One Fabulous Fujica
- by Rick Drawbridge-
Finally, I’ve found a couple of hours to put together a few words in praise of a very fine Fujica Rangefinder, the 35-EE. It came as a Christmas present and I held off using it until I had the time to savour the experience, and savour it I did…
It’s an astonishing camera, heavy and beautifully-made, with great attention to detail and finish. It’s designers obviously decided to re-think the contemporary rangefinder concept, and produced a camera with a very clean appearance and favourable ergonomics. The winder is situated on the baseplate, a position I find very user-friendly, along with the frame counter, and the focusing is operated by a thumbwheel set into the back, just where one’s thumb comfortably sits when holding the camera. Focusing is fast and accurate with a very bright split-image in the parallax-compensating viewfinder.Set smoothly into the top plate is a window for the exposure meter readout, and a dinky little dial that revolves in tandem with the focusing wheel to indicate your focusing distance and depth-of-field, both components beautifully machined and impeccably fitted into their housings, along with a gem of an accessory shoe. On the left side of the camera just below the top plate, is the film rewind, a cute little fold-out construction that works at right-angles to the direction of wind. Very clever, all designed to keep the top plate as uncluttered as possible.
Surprisingly, despite a selenium cell meter and no battery power, the camera operates in a shutter-priority mode with manual over-ride. The Fuji Synchro MXL shutter operates from B through 1 second to 1/1000th, (perhaps a little optimistically!), and the 45mm f/1.9 Fujinon lens ranges down to f/16. In auto mode you select a shutter speed in the shutter speed window on the lens barrel, set the aperture ring to “Auto”, and let rip. And that’s just what I did; the meter tells one what sort of aperture is in use, though sadly there’s no indication in the viewfinder. There’s an idiot button one moves to get the speeds below 1/30th and into the camera-shake zone, and rather a long and imprecise shutter release, though this retracts back into a much more manageable device when the manual over-ride is selected.
I was sceptical about Auto mode, knowing that it must be highly mechanical in the absence of battery power, so I took a couple of frames on Manual and then switched to Auto and let the beast have it’s way. I was rewarded by 27 faultlessly-exposed negatives, to my delight and astonishment. And the lens…truly magnificent, as I think the relatively low-res scans I’ve included will portray. Quite apart from being possibly the best-finished rangefinder I own, the 35-EE’s combination of quirky design, great handling and superb optics makes it a prize in my collection. The pics were taken on a roll of Agfa Optima 200 I’d been keeping in the fridge for a special occasion, the one monochrome being desaturated in P’Shop.
All text and images © 2011 Rick Drawbridge
About the author:
Rick is a New Zealand photographer who spends his spare time researching, restoring and reviewing old film cameras.
He will share his adventures in re-exploring the joy of using film cameras used by amateurs and professional photographers alike. His articles are not meant to be pixel peeping and nerdy technical reviews. They just should inspire you to explore the world of analog imaging and encourage the usage of analog equipment.
Have a look to all articles in his series “The Joy of Film Cameras“.