| gear, photography, vintage | 4 comments

My first serious medium format film camera. The Fuji GW690II from 1985 is big and bulky, but really easy to use and produces amazing photos.

After shooting 35mm film for a couple years, I got the urge to upgrade and thought about buying my first medium format camera. I wanted something that was both easy to use and affordable, and I first had my eyes on the Pentax 67, but getting one in good condition along with a lens was too expensive for me. I eventually found my way to the Fuji line of medium format rangefinders, and decided on the GW690II. It is a rangefinder camera, so you hold it up to your eye to compose your shot, which makes it a much easier transition coming from an SLR, as opposed to using a waist level viewfinder that many other medium format cameras use. It has a fixed lens, making it less expensive, and it also makes a 6x9 cm negative, which is the same aspect ratio as 35mm film—another point towards ease of use. It's also relatively cheap and easy to find on eBay. I got mine with the original carrying strap and microsuede case.

The first GW690 was released in 1978, but I decided to go with the upgraded version II from 1985 despite it only have a few minor additions—I figured it would be less likely to break down as soon. Fuji also released a model III version in 1992, but it's much more expensive.

Apparently Fuji designed the GW690 line to be a rugged, good quality, but also inexpensive camera for Japanese tourists, which explains why it's made out of plastic (in its defense, it's really good quality plastic) and there are so many to be found on eBay (most of them are from Japanese sellers). People tend to call it the "Texas Leica" because it's a rangefinder that takes extremely nice photographs (as Leicas do), the only difference being that it's huge. It's incredibly huge—some people call it a clown camera.

It's fitted with a fixed 90mm f3.5 lens, which is pretty close to a 50mm equivalent on 35mm film. It accepts both 120 and 220 film, and has a built in counter on the bottom that increments every 10 shots you take. The intent behind the counter was to indicate to the owner when the camera should be serviced next. Just like car. 

Other than that, it's extremely simple. It has no built-in light meter, so you'll need to use a handheld meter, an app on your phone, or your brain to calculate the exposure properly. It's also completely mechanical—does not require any batteries at all to operate.

It takes really nice photos. I do all my film development and scanning at home, and I am able to get roughly an equivalent of 45 megapixels out of one 6x9 frame. I am only using a consumer grade flatbed scanner from 2004 that I bought for $60. I scan at 2400 dpi which seems to be its optical limit.

4 comments

Awesome post! 😁

Really beautiful photography phot examples, in several light conditions. Congratulations for this post. I have a Mamiya 7 II camera, also rangefinder. I am very pleased with it, the results are stunning !!

Very inspiring! And nice pictures. I just received my eBay GW690 II this week. Back in the days I would run around with an ancient Hasselblad 500 c and a Rolleiflex, both long since sold. (Which I of course regret now). This looks a really nice camera.

Nostalgic for me, as I had one in the early 90s. Loved it, sold it, regret it. The nice sample shots don't show off the wide 6x9 format, which was great for landscapes. That Fuji, along with a Gossen light meter (as the camera had no built-in meter) were my travel companions, and accompanied me everywhere. Prior to this model I had the Fuji GS645S (then felt the need for an even larger frame).