribune said to me, "Hey! is that one of those Canon QL's? I really want one of those!" He was using an F4s. This photo on Ilford HP5.
I was thinking for a while of doing a project called "on my way to work" -- sort of along the lines of across betwen Theodore Gessell's And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street and Ruth Orkin's Out of My Window. With the idea that I'd try and make 50 or 60 interesting images on my 10 block walk to work. The QL-17 is small enough that I can carry it back and forth to work with me every day. I don't know if this was a bad exposure or a bad print, but you can see the sky sort of fade away. I might try using a red filter next time. I wonder if this is revealing an inherrent flaw in the lens.... Exposure was 1/500th second at f/16 on Ilford Delta 400. Developed (I mention this because it's odd) in D:76 2:3 for 14 minutes at 68'.
After All These Years
Joe and I have known each other for a dozen years, since we were kids. In the summer of 1999 he threw a party and a bunch of old friends got together. We'd all gotten married, cut our hair, gained weight, and there were a bunch of five year olds running around. It's a scary thing. Exposure was 1/500th sec at f/16 on Ilford Delta 400. Developed 1:4 in Kodak tmax. Flash was some Chineese cheapo hot-shoe midi slave I got from Freestyle.
Jenn Blakeley on the steps of College Hall the week after she won her Grammy.
Value of My Life
Last winter these signs started popping up all over my neighborhood -- some technological paranoia. They said "the value of your life is a number on a computer" on some of the signs and others said "and that number is 2000" on others. Freaky.
For odd reasons, one of my favorite photographers is Lee Friedlander. I like him because he takes a lot of pictures of his wife, and I like a guy who likes his wife -- Friedlander has taken pictures of his wife for years (Nobuyoshi Araki took a lot of pictures of his wife too, but that guy's a different case). I also like his creative self portraits. If I didn't think that I was Lee Friedlander every once in a while, this shot wouldn't exist. If I was Lee Friedlander every once in a while, this shot would be better. Exposure suggested by the meter, 1/500 sec at f/8 on Ilford Delta 400.