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FUJI Range Finder 6x9 Cameras

Jack Chase , Sep 17, 1997; 07:24 p.m.

I am considering the purchase of Fuji 690III series cameras. Anyone out there have experience with these? I assume the optics are excellent. True? How do the cameras handle? Any comments would be greatly appreciated.


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Sterling Black , Sep 17, 1997; 09:09 p.m.

Ah, yes, the Texas Leica--you gotta love 'em. I have the 90mm (GW690) series II and the 65mm (GSW690) III. The optics were not changed at all between the II and the III, nor did they need to be, as they are excellent. The cameras are great: the largest non-panoramic medium-format negs around (same proportion as 35mm), great optics, very sturdy, two shutter releases, good viewfinder, no battery, handy pairing of shutter/aperture setting rings, extremely affordable. (I'm not gushing like this just because I'm interested in selling mine! --Phil G. can corroborate, as I recall.) Some people see as downsides that there is no lens interchangeability and no light meter, but these are design choices that keep the cameras reasonably priced and almost indestructible. My only gripes: exposures over a second are a pain (you have to grasp the shutter speed ring and turn it to close the shutter; I put a small black cloth over the front while I do this to prevent shake); the shutter/aperture rings can be tough to handle with gloves on (but this is otherwise an almost ideal cold-weather camera); you can't use step up rings to larger filters (both cameras take 67mm) because the telescoping lens hood must be extended to access the shutter/aperture rings; in the GSW the lower right corner of the viewfinder is obscured by the lens (not unheard of in other rangefinders); and, of course, I wish that 65mm were faster than 5.6 (not a big deal, tho). It takes two shutter strokes to cock these cameras (you're moving 3.5 inches of film!), but they won't fire until fully cocked so that's no problem. The III version looks more aerodynamic and has the much niftier quick-release film spools but otherwise I think is unchanged. Both are very simple, VERY good designs! Enjoy!

Kenny C. , Sep 18, 1997; 11:29 a.m.

There were some discussions on Fuji 6x9 camera in the old Medium format digest. I was considering to buy it. The reasons that I am not buying it are:

1. Processing cost. The cost a lot more to processing (commericial) 6x9 prints without cropping. It may need 4x5 enlarger to print 6x9 negatives. I do not know if a 2x3 enlarger can handle 6x9 negatives. 2. I do like 2:3 ratio pictures. IMO it is also hard to frame in 2:3 format.

Kenny C. , Sep 18, 1997; 03:35 p.m.

In my last post, I should say, in medium format I prefer 6x7 for landscapes and 6x6 for portraits. What is the advantages to use 6x9 in the medium format?

Paul Petersen , Sep 18, 1997; 03:40 p.m.

I don't own a Fuji camera (heck, I don't even use Fuji Film!), but I couldn't resist commenting here. Please don't tell Cartier-Bresson or Sebastiao Salgado that it's hard to frame images into a 2:3 ratio; they've built their careers on shooting in this format (35mm is 2:3), usually uncropped, and would be saddened to learn that it's not workable. :)

Also, 6x9 (aka "two-and-a-quarter by three-and-a-quarter") is not at all difficult or expensive to enlarge; the Beseler 23C series (get it? "23"!) enlargers cost $575 to 725 new, $200-300 used (I've used a 23CII XL for about fifteen years without a single problem; I even use the same enlarging lens, a 105mm Rodenstock, for 6x7 as I do for 6x9). If you don't cut your 120 negs, you can even get by using the same (6x9) negative carrier for all your medium format negs, altho add'l carriers are only $50. Camerawise, I probably shoot more (Pentax) 6x7, but I also really like 6x9; I bought the Mamiya Universal 6x9 system, the best bargain in medium format, when I realized my negs would be 50% larger than a Hassy's and twice as large as a 645's, for a fraction of the price (you can put together a Mamiya 6x9 system, including five lenses from 50mm to 250mm, for about $2000).

To each his own, but the above camera/darkroom combination, though admittedly inexpensive and "dated," works well for me. Being able to get such large negs without going to sheet film is a real treat that should not be knocked until it's tried.

Paul Petersen , Sep 18, 1997; 03:51 p.m.

Kenny, my last post was a response to your first post. In response to your second post:

For me the advantage of 6x9 is pure film area, square inches (or cm, if you wish). Suppose I want to photograph a tall tree or building. With 6x6, the largest I can record it on film is about 2 inches; with 6x9, it's about three inches. That 50% larger size makes a huge difference when it comes time to enlarge. I know that we shoot a lot more than "long" or "tall" objects, but if I need to compose into a square format I can just whack a third off of a 6x9 and have 6x6. No, 6x9 is not for everyone, but compositionally it's identical to 35mm.... except that with 6x9 if you crop down to a square you still have an awful lot of neg to work with! Obviously, I think it's a great format; I only wish there were more 6x9 cameras to choose from....

Jack Chase , Sep 18, 1997; 04:08 p.m.

In answer to several of you who responded. Thanks. I own a Bes45 enlarger w/color head, and even have a 6x9 neg holder already, because several years ago I was asked to print some old 6x9s for a friend. So that's not a problem. I actually like the 2:3 ratio for many applications, especially landscapes. Before I discovered big negs, I used to do a lot of 35mm, and I now often crop 4x5 to about this dimensional ratio. It's just that lugging around a 4x5 can be quite a pain. I'm looking for a compromise between portability and negative size. I know that Fuji makes great optics for large format, so I am particularly interested in the quality of the optics for the GW & GSW 690IIIs. Any additional comments regarding the quality of the cameras & lenses will be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Sterling Black , Sep 18, 1997; 04:29 p.m.

Jack, it's me again. If you're used to shooting 4x5, you may be frustrated by the non-interchangeability of the lenses--and the rangefinder viewing!--on the Fuji 6x9s. Make sure you consider the 6x9 view camera option, which sounds bizarre but makes a lot of sense (combining some of the best things about MF and LF). Check out the review of the Arca Swiss 6x9 on that Berkeley guy's large-format home page (accessible under "large format" on photo.net's home page). Don't know how heavily invested you are in 4x5, but my friends who shoot Arca-Swiss LF rave about how easy it is to up-size your camera from 6x9 to 4x5, and from 4x5 to 8x10, so A-S makes a true "system" camera. . . . HTHelps

Rob Ferrell , Sep 18, 1997; 04:40 p.m.

Also take a look the Calumet 23SF, which is easily upgradeable to 4x5 and uses the same good monorail system as the larger Cambos. Calumet sells a complete set of very affordable accessories for the 23SF, including an inline viewer to eliminate a darkcloth, a cute little bag bellows, and a Polaroid back, and if you want to shoot 6x7 you can get a even get a back for that too. The 23SF is about $700 less than the Arca Swiss. A 6x9cm groundglass takes a little getting used to, but only compared to LF, not to smaller formats....

Kenny C. , Sep 18, 1997; 04:44 p.m.

Paul and all readers, The 6x9 cameras are good if the user wants to do their own darkroom works. When I say 2:3 ratio frame cameras (including all 35mm) are harder to frame, I really mean it is relatively harder than that if I am using a 6x7 or 6x6 camera. It is my personal experience. Intuitively people try to frame using the longer side of the frame to match the longer side of the subject, more often than not, the shorter side of the frame is too narrow to match the shorter side of your object. So the shooter will back up or try to frame vertically. Probably there is no difference in picture quality from 6x7 vs. 6x9. Try to use one before you buy.

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