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Archive for October, 2017

Seven Reasons for a 7

Today I want to spend some time yakking up the Canon 7 rangefinder camera. I own two of these cameras and taking an egregious capitalism opportunity, one is for sale right now ūüėČ There are many great reasons to own and use a Canon 7 and this article will discuss at least 7 of them.

  1. Great value
  2. Reliable
  3. Versatile
  4. Well crafted
  5. Huge lens selection
  6. Easy to use
  7. Major levels of Cool factor

Great Value:

Yes these Canon 7 cameras are in fact a great value. Sure there will always be some ultra rare versions that slip out of the value equation, but in general these Canon 7 cameras can be had for less than $200 and that is definitely deep in the value range. Canon made a series of these cameras with each model gaining some refinement over the seven years of production. Yes a camera named 7 ran for 7 years. Comparatively you will be hard pressed to find a better value for M39 Leica thread mount camera. This camera has features that even the mighty Leica M3 and M2 did NOT have and a clean M3 will cost you four times as much. To find a Leica anywhere near $200 would be a common IIIc and it will be beat up. The IIIc is cumbersome to load and much slower to operate than the Leica M cameras and any of the late Canon rangefinders.

Reliable:

Although some will say the Canon P is the best of the Canon rangefinders because the V, VI, and P were supposedly built on a sturdier chassis. The 7 seems to be every bit as tough and reliable as the P and it offers the additional refinements and versatility. These cameras are all over 50 years old and they just keep working.

Versatile:

The Canon 7 really is a very versatile camera. Its direct competitor back in the day was the Leica M3. You will not get any argument from me about the greatness of the M3. However it was far from perfect and Leica’s reputation has kept the prices on M3s astronomically high. The Canon is MORE versatile. Yes, the M3 can mount modern M mount lenses such as the amazing Zeiss ZM 35/2 Biogon which I own but cannot shoot on the Canon 7 body. It does however utilize the M39 Leica thread mount which has the most lenses ever made for any rangefinder camera. There are plenty of awesome lenses available. The Leica M3 only had bright line frames for 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. This allows the Leica to have a strong and bright 0.91x viewfinder, but needs a separate accessory viewfinder for any wide-angle lenses including the very popular 35mm focal length which needed expensive and clumsy “goggles”. The Canon 7 offers 35mm, 50mm, 85/100mm, 135mm frame lines. The 7 has a huge viewfinder that allows a generous 0.80x magnification while supporting the 35mm bright line frame! No Leica with a 35mm frame line offers as much as .080x magnification except a special optional 0.85x finder for the M6 beginning in 1998.

Well crafted:

The Canon rangefinders were not quite as deliciously detailed and refined as their counterparts from Wetzlar. Nor were they particularly pretty to look at. They were however exceptionally well made. Extremely reliable and delivered precision and new technology to the field. Canon’s commitment to quality was beginning to really show by the mid-1960s while the rise of Japan as the preeminent camera manufacturing nation began¬†right around the time this camera was made.

Huge lens selection:

Yes I mentioned before that the Leica M39 screw mount is the king of lens mounts for rangefinder cameras. Quite literally then is an endless selection of lenses from just about every country that ever manufactured a lens. Of course, Canon is not alone in its ability to tap this mount. Leica M bodies such as the M3 can easily mount the lenses with a simple adapter and the focus still lines up. The Leica M39 mount is even offered on some modern lens designs from companies like Zeiss and Voightländer.

Easy to use:

Compared to the old screw mount Leicas and the Canon versions that copied them, this camera is much easier to use. Even the Leica M bodies are still a bit more cumbersome to load. I know there are people out there that don’t like the swing back, but there can be no doubt that it is the preferred system or every maker including Leica R bodies would not have adopted the design. Yes over time there can be light leaks from the old foam seals. But it’s a cheap and easy fix and only has to be done every ten to twenty YEARS! The Canon 7 has a simple easy to load design that will be familiar to anyone that has ever loaded and old SLR like a Canon AE-1 or a Nikon FE, etc. The lever wind is smooth and easy and can be multi-stroked or single stroked to advance the film.

Major levels of cool factor:

This is the deal, it is very cool to walk around town with an old range finder around your neck. Even people who are not into photography are gonna know something is up with that old camera. It looks sleek and yet classic. It has all that 1960s charisma, like Sean Connery in a ’64 DB5. It is vintage, yet so suave and sophisticated. It’s like Ricardo¬†Montalb√°n in his later years, he just got cooler with age. You see the Canon 7 wasn’t James Dean cool, no that was the Nikon F. Dean was a rebel and the SLR was the wild new guy taking on the establishment in 35mm photography. If the Nikon F was James Dean, then the Canon 7 was Cary Grant. The 1960s SLRs were brash and new yet young and unsophisticated. The rangefinders were middle-aged and refined. They were the establishment enjoying the sunset of their lives, completely unaware that the end was near. The Canon 7 was the end of the line for the age of the rangefinder as the staple for news press photography. Leica would carry the mantle on and on, but when Canon retired the 7, and Leica the M3, the SLR was taking over. A great many legendary SLR cameras would follow and the rangefinder quietly slipped away into obscurity. Sure they were still used by the old school press, the court photographers, and some embedded journalists, but the SLR was the new king and it has remained up top ever since. But maybe not for long. The modern mirrorless body is the spiritual successor to the old school rangefinder, and if you read this blog much, you know how much I love that. So the Canon 7 is just as cool today as it ever was before. You can’t buy that much Cary Grant Suave for under $300 anywhere on the planet.

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