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Camera review: Me and my Canon 7 Rangefinder by Andrew MacGregor


It’s once again time to hand over the EMULSIVE reins to another eager contributor. This time, it’s Andrew MacGregor — better known as Mr. ShootFilmRideSteel — giving us his take on the wonderful Canon 7 rangefinder.

Over to you, Andrew.

 

 

Camera review: Me and my Canon 7 Rangefinder by Andrew MacGregor

Canon 7 - Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 and Jupiter-8 50 f=2.0, both in M39 Leica Screw Mount

Canon 7 – Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 and Jupiter-8 50 f=2.0, both in M39 Leica Screw Mount

As far as the Rocky Mountains go, Green Mountain is hardly a mountain. It’s technically a mesa, and not very high. It’s unremarkable among the peaks on the Front Range. But it’s still challenging; 200 feet higher than the tallest peak in the Appalachian Mountains, and climbing it is good exercise.

When I climb it, I don’t just exercise my legs, I exercise my eye, always taking a camera.

My Canon 7 rangefinder is my preferred camera while climbing up Green.

Green Mountain - Canon 7 - Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM - Ilford HP 5+

Green Mountain – Canon 7 – Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM – Ilford HP 5+

 

The Canon 7 is a rangefinder camera which uses the M39 Leica Screw Mount, first introduced in 1961. After the 7 and its variants, Canon left the rangefinder business altogether and went on to concentrate on their hugely successful SLR lines.

The Canon 7 has a very nice, big 0.8 magnification viewfinder that makes shooting with both eyes open easy. The switchable frame lines are bright and easy to use.

Shutter speeds top out at 1/1000th, and it has a selenium meter.

Canon 7 - The knob to the right of the eyepiece is to set the meter between high and low sensitivity. Depress the button on the right and turn the shutter dial to change the meter's ASA setting.

Canon 7 – The knob to the right of the eyepiece is to set the meter between high and low sensitivity. Depress the button on the right and turn the shutter dial to change the meter’s ASA setting.

 

It can be cold on Green, and there are no trees to stop the wind, so in the winter you don’t want to take a camera with a lot of electronics.

That’s what makes the Canon 7 a perfect hiking companion. It’s a solid mechanical camera, and the selenium meter isn’t bothered by the cold.

Green Mountain - Canon 7 - Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM - Ilford HP 5+

Green Mountain – Canon 7 – Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM – Ilford HP 5+

 

I’d been looking for a screw mount rangefinder, and had thought about a Bessa just to get one with a meter. The 7’s meter has to be read from the top of the camera instead of in the viewfinder, and is slower to use, but unlike the Bessa, there’s no plastic in the body and no battery required. The trick is to find a body with a working meter.

Canon 7 - From the left- film rewind knob, viewfinder frame line setting knob, meter, ASA/shutter speed, shutter button with soft release. The collar around the shutter release has settings: A for frame advance and R for rewind. The red dot is shutter lock. Underneath is a film indicator- it spins as the film advances. Watch it on rewind and stop when it stops to take the cartridge out before the film retracts inside. The frame counter and advance lever round out the top of the camera.

Canon 7 – From the left- film rewind knob, viewfinder frame line setting knob, meter, ASA/shutter speed, shutter button with soft release. The collar around the shutter release has settings: A for frame advance and R for rewind. The red dot is shutter lock. Underneath is a film indicator- it spins as the film advances. Watch it on rewind and stop when it stops to take the cartridge out before the film retracts inside. The frame counter and advance lever round out the top of the camera.

I’ll occasionally stop on the way up and take a shot while I give myself a chance to breathe for a minute before going on. I usually carry just one lens on a hike, mostly my Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm/f3.5.

A moderately wide focal length works well for me going up a mountain, but there are an astounding number of options available in Leica thread mount, from 15mm ultra-wide to a 135mm telephoto.

Green Mountain - Canon 7 - Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM - Ilford HP 5+

Green Mountain – Canon 7 – Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM – Ilford HP 5+

I’ve read there was a 200mm made in LTM, but I’ve never seen one. Voigtlander, Canon, Nikon, the usual Soviet suspects, Schacht, Zeiss, and of course Leica all made lenses in this mount to name a few.

As I resume the climb after a few quick frames, how the camera is carried is important. The Canon 7 is as reliable as a brick, and is unfortunately shaped like one. There are no curved surfaces for the hand to grab on to, and nothing very ergonomic about the body at all.

 

Canon 7 - How I connect the camera to a strap.

Canon 7 – How I connect the camera to a strap.

This lack of ergonomics exacerbates the biggest flaw in this camera- the strap lugs. If you hang the camera from them using just a strap, the body will angle back and point the lens toward the sky, leaving the back edge of the camera to dig in to your ribs. A leather case should fix that, but I don’t have one.

I dug around in my closet and found an anchor bolt to put in the tripod socket and now I hang the camera vertically to avoid that edge. It will still shift about as I hike, but it’s much better than the alternative.

Green Mountain - Canon 7 - Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM - Ilford HP 5+

Green Mountain – Canon 7 – Nippon Kogaku W-Nikkor-C 3.5cm f=3.5 LTM – Ilford HP 5+

Once at the top, I’ll pause and look around. To the west, the saw teeth of the Hogbacks screen the further, mighty peaks of the Rockies. Pike’s looms in the distance to the south. East, the city of Denver spreads out below, with DIA just visible on the horizon. I’ll capture a few frames in the afternoon light, and then start back down the mountain. Dinner awaits at the bottom, and I’ll be back to exercise legs and eye again soon, my Canon 7 slung over my shoulder.

 

– Andrew MacGregor

A photographer who shoots film and rides steel frame motorbikes, Andrew has finds himself somewhere in between shooting large format and yard sale junker cameras. Andrew can be found on his website or Twitter and you can read a little more about him right here in his EMULSIVE interview.

 

Canon 7 technical details

Camera nameCanon 7 Rangefinder
Camera typeInterchangeable lens rangefinder
Format35mm (135)
ManufacturerCanon Inc
Manufacture dates1961-1965
7 variants sold until 1968
Canon 7 with selenium cell metering - 1961-65
Canon 7s with CdS metering - 1965-67
Canon 7s Type II - 1967-68
Lens mountM39 / Leica compatible thread mount
Accepts the Canon 50/0.95 "Dream lens" with optional bayonet mount 'M' adapter
RangefinderCoupled
59mm base length
47mm effective base length
Parallax compensation
ViewfinderSingle x0.80 magnification
Selectable framelines:
35mm
50mm
85/100mm
135mm
ShutterMechanical horizontal focal plane
Stainless steel
1 sec - 1/1000th sec
T and B modes
X-Sync port
MeteringSelenium meter
Coupled to shutter selector dial
Match needle indicator
ASA 6 - 400
Selectable low and high range metering EV 6-13 and EV 12-19 respectively (at ASA 100)
FlashX-Sync at 1/60th second but no accessory shoe (7s model has a cold shoe)
PC socket and flash bracket compatible
Wind / RewindLever advance
Counter resets after black is opened
Folding crank rewind
LoadingSwing open back load - dual locking mechanism
Finishsilver and black (rare)
Weight622 grams (no lens)
Dimensions
(appx)
140 x 81 x 31mm (WxHxD)
Weight: 622g
AccessoriesOptional accessory coupler for base Canon 7 model, which provides a center mounted cold shoe

 

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EMULSIVE

Self confessed film-freak and filmphotography mad-obsessive. I push, pull, shoot, boil and burn film everyday, and I want to share what I learn. It might not all be right but it's a start.

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