Gear > My cameras > Fujica GSW690 Professional

Fujica GSW690 Professional

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Fujica GSW690 Pro

Yes, I was very content with my RB67, but. If you have read the final conclusion of the RB67 post, it's not that great for travelling. So my search for a middle format camera, more suitable to take along on my trips began when i stumbled upon a large rangefinder. It's hard to see it is a middle format camera if you have no comparison, it actually looks a lot like a standard size, Leica-like-camera until you put it next to a 35mm SLR. It is huge but, the negatives are more than 6.25 times bigger and therefor the quality of the result is much higher, sharpness wise, if you don't compare the lens..... 

“6x9cm, even bigger then the Mamiya RB67“

So I had to try this and started comparing different cameras like the Mamiya 7, Mamiya press, Bronica RF645 and the Fujica G/GL/GW and GSW690. The Fujicas were most attractive because of the negative size and price. I chose the successor of the GL, the GSW with a fixed 65mm lens. It was lighter than the GL and I wasn't planning to change lenses, I thought. 

The Fujica GSW690 is the Fujica GW690s sister, the only difference is the lens, the GW has a 90mm lens in stead of 65mm. These cameras are rangefinders, manual exposure, leaf shutters for 120/220 film. Because of their resemblance of smaller rangefinders they are known as "Texas Leicas". They were designed for a very particular reason, to photograph tour groups, Thats why they needed to be extremely robust and durable. During the Osaka (JP) expo loads of buses would unload their passengers which were photographed for the pictures to sold at the end of the day. Sometimes a 100 rolls would be shot a day with these cameras, doing 30.000 exposures a year. Now that needs durability.

“They are designed with durability in mind”

This was not the reason why I bought this camera, I'm not planning to take picture of Japanese groups all day. The design of the camera is quite boxy and had a convex at the front-right hand side and left to a smaller extent, forming a grip that became very popular on other cameras but was very uncommon at the time. The camera has two release buttons, one on top and one at the front. Later version added release locks to these buttons.

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As you can see below this camera is still big, although a lot more manageable than a RB67. It is 189mm wide ×119mm high and 123mm deep; it weighs 1.475g, saving of about 300g from the GL690, mostly attributable to the lack of lens breechlock, curtain, and associated switchgear. The lens is an EBC Fujinon SW 65mm f/5.6, with six elements in four groups (67mm filter thread). This lens is widely thought to be optically identical to the 65mm f/5.6 lens available for the G690 series.

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Walking around with this camera is absolutely wonderful, You know that you have a lot of film surface at your disposal in your camera but the dimensions and weight are extremely practical. I love how the strap is connected to the body, to the left side of the body, which make the camera hang sideways against your hip. On the successor of the model they moved the strap holders to both sides of the body, the common place, but I prefer to let the camera hang sideways. 

“Simple robust camera

with extreme results”

It's just a pleasure to take pictures with this camera although you are imminently aware that you can only take 8 pictures a roll which make every click expensive, making you even more aware what analogue photography is about, look before you shoot. For a leaf shutter camera it's quite noisy, this is not due to the shutter but the counter on the bottom of the body. It counts every 10th frame and is intended to remind you to service the shutter, although it's not clear after how many exposures the shutter is recommended to be serviced. Some say 10.000 but the numbers vary. The "odometer" can easily be tampered with  or disconnected to make the camera less noisy.

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I'm looking forward to bring this camera along on my next trip, after the Covid-19 situation, to proof it's value. I take an advance on my conclusion by saying it probably is a very good companion if you are looking for a middle format film  camera which fits your bag and doesn't hurt your back while hiking and city trips. Just remember to bing enough 120 film with you.

“Ideal for traveling and extremely sharp photos”