Canon 7 - rangefinder de luxe

Leica Mount Cameras:

Leica-mount Lenses:

Canon 7

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

The Canon 7 is the last series of interchangeable-lens, Leica-compatible rangefinders made by Canon in the 1960s. There are three body types in this series, the original Canon 7 with a selenium cell (1961-65); the CdS metering Canon 7s (1965-67); and the very slightly modified Canon 7s Type II (or 7sZ using Peter Dechert's naming style; 1967-68). Using the text or images on this website on an ebay auction or any other site is a violation of federal law.

Following on the footsteps of the enormously popular Canon P, the 7 retained the single-magnification viewfinder (reduced to 0.80x magnification) but added coupled metering and switchable framelines. The 7 rangefinder has been said to be one of the most complex ever made, even more complex than Leica M finders. Because it is single-magnification only, it is clear and bright, even after forty years.

The Canon Museum notes the following prices. The yen was fixed at ¥360 to US$1 at the time and 1961->2003 dollar conversions are per the AIER:

  JPY (1961/65) US$ (1961/65) US$ (2003)
Canon 7 w/50mm f/0.95
Canon 7 w/50mm f/1.4
86,000 yen
47,500 yen



Canon 7s w/50mm f/0.95)
Canon 7s w/50mm f/1.2),
Canon 7s w/50mm f/1.4
Canon 7s w/50mm f/1.8)

88,000 yen
64,000 yen
49,500 yen
44,500 yen



The Canon 7 was designed to be the flagship model of the Canon rangefinder system. Unfortunately, in 1954 Leitz released its Leica M3 rangefinder camera, a model that astonished the camera world with its innovativeness. At that point, most camera manufacturers in Japan decided that it would not be possible to beat Leica at its own game. The M-mount was patented and Canon/Nikon were not able to make M-lenses as they had screwmount lenses.

Canon 7S / Image © Canon Museum


The remaining market option was to make SLRs where there was less European competition. Zeiss had the Contaflex system which was hampered by the lens-shutter and the Contarex, which was incredibly heavy and cumbersome. Ihagee and Praktica were making SLRs on a smaller scale but were not serious competition.

End-users wanted to use longer lenses and filters, or do macrophotography, which made it easy to sell SLRs. Practically at the same time, Asahi, Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, and Ricoh all produced SLRs - interestingly all with different and incompatible mount systems.

Canon's own Canonflex and later Canon FD system camera sales overtook the rangefinder line and the 7 series was discontinued in 1968. Contax, Kodak Retina, and Nikon had already left the rangefinder business, leaving only Leica (and some Soviet manufacturers) as the only company with 35mm rangefinder systems. This was the end of the first Golden Era of rangefinders.*

* One could easily argue that we are now in the Second Golden Era of rangefinders. In the past decade, a series of fantastic new cameras have come out: Cosina Voigtlander Bessa R/R2/R2A/R3A/T/L, Konica Hexar RF, Nikon S3-2000, Leica M7/MP and Zeiss Ikon.



Interesting quirks

The Canon shutter is horizontal running and is made of coated stainless steel. It's rare to find ones that don't have some crinkles in them. However, the crinkles do not affect shutter performance so unless they are big enough that the shutters are sticking, just ignore it.*

* I heard that there is a Japanese company that does full overhauls of Canon rangefinders, replacing the steel curtains with titanium curtains that don't crinkle. Unfortunately, the overhaul costs about $500 so it isn't cost effective for the most of us.

First curtain of this unit has very slight oil stains which can be removed by alcohol easily.
Second curtain are very slightly wrinkled. In either case, performance is not affected. This is merely a cosmetic issue.

There's a ring surrounding the shutter button, marked "A", a red unmarked dot, and "R". "A" is for Advance (normal firing mode). The unmarked red dot is the very desirable shutter lock. The "R" for the Rewind release. When turned to rewind, the shutter releases and you can rewind the film. I have it on good authority that the shutter self-caps when in 'Rewind' mode, so there's no need to cover the lens. But I do it anyway out of habit.

My one gripe about the 7 is that the its maximum ASA film sensitivity is 400. This is pretty low and by the time the 7 was released (1961), they should have bumped it up to 800 at least. By the 7s, they should have pushed it to 1600. But even the 7sZ is still limited to 400. You can of course manually compensate because the meter is manual, but it's still a pain. OK, gripe over.

This unit is very clean with only minor marks on the chrome.

I love the little rotating "eyeball" that tells you the camera is winding and rewinding (that the sprockets are engaging). This is handy if you develop your own film as you can tell when the leader releases from the sprokets (the eyeball stops rotating) when rewinding the film. At that point, you can open the back leaving the leader still sticking out of cartridge, which makes it simpler to load into your film reels.

There's a double lock on the back release, you have to engage the bottom release and the side release. What a pain! It's designed to use the Canon film cartridges which like their Leica/Contax counterparts, had a film gate that opened and closed keyed to the lock on the bottom. The cartridges don't use a felt light trap which means they are less likely to scratch your film. I picked up one of these cartridges while in Japan and will let you know how it works.

There are some non-Canon wide angle screw mount lenses that you should not use with the Canon 7 because the internal light baffles are in the way. Most of the web sites in the links below will tell you which ones. I general, most collapsible lenses are also bad. The only disappointment is that I can't use the Russian Jupiter 35mm Biogon-clone, which is one of the few Soviet lenses that gets rave reviews (although truth be told, I like my Jupiter-8 52mm lens).




Image © Canon Museum


Rangefinder Calibration

It's very easy to knock classic rangefinder cameras like the Canon 7 out of horizontal or vertical RF calibration with knocks or jars. This is fairly common on older (and even newer) rangefinders. Thankfully, Canon provided for a way to adjust horizontal and vertical RF calibration without opening the camera up.

Note: This operation while simple, has the possibility of scratching your camera if you have the wrong size pin-wrench and for the 7, fouling the innards of your camera if you muck it up. Please use reasonable and appropriate caution when thinking about doing this.

Canon 7, 7s, and 7sZ: Horizontal RF calibration is the same as the Canon P and is located on the front of the camera between the viewfinder and the frameline window. There's a small screw that needs to be removed. "The outer screw is just a decorative cover; the actual adjustment is inside. It takes a VERY tiny screwdriver. The adjusting screw moves in and out as you focus the lens, so you may find it's easier to reach at either the infinity position or the close focus position, depending on your particular screwdriver." (Jim Williams, from Canon P page)

Canon 7 & 7s: vertical RF calibration is a small plug with two holes by the shutter speed dial (by the shutter release). Use a pin-wrench to rotate it...

Canon 7s Type II: vertical RF calibration is a small plug with two holes over the 'n' in Canon in the top plate. Use a pin-wrench to rotate it...

"W.G." adds:

I found that I had to remove the plug using a set of sharp pointed medical tweezers. Turn it counter-clockwise. The tweezers work great. Under the plug there is a screw, which may serve to tighten things down, and it got really scary when it got to loose. I found I had better success prying gently forward or backward until I got the patch right in the vertical. I then had to use the horizontal alignment screw to bring the horizontal back in. This must be done after a vertical adjustment. You are right. It took a very small screw-driver. I had a little set that I bought as Sears for $6.95 (I see them there all the time---the kind with one handle and six or seven bits in the blue and clear domed case). It occurs to me that the plug may have been intended to bear on this whole arrangement and mine does not, though this would surprise me as my camera is pretty much mint, without even a wrinkled curtain.


Choosing a Canon Rangefinder
by Jim Williams

All the Canon III- and IV-series models look and work like an old-style screwmount Leica, except that they have combined range/viewfinders (with switchable magnification.) They're beautifully made and fun to use, but the viewfinders don't have framelines and are very squinty by today's standards. The III and IV models have conventional fabric shutter curtains that are no less durable (but no MORE durable) than the same type of curtain used on Leicas.

The V-series (the V is a roman numeral) and L-series (the L is just a letter) are similar to prior models under the skin, but have larger, more modern-styled bodies (with a conventional back door for easier loading) and a viewfinder with a larger eyepiece. This makes viewing more pleasant, but you still don't get framelines or parallax compensation. Late models in these series switched from fabric shutter curtains to ones made of epoxy-coated stainless steel foil. These are the ones you've heard about getting 'damaged' -- the foil can be dented by finger pokes during loading, or if the camera is left to sit for years and years with the shutter cocked. BUT -- minor denting (the most common type) doesn't affect the accuracy of the shutter, and unlike fabric curtains, these won't rot or burn through, meaning they're actually MORE durable than fabric ones. So, as long as the shutter runs smoothly, don't be put off from buying a camera with the steel curtains.

The V came in two flavors: the V-T series, which advances the film via a horizontal trigger on the bottom, and the V-L series, which is identical except for having a conventional advance lever. The L-series was an 'economy' range with equal quality but somewhat simplified features; all these had a lever-type advance lever. (Either flavor rewinds by a knob, which is a bit slow but par for the course in that era.) All the Vs can be good, reliable user cameras if you find an clean example, and are very usable if you don't need framelines and don't mind the slightly antique shutter-speed-dial arrangements.

The next generation after the V-series was the VI series (also a roman numeral, so say "six" rather than "vee-eye.") This series was much more modern in terms of features: it had a squared-off body and back-door loading like the V, but the shutter is a more modern type with all speeds on a single dial that doesn't rotate as you fire. (All the previous models had an old-Leica-style speed dial that spins when the shutter fires, with slow speeds -- if any -- controlled by a separate dial on the front.)

The VI also had a viewfinder with switchable magnifications, but with the added feature of framelines for 50mm and 100mm lenses (there was a separate position for 35mm lenses with no framelines.) The frames are reflected off a glass inside the eyepiece, rather than being projected through a frosted window as on a Leica M3 or Cosina/Voigtlander. The Canon's reflected system isn't as sharp and clear, but at least the lines do move as you focus to compensate for parallax. The great thing about this viewfinder was that the 50/100 position showed you the finder image at full life-size magnification, so you could keep both eyes open while looking through the camera. The downside was that the complex optics in this finder system haven't aged well, so it's not uncommon to find a VI with a hazy viewfinder and dim framelines. Cleaning may help the haze, but there doesn't seem to be anything that can be done about the framelines -- they're silvered onto a glass plate and the silvering simply deteriorates with age. Also, the finder system has an unusually strong minus diopter built into it, and if you've reached the age where you need reading glasses you may find it difficult to accommodate your eyesight to a VI finder. Aside from those potential drawbacks, if you can find a VI with a finder that's clean and has good framelines, it's very effective and pleasant to use.

Like the V, the VI came in -T and -L series flavors with trigger or lever film advance, now with a folding rewind crank for faster rewinding. They were made in about equal numbers, but the -T is more common in the US and the -L is more common in Japan. Either is a bit of a collectible nowadays so may be a bit disproportionately expensive as a 'user' camera, but a good one IS really nice to use.

Like the V series, the VI had an economy-model companion, called the P. In this case the strategy may have backfired a bit, because the P was so nice that many people liked it BETTER than the higher-end models; it wound up outselling the VI cameras by a margin of about 5 to 1. Although it was considered the economy camera, it was as well-made as the VI and had the same shutter design and basic features as the VI-L, including thumb lever film advance and folding rewind crank. The only major cost-cutting change was a simpler viewfinder: no switchable magnifications, and with 35mm, 50mm and 100mm framelines all together in the same view. But many people preferred this, because it gave parallax compensation with the 35mm framelines as well as 50 and 100 (although the 35mm lines are 'way out at the edges and hard to see.) The finder was still full life size, so you could view it with both eyes open, and its built-in diopter isn't as strong as the VI, making it an easier adaptation for users' eyesight. The P's framelines can deteriorate the same way as on the VI, but because the finder optics are simpler, P viewfinders seem to have aged better. If you're primarily a 50mm lens user with occasional forays to 35mm or 100mm, the P is maybe your best choice; unfortunately, a lot of other people have figured this out, so you'll pay the price of its popularity!

The next model in line was the 7, and Canon dropped more than the roman numerals here -- the new camera was much larger and a very different design (although the shutter system was similar to the VI.) This is a BIG camera by RF standards, and not quite as nicely finished as the earlier ones -- although its internal design is very tough and well-engineered. The biggest change for this model was to the range/viewfinder: the 7 has true projected framelines like a Leica or Cosina/Voigtlander (although not as bright as either, but still very visible.) You select frames via a flat dial on the top, with choices of 35, 50, 85, 100 or 135mm, and you can't forget which you chose, because they're clearly labeled in the viewfinder! The 7's lensmount accepts standard Leica-type screwmount lenses, but there's also an external bayonet flange around it that's not present on older models; this flange is the only way to mount the 50mm f/0.95 lens, if you should take a fancy to doing so. (The performance of the 50/0.95 isn't nearly as crummy as is often claimed by people who have never used one; still, its images have a distinctive "look" that's an acquired taste, so don't worry about hunting one down unless you really LIKE that look.)

The 7 also had a coupled selenium meter, which was hot stuff by 1961 standards but not very useful today; you probably will prefer to use a hand-held meter instead, so you can save a few bucks by finding a 7 that's otherwise in good shape but has a defunct meter. One odd little quirk to keep in mind: the 7 has NO accessory shoe, which means you're stuck if you want to use any lenses other than those covered by the built-in frames as there's no place to put an accessory viewfinder! (Okay, Canon offered an add-on shoe, but this is an 'unobtanium' accessory today!)

Despite its mild peculiarities, the 7 was a strong competitor to the Leica Ms and was the best-selling interchangeable-lens RF Canon by a wide margin, even outselling the P. Thanks to this, it's among the easiest to find today and the most likely to be reasonably priced. (The later model 7s was even better, with improvements including a useful CdS meter and an accessory shoe; but by then SLRs were taking over and it didn't sell well, so you'll pay a premium for its niceties and rarity.)

Overall, assuming equal condition (a big 'if' anytime you're buying a 40-to-50-year-old camera!) I'd say the 7 is the best buy for a user who likes to use a range of lenses, while the P is the best buy for someone who's happy with just a couple of lenses and appreciates a smaller, more classically elegant camera body. I also agree with the person who said you get more picture-taking bang for your buck by buying a nice, new Cosina/Voigtlander Bessa, with its brighter, sharper viewfinder, built-in TTL meter, and new-camera reliability. But the Canons have a solidity, finish and 'presence' that you just don't get from a Bessa -- so if that sort of thing appeals to you, go for it!


Used with kind permission of Jim Williams who wants to add the caveat that he wrote this while waiting for his dinner and this should not be considered to cover every minor variation between the models.




Technical Details

Camera Name Canon 7
Canon 7s
Canon 7sZ (7s II)
Canon, Inc.
Place of Manufacture
Date of Manufacture 1961.9-65
100,000+ units manuf.
~16,000 units manuf.
~4000 manufactured
Focusing System

Coupled rangefinder (59mm actual baselength)
0.80x magnification factor (47.2mm effective baselength)
Parallax compensation
Framelines for 35/50/85+100/135mm. (selectable)

Lens Mount

Leica M39 screw mount compatible
Canon external bayonet mount (for 50mm f/0.95)


Horizontal focal plane shutter (stainless steel)
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B & X (1/60sec)

Metering System

Coupled selenium cell
Above the lens (ATL)

Coupled CdS cell
Above the lens (ATL)
EV ??

PC cable connector on left side
Rare accessory cold shoe
1/60 sec X flash sync

External accessory cold shoe
PC cable connector on left side
1/60 sec X flash sync
Film type

Type 135 film (35mm standard)
ASA 6-400

Battery type none
Dimensions and weight

Body: xx x xx x mm, xxxg
Body+lens: 140 x 81 x 31 mm, 865 g with 50mm f/0.9 5

Body + Lens: 140 x 81 x 31 mm, 875 g (with 50mm f/0.95)
Retail price

47,500 yen w/ 50 mm f1.4

88,000 yen (w/50mm f/0.95),
64,000 yen (w/50mm f/1.2),
49,500 yen (w/50mm f/1.4),
44,500 yen (w/50mm f/1.8)


Comparison between the Canon 7 and other Rangefinders of the 1950s and 1960s

Camera Name Canon P Canon 7 M3 SP
Canon, Inc.
Leica Nikon
Place of Manufacture
Germany/Canada Japan
Date of Manufacture 1958.12-1961.5 1961-1968 (7sZ) 1954~1968  
Production 87,875 100,000+ ~225,000  22,348
Focusing System

Coupled rangefinder (41mm base length)
1.00x magnification factor
Parallax compensation
Framelines for 35/50/100mm. (non-selectable)

Coupled rangefinder (59 mm base length)
0.8 x RF magnification. 47.2 mm effective baselength.
Parallax compensation
Framelines for 35/50/85-100/135 mm. (selectable)
Coupled rangefinder (69.25mm base length)
0.92 x magnification factor; 63.731 effective baselength. Separate viewfinder / rangefinder. Parallax compensation
Projected framelines for 50/90/135 mm. (auto-selected; manually selectable on later M3s)
Coupled rangefinder (58mm base length)
1.00 x magnification factor. 58mm effective baselength.
Parallax compensation
Framelines for 50/85/105/135mm (manually selectable). Auxiliary viewfinder for 28/35mm.
Lens Mount

Leica M39 screw mount compatible

Leica M39 screw mount compatible
Canon external bayonet mount
Leica M bayonet mount Nikon bayonet mount

Horizontal focal plane shutter (stainless steel)
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B &
X (P: 1/55sec; 7: 1/60 sec)

Horizontal focal plane shutter (rubberized cloth)
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B & X (1/50sec)

Horizontal focal plane shutter (cloth and then later titanium foil)
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B + T
Metering System


7: Coupled Selenium
7s: Coupled CdS
None None

External cold shoe
PC cable connector on left side
1/55 sec X flash sync

7s: External cold shoe
PC cable connector on left side
1/55 sec X flash sync
External cold shoe
Proprietary connector on rear
1/50 sec X flash sync
External cold shoe
PC cable connector on left side
1/60 sec X flash sync
Battery type None

7: none
7s: PX625

None None
Dimensions and weight

Body: 144 x x mm, 650g

Body+lens: 140 x 81 x 31 mm, 865 g with 50mm f/0.9 5 Body: 138mm x 77mm x 36mm; 595g.  
Retail price

¥52,700 yen (w/50mm f/1.4) in 1958 (~US$146)
37,700 yen (w/50mm f/2.8) in 1958 (~US$105)






About Canon

Canon started out its life as Seiki Kohgaku Kenkyuujo (Precision Optical Research Company). Its first goal was to produce domestic inexpensive Leica clones, and it released the Kwanon, its first camera in 1934. Interestingly, they used Nikon lenses since Nikon was already established as an optical lens manufacturer and was not making any of its own camera bodies at that time. Canon soon gained the ability to make their own lenses and never looked back. Nikon also went on to produce some reasonably popular cameras of its own as well.

The name 'Canon' comes from the Buddhist deity Kwanon and early Canon cameras were actually spelled 'Kwanon' and the lenses were named 'Kyasapa' after another deity.

Side note: Canon is my favorite Japanese company along with Honda. I actually interned for Canon Japan (ok, Canon Sales Japan, a part of the Canon keiretsu) during a summer in college and loved my coworkers to death. They keep coming out with innovations that take your breath away.


On the Net

Japanese Pages:



Karen, don't be jealous until you hear my experiences with it. It may be a repeat of my M3 tale of woe. ;-(

The seller already indicates that shutter is inaccurate on the "slowest speeds", which I don't worry about as I don't want to use a tripod. I will see how the camera performs. Only thing that bothers me is the probable lack of light meter, although I guess I can work around that.

I will check on the RangeFinderForum for a list of Canon RF repair people, will pass along anything useful I find.

All the best,


Karen, I passed along the info that Karl Bryan is still repairing Canons. In addition, on RangeFinderForum there was discussion that Mark Hama is very much in business:


Karen, my Canon 7 + 50mm /1.4 arrived - looks great! To my eyes the lens looks flawless. The shutter curtain is really flat, not crinkled at all. The focus patch is pretty clear, and seems to be working correctly. Even the light meter seems to work, although I need to test it. I am looking forward to getting some film in it!

Which brings me to a question - when I open the door, the slot on the take-up spool is not immediately visible. I discovered that by putting the camera in rewind mode and moving the advance lever, I can rotate the spool so that the slot is visible. But is this the "right" way to do it?

Another question - this is the first time I have used a screwmount lens. To take it off, I locked the focus at infinity, and it unscrewed pretty easily. I had a little more trouble screwing it back on. Is there a correct orientation with which to seat the lens when you first put it on? What does the red dot on the body mean?

Sorry for all the questions, would appreciate you sage advice.



Karen, thanks for the pointer to the manual. I read it over. As it suggests, I had actually turned the spool by hand, but felt some resistance (really just a little tension) and thought I might be doing something wrong.

I am out of film, will get some tomorrow and try loading and shooting. As nice as the camera seems, I would like to see some pix and be convinced that it is really working.

On another front, my M3 should be on its was way back this week, with full assurance from KEH that it has been fully tested.

Wished I had EITHER of the cameras in my hand while I watched a crew of skateboarders executing death-defying stunts by city hall today! ;-(

All the best,


Hi Karen,

You were correct on all counts -

1) The Japanese sellar provided a very nice deal - I shot one test roll with the camera + lens, and was more than satisfied - I can't attach photos here, but I was able to take indoor shots with slow film that look great. Outdoor shots look fabulous, sharp with high contrast. Maybe not as nice as my Leica lens, but interesting in their own way.

2) The internal light meter is probably not working - it was all over the place, and I would not rely on it. (I used my Leica MR as a handheld.) That's OK, I can use an external meter - or better yet, use this as the excuse to better develop my own judgement.

Unfortunately, my Leica M3 continues to languish at KEH - they are really trying to "do right" by me. I will not go into the bloody details - at least I have a working camera for the moment.


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