The Fujica 35SE is as beautiful as the pictures it can take. I say ‘can take’ just in case you don’t like my pictures although why I can’t imagine. Doesn’t everyone want pictures of random stuff that catches my eye?
I have had this camera for about 5 years now and it hasn’t disappointed me in any way. I would use it even more often if I didn’t have so many other cameras to play with and post about. Another post about this camera with some images that I am pleased with can be seen here Fujica 35SE Rangefinder Respect. I strongly recommend this camera though it isn’t all that common. When you can find one it does sell pretty inexpensively compared to ’it can take’ results.
This is really two posts in one. How good the Fuji St701 is with Pentax Lenses and how terrible the Ziess Flektogon 35mm F2.4 is. It started when I pulled out some M42 lenses to put together a complete kit centered around my Fuji st701. The other lenses are Pentax Takumars (28mm f3.5/50mm f1.4/ 135mm f3.5/200mm f4) but I also wanted to give the Zeiss Flekton 35mm a try. Wow what a terrible lens it’s like a Lens Baby without the configurability.
In case you thought that was a one-off aberration here is some more eye candy.
There are many cases online of people who are happy with this lens but it seems to me that most instances of this are of people using it on digital cameras with smaller sensors and therefore only using the center portion. Perhaps I have a case where my lens has some mis-aligned element but it seems properly centered so I think that is doubtful. I just think that wide open it’s not that good.
Now for the other part of the post. I think the Fuji ST line of cameras are probably the best cameras available for the M42 mount. They have an exceptionally bright viewfinder and are very well-built.
As a side note it may be a bit of a stretch to say that the latest Fujifilm digital camera the X-T1 has ST701 DNA in its design but that camera does look nice.
Here are some images shot with the other lenses and maybe one or two from the Zeiss you might be able to spot those ones.
I picked up the Fuji ST701 because it was slightly smaller than the Pentax Spotmatic but it has more than that going for it. Size wise it is narrower than the Pentax but slightly taller. It makes a surprising difference in feel and I think I would be more likely to find the room for it in a camera bag.
Another thing that elevates this camera above others from its time is its bright viewfinder. I have no way of measuring how much more light it is transmitting but comparing it to the Spotmatic it is ‘clear’ that it is brighter.
The focus screen of this camera is a split image surrounded by a circular microprism screen on a matte field, It works very well and it is very easy to confirm focus.
The depth of field preview is the best of any camera I’ve ever used. It is a large well place button beside the lens that operates smoothly and quickly.
The lens that came with the camera is the Fujica 55 f1.8. The build of this lens is superb and it has the smoothest focus of any lens I have. Better than the best Takumars, which are also excellent but this lens has absolutely no discernible looseness or play at any location. The Fuji ST701 is an absolute gem.
These images are a mix from either the Fujica 55/1.8 or the Takumar 200/3.5
There are several reasons that the Fujica 35SE is a favorite of mine. The primary one is how you focus. As it is a rangefinder you determine focus using a focus patch in the center of the viewfinder as you would expect but the focus movement is done via a thumb-wheel on the back. This is both quicker and easier than using the left hand around the lens as is more common. and has the added benefit of freeing the left hand to just steady the camera in a comfortable grip, this can not be overstated.
The other is the results from the 45mm 1:2.8 lens. Other things that make this camera different are the film advance lever location on the bottom and the exposure system where a change in shutter speed changes the aperture correspondingly. There are other little touches that help to add up to make it more than the sum of those parts.
I used the camera attached to a long sliding strap where I allowed the camera to just hang upside down. This is actually the perfect camera to use like this because you can advance the film with one hand and then bring the camera up and focus with the same hand.
While I was out shooting on this day I had a Sony CS1 GPS attached to my camera bag tracking my movements. There is a mix of my walking and some of my driving including when I forgot that it was still on and drove over the Cambie Street Bridge.
Some random shots from my Fujica 35SE. I’ve been thinking about Fuji lately as their new camera the X10 will become available soon. I’m looking forward to having a look at one but for now I thought use what you have.
Fuji has released yet another camera that has peaked my interest, the Fuji X10. It is a small fixed zoom lens camera (28-112mm equivalent) with a maximum aperture of F2.0 at the wide end and F2.8 at the telephoto end. All this information is readily available elsewhere so that’s not really what I want to post about. One of the new features of the X10 apparently is that manual focus is performed in the form of the sub command dial. This may seem new and innovative but it is actually something Fuji has done before. The Fujica 35SE used a thumb wheel back in 1959 in combination with a coupled rangefinder. In this form I can say it works very well, the only problem for me being that that same location changes my aperture on my DSLR and it takes me a moment to get that through my skull. How well the modern implementation works remains to be seen especially without the rangefinder patch. When I first started writing this post most of the scant info about manual focus mentioned the main command wheel for focusing but after reading more info from Fuji itself it seems that it is the sub command dial which will not be as easily done with a thumb or even one handed.
After using digital cameras for years and shooting negatives when I want film I think I may have forgotten how unforgiving slide film can be. I shot a roll of Elitechrome through my Fujica 35 SE and was very disappointed with the results. I under exposed nearly everything, either through misjudging the light or because the shutter speeds where off. Ordinarily with negatives I would still have usable images but most of these transparencies, well they aren’t very transparent. My only recourse seems to be to process them as high contrast B&W images. There just isn’t any room with slides to get the exposure wrong, I have one more roll in my stock but if I buy more I will be more cautious about which camera I use so that I can rely on the exposure being correct.
Recently Fuji announced a new digital compact camera, the X100, that has many styling cues from the past. It’s an attractive camera and has garnered a lot of attention from photographers. I’m interested in seeing this camera in person when it comes out in 2011 but until then I decided to give one of the Fujica’s I already own a spin. The Fujica 35 Auto M has an unusual 47mm f2.8 lens. Another interesting feature and perhaps one of the first cameras to have it is complete auto exposure with both shutter and aperture controlled by the camera, this can also be overridden making it a very versatile camera. If looking at the camera leaves you wondering about advancing the film and cocking the shutter, the lever is on the bottom and easily done with a thumb.
And now the sample images.
At the recent Vancouver camera show I aquired a Fujica 35 SE rangefinder. I had an opportunity yesterday to shoot a roll of film through it and am very impressed by the sharpness of the images. It has a f=4.5cm 1:2.8 Lens. The coupled exposure meter doesn’t appear to be accurate but because it is fully manual I just used my best available exposure meter (guessametering).
Fujica SE 35 rangefinder