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Driving the Petri Racer

Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:39 p.m.

Sometimes I come across a camera with so much eye-appeal that I put it on my work desk where I can contemplate it. Just such a camera is the Petri Racer.

Petri Racer


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Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:41 p.m.

Following Gabor Szabo's recent fine post on the Petri 7S, it occurred to me that I'd never put a film through this little Petri rangefinder, despite it having sat in front of me for a couple of months. I dusted it off, loaded it with Fuji Superia 200 and it became my companion camera for a week or so. And good company it was, too. The Petri Racer is a fixed-lens 35mm rangefinder camera manufactured in Japan by the Petri Camera Company Inc., (formerly the Kuribayashi Company), and introduced in 1966/67. It has coupled CdS match-needle metering, and a bright "Green-O-Matic" split-image rangefinder spot in the frame-lined viewfinder. Focusing is quick, with less than 90 degrees of travel in the focusing lever.

On offer was a choice of two 45mm Petri lenses, either f/1.8 or f2.8. There's not much information available on these lenses, but the f/2.8 appears to be a 4-element design, nicely coated. In the style of the era, auxiliary tele and wide-angle lens attachments were available, along with a cute little viewfinder. From what I've gleaned from some Asian sources, the f/1.8 version has something of a cult following in Japan, by mine is the f/2.8 version. It's the only Racer I've seen down here, Petri cameras being a little few and far between in this part of the planet. It's one of those rare cameras with real "style", with sleek lines, nicely-detailed brushed metal and black finish, and a good big chunky lens barrel for that purposeful look.

Petri Racer 002

Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:42 p.m.

The shutter runs from 1 to 1/500th plus B, and apertures from f/2.8 to f/16. The aperture ring move smoothly in a cowl on the lens barrel, the selected aperture visible in a little cutout. The ring has no click stops so it's quite easy to change the aperture setting by accident; I initially considered this a little cheap and nasty but I soon realised that the match-needle exposure meter, visible in the viewfinder, is extremely sensitive, with less than a half-stop adjustment of the aperture taking the needle from top (or bottom) to centre of the scale. So, my guess is that, in the interests of accuracy, the designers decided on a stepless aperture ring. The meter is also visible on the top deck, with an exposure compensation marked for backlit situations, and it's very responsive and accurate. The shutter release, though situated on the front of the camera in a position I usually find awkward, is smooth and sensitive and sensibly large, with a "shutter cocked" indication visible on the top deck. This is a handy feature, since the meter switches on when the shutter is cocked and can be turned off only by firing the shutter. The original battery was a PX-25 mercury cell, but I fitted an alkaline cell and the meter seemed to function just fine.

Petri Racer Top

Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:43 p.m.

Overall, the Petri Racer handles very well and was a pleasure to use. The shutter was quiet, and the lens turned in a perfectly acceptable performance. Despite the light-weight alloy used in it's construction, the Racer feels much more durable than most Petri cameras I've handled, with everything still tight and smooth in operation, and an excellent standard of finish. And it's just so pretty....Scans from the Fuji Frontier.

Angles, Light & Shade

Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:44 p.m.


Last of the Apple Trees

Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:45 p.m.



Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:46 p.m.



Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:46 p.m.



Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:47 p.m.



Rick Drawbridge , Feb 23, 2011; 05:48 p.m.



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