The Fujica GW690 Professional and the nine similar models that followed it are leaf-shutter fixed-lens rangefinder cameras for 120/220 film that Fuji brought out as successors to its interchangeable-lens Fujica GL690 and Fujica GM 670 Professional models.
In addition to the Fujica GW690 Professional (the last to be called "Fujica"), the series includes the Fuji GW690II, GW670II, GSW690II, GW690III, GW680III, GW670III, GSW690III and GSW680III (all of them "Professional"); the entire series is treated within this article.
Features (such as interchangeable film backs) normal among medium-format cameras of the time, and others (such as exposure meters) almost universal among cameras in general are missing in the GW690 and its successors, which look rather as if a black Leica M3 with a particularly large lens (perhaps 85mm f/1.8) had been made to a much larger scale, they are therefore often called the "Texas Leica".
Fixed lens, and reliability
The immediate predecessors of these large rangefinder cameras had interchangeable lenses, and to those who like to think of them as "Texas Leicas", the change to a fixed lens may seem perverse. But people close to the development of the camera have explained. The main reason was simply that sales of the lenses of lengths other than 65mm and 100mm were very low. Moreover, eliminating the lens mount would further reduce weight and increase reliability.
The emphasis on reliability was determined by the unusual market for the cameras. As noted in the article on the G690 and the other interchangeable-lens models, the major use of these cameras was in the thriving if unglamorous business of photographing tour groups. Buses would disgorge their passengers at such places as the 1970 Osaka Expo, group photographs would be taken, and the prints could be ready later the same day. Mr Nakanishi (仲西史則), in charge of this work in one company, has recalled that one camera might go through 50 or 100 rolls of film per day (perhaps short rolls, designed for six 6×6 frames), and over thirty thousand exposures per year.
The Fujica GW690 Professional was the first to be released, in November 1978. It is based on the GL690 — a leaf-shutter rangefinder camera for 6×9 exposures on 120 or 220 film — from which it differs most importantly in having a fixed lens.
The lens is an EBC Fujinon, 90mm f/3.5, with five elements in four groups (67mm filter thread). Reputedly it is sharper at large apertures than the 100mm lenses of the earlier cameras, but out-of-focus areas are not so pleasant.
The GW690 was priced at ¥143,500.
The right and (to a lesser extent) the left sides of the front of the camera are convex, forming the kind of grips that soon become very common on other cameras (and that often contain batteries) but were unusual at the time. A switch on the top and next to the accessory shoe selects among short-roll 120 (four exposures) and regular 120 (eight) and 220 (sixteen); there is no longer provision for sheet film. The dimensions are 189(W)×119(H)×123(D)mm; it weighs 1430g, a saving of 300g from the GL690, mostly attributable to the lack of lens breechlock, curtain, and associated switchgear.
The Seiko #0 shutter lacks a B setting and instead only has T.
Camera also has a device at the bottom of the camera that counts multiples of ten shots — up to 999, and then, like a car odometer, restarting at 000 — and is intended to remind the owner when shutter servicing is needed. Different people have different numbers for recommended servicing; Chatani says that the shutter was to have been guaranteed for 10,000 exposures. What is certain is that this "odometer" can easily be tampered with (just like that of a car).
When tripping the shutter, the noise is curiously loud for a camera with a leaf shutter. Some mistakenly blame the odometer on the bottom of the camera (which is a falsehood that has spread far across the web). However, it was discovered that the noise is not due to the shutter nor the odometer, but rather to the winding mechanism and it's linkage with the shutter contained in the lens body. There is vibration within this mechanism which also causes a 'hum'.
The interchangeable lens G/BL/GL models do not have this noise.
The rangefinder spot is round rather than rectangular. Instead of "mushroom" strap lugs, there are two loops for a strap on the left side of the camera (the side under the photographer's left hand).
The Fujica GSW690 Professional is a wider-angle version of the GW690. The lens is an EBC Fujinon SW 65mm f/5.6, with six elements in four groups (67mm filter thread). It weighs 1475g. It was released in March 1980, for ¥163,500.
This lens is widely thought to be optically identical to the 65mm f/5.6 lens available for the G690 series.
GW690II and GSW690II
|Fuji GW670II Professional, by Alan Wentworth. (Image rights)|
Released in June 1985, the Fuji GW690II Professional and Fuji GSW690II Professional are minor revisions to the GW690 and GSW690. The accessory shoe is now a hotshoe, the shutter release has a lock, the grip is checked rather than ribbed, and the strap lugs are conventionally one to each side, rather than both on one side.
The GW690II and GSW690II are ten and five grams heavier respectively than their predecessors.
The cameras were priced at ¥158,500 (GW690II) and ¥178,500 (GSW690II).
Released in December 1985, the Fuji GW670II Professional was Fuji's follow-up to the Fujica GM 670 Professional as 6×7 camera. It differs from the GW690II only in having a smaller film gate and different gearing and numbering for the film advance mechanism. It was priced at ¥163,500.
GW690III, GSW690III, and GW670III
The Fuji GW690III Professional, Fuji GSW690III Professional, and Fuji GW670III Professional have redesigned exteriors that emphasize curves rather than right angles and have rubberized coatings. They also have a small spirit level embedded in the top above the viewfinder eyepiece (this level has a single axis, serving only to help balance the left and right), and push-button spool release.
Despite allegations in web forums, etc., of how these new cameras are "plasticky" compared with their 1985 predecessors, the GW690III, GSW690III and GW670III weigh 20, 30, and 15 grams more than their respective predecessors.
The two 6×9 models were released in Japan in February 1992, at ¥179,000 (GW) and ¥197,000 (GSW). The 6×7 model was released in March 1992, for export only.
GW680III and GSW680III
Fuji had brought out a (nominally) 6×8 camera in 1986, the GX680 professional studio SLR. Perhaps for the Japanese market only, it brought out 6×8 versions of these rangefinder cameras: the Fuji GW680III Professional and Fuji GSW680III Professional in March and November 1992 respectively. Like the 6×7 models, these differ from the 6×9 models only in having a smaller film gate and different gearing and numbering for the film advance mechanism: the dimensions and weights are the same as for the 6×9 models, and in Japan the prices were too.
- Much factual information within this article derives from Koyasu, "Fuji Shashin Firumu no kamera no subete", and Nawa, Meiki o tazunete.
- Relative sales according to Mr Chatani (茶谷茂), then of the professional products division (営業第一本部プロフェショナル写真部) of Fuji Photo Film; quoted by Nawa, p.267.
- Weight reduction, reliability increase: Mr Hamada (浜田寿), head technical planner for the GL690 and later models; quoted by Nawa, p.267.
- For Nakanishi's account of use of these cameras, see Nawa, p.265–7.
- Nawa claims (p.269) that the holding grips were the first on any camera. Earlier cameras have extrusions on the left or right of the front, but perhaps these are all for functional reasons (e.g. the Italian Gamma) or for style (e.g. the Soviet Drug).
- This lack of B has puzzled and irritated users of the camera. With input from Greg Weber, Dante Stella has made a guess; see the foot of "Evolutionary history".
- Chatani on 10,000: quoted in Nawa, p.269.
- This shows that the sound is not due to the shutter or odometer.
- On this issue, see also Dante Stella, "Plastics: the urban myth of the Fuji RF," near the foot of In depth: Evolutionary History of Fuji 6x7, 6x8 and 6x9 Rangefinders.
Further reading / references
- The Japanese Historical Camera. 日本の歴史的カメラ (Nihon no rekishiteki kamera). 2nd ed. Tokyo: JCII Camera Museum, 2004. p.184. The G690, included for its "odometer".
- Koyasu Yoshinobu (子安栄信). "Fuji Shashin Firumu no kamera no subete" (富士写真フィルムのカメラのすべて All the cameras of Fuji Photo Film). Kamera Rebyū: Kurashikku Kamera Senka (カメラレビュー クラシックカメラ専科) / Camera Review: All about Historical Cameras no.44, December 1997. ISBN 4-257-13013-X. Tokushū: Fuji Shashin Firumu no kamera (特集：富士写真フィルムのカメラ, special issue on the cameras of Fuji Photo Film). Koyasu deals with these cameras on pp.69–72.
- Nawa Hidetaka (那和秀峻). Meiki o tazunete: Sengo kokusan-kamera hiwa (名機を訪ねて：戦後国産カメラ秘話) / Revisiting renowned cameras. Tokyo: Nippon-kamera-sha, 2003. ISBN 4-8179-0011-3 Nawa devotes pp.255–71 to the G690 and its successors.
- Fuji 645 RF Price & Information Guide
- Fuji 6x7 and 6x9 RF Price & Information Guide
- Evolutionary History of Fuji 6×7, 6×8 and 6×9 Rangefinders, by Dante Stella
- Fujica G690 and its successors at Robert Monaghan's Medium Format Photography Megasite, with much discussion. (The page at first appears to be about the G690 and its immediate successors, but in fact much of it is about the later, fixed-lens cameras.)
- The Fuji Rangefinder Pages (for these and other medium-format Fuji cameras)
- Fuji 6x9 Rangefinders at arukucamera.net
- Fujica GW/GWS Family Statistic Price Info's at AuctionPriceTracker
- Illustrated history of the G690 and successors, by Babar de St Cyr
- Medium format rangefinders by Daniel Herlent, scroll down for pictures of the GW670II, GSW680III and GW690III
- Fuji GW670 III on www.collection-appareils.com by Sylvain Halgand
- Fujica GW/GWS Family Statistic Price Info's at AuctionPriceTracker