LEICA

Alternative views on the Leica world by Erwin Puts

Canon VI-L



Hardly noticed by the rangefinder cognoscenti, the Canon models IV, V and VI (the 7 was a different product, famous for its .95/50 mm lens) are now recognized as true rangefinder cameras with more than a small dose of Leica DNA. I personally own and use the Canon VI-L that was being produced during the period of M3 hegemony. For some reason there was hardly any competition, even when the VI-L was manufactured 10,000 times, presumably less that the M3 during the same period.
The canon camera is a model of simplicity: the rangefinder has a different mechanism, but is quite effective. The main characteristic of the Canon is its indestructibility and its reliability. Not only the German engineers knew how to design and build a camera!
I am using the Canon with the venerable Weston Master V as an independent exposure meter. The additional Canon clip-on meter is not available anymore. The camera has very reliable shutter speeds, even more accurate than the Leica M3 speeds (both cameras were CLA-ed and adjusted).
The feeling is identical. The finder is less clear, for sure, but the procedure (view, focus, fire) is the same. The shutter noise is slightly different: more like the modern digital M. The shutter noise is a slight click and not like the M3 that has a more prolonged smooth noise. The shutter release pressure is very important and in this respect both cameras show a subtle difference. The M3 (and the M-A) have the pressure point at the top of the shutter pressure, whereas the Canon has it at the bottom. You have to press the finger more firmly downwards to release the shutter. In this respect the M3 and M-A are more adjusted to the sharpshooter philosophy.

I can only recommend to buy an older Canon RF model and compare it to a modern filmloading and/or imager-equipped M body and start reflecting on what you loose and win. It is a rewarding experience and much more valuable than studying lens reports.