Hello again friends and passers by,
Just a quick update, a reminder that my official website is well underway and nearly finished (and online for those who missed it it's www.luis-rubim-photography.co.uk ). I am in the process of scanning some stuff to go into the published works section as well as sorting my media published work. Nevertheless, all work and no play makes Luis a boring person, but for me 70% of my work is also play, so I took some time to go take some shots today and here's today's shot. Hope you enjoy!
Until next time,
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Hello again friends and passers by,
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Having recently become a fan of the rangefinder, I have embraced the challenges of working on a shorter focal length as a learning experience, particularly as a street photographer. So, as challenges are always something empirically good, I decided to step it up a notch and look for rangefinders with fixed lenses. I was looking for a Minolta Himatic 7 when I came across the Fujica Auto-M and Fujica 35EE. I became more interested in the Fujica models as they are unusual in design and operation, but also have a solid reputation for quality lenses and reliability. But these models disappear in a blink of an eye from the market place.
I also was intrigued by the half-frame camera. The thought of having 72 frames of film meant for me more images in a roll of film despite any disadvantages (particularly enlargement sizes).I then came across the Fujica GER which I bought out of impulse, only realising later that it wasn't a fully manual camera and also not half-frame, it is by and large an auto-exposure camera and full frame. But when I received the camera, I was in awe of the simplicity of the design and in particular, the size. I knew it was small but haven't really gauged well how small. I became even more intrigued with it,so a couple of days later, I bought myself some process paid slide film and started a test of the camera to see how good it was if it was working at all. As a side note, I believe that this review may be of use to those considering this camera since manuals are hard to find.
2 - Body and Design
Upon receipt of the package, I could not figure out what did I order that deserved such a small box until I opened it. The camera is minute and this is almost an understatement. I opened the palm of my hand and the camera fits entirely on the palm of my average sized hands. Yet, this little camera has a nice comfortable wind lever,a very readable frame counter on top,a flash hotshoe, reasonable size rewind knob and pc synch socket to the left side of the top plate. It is well laid out and it is a typical example of excellent Japanese design with a good compromise of size and usability. The top plate, also features a LED that lights up when you half press the shutter button. Without having a manual for this camera and never having found one either,I can only assume that it lights up to say that the shutter is powered as this is an aperture priority only camera with an electronic shutter. To each side of the top plate there are also strap lugs. The camera despite its size also feels solid and that includes the plastics in the body.
3 - Features
3a - The viewfinder
The Fujica GER has a surprisingly good size viewfinder for its tiny body, with frame lines and it also seems to be parallax corrected. The rangefider patch is a bit small compared to that of a full size rangefinder, but it is bright and very visible. In fact, comparing it to that of a Fed 4, which is a full size interchangeable lens rangefider, it is better. The viewfinder displays a sign for flash when the light levels drop by use of its colour compensation glass. To the right hand side of the eyepiece (which has no dioptre correction), there is also a small window featuring a small cylinder with red arrows painted on it, which tells the user if the film is winding.
3b - Flash usage
As mentioned before, the GER features both a hotshoe and a PC Synch socket. Exposures with flash are controlled by the aperture ring on the lens which we will get to on the following section.
3c - Lens
The lens is a Fujinon 38mm f2.8, a fast lens with a minimum focussing distance of 0.9m (90cm or 36in). It features an aperture ring which has flash guide numbers instead of aperture values, plus "A" for fully automatic. No shutter speed control on the lens as you would expect of many fixed lens rangefinders without a shutter speed control dial or knob on the top plate. This camera is aperture-priority only. It features a light meter on the front of the lens to the left side of the glass element (if facing the camera) and a film speed dial on the right that reads in ISO and DIN. ISO/DIN speeds go up to 800/30, controlled by a ring mounted around the glass element.
3d - On the bottom plate...
On the bottom plate, there is the battery compartment, which houses two PC640A batteries or compatible to the center, a rewind button to its right (if the camera is upside down and lens is facing you) and an off center tripod collar.
4 - Operation
Operation of this camera is very simplistic, focus the lens, wind the film and press the shutter release button.
5 - In actual use...
Loading film is a cinch and is virtually impossible to get it wrong, if that can be said.
The camera operates in an almost fully automatic way, the only control a user would have over the exposures is the flash guide numbers ring (the aperture ring) as such, if you plan anything more creative you need to brush up your guide numbers/subject distance mathematics to get an aperture value. The camera will set a shutter speed for you. Nevertheless, the camera still allows push and pull of film as you can set the film speed yourself. Despite all this, and even being a manual focus camera, there is a sense of ever readiness to the camera.
Focussing is smooth and quick. The only problem that I came across was that the rangefinder is out of horizontal alignment it seems, so I was looking for vertical lines or patterns all the time to help me focus, but this is perhaps something that may be corrected and does not seem to be inherent to the camera, but yet focussing was possible.
On half pressing the shutter, the user may notice that a small LED lights up inside the viewfinder as well as on the top plate (red LED). Without a manual, I can only assume that this simply is to notify the user that the batteries are OK and that the shutter is ready to be released. On fully pressing the shutter, a frame is produced in a whisper. It is very quiet in operation, which for the street photographer is a great bonus. The metering is very accurate, but I found that to have a sharp picture at all times (please note the expression " at all times") one needs to make sure that either there is good light or using a fast film. As it happens with digital cameras on Auto mode, you can get blurred photos if you come by a situation where the light drops, or dark shadows dominate the scene, but the fast and reasonably sharp wide open f2.8 lens can deal with a lot of these situations. There are of course limitations, since as mentioned above, films are limited up to ISO 800, which still gives plenty of scope even in night photography. For fast moving objects, a fast film or flash is recommended. Of course, one may come across light conditions that will allow the use of a medium speed film for this purpose, but for tack sharp images of fast moving objects even with good lighting, I would recommend sticking to ISO400 film or above.
As for flash usage, it is not a feature I have tested, but it will be done at some point.
The Fujica GER is a little pocket gem, with lots to like about it, in particular the fact that it's for the most part an ever ready camera. The camera does it all for you (except the focussing)and does it well. Of course, if you want a bit more creative control, you may be a bit frustrated, but for the fun factor, this camera gets 10/10.It is also one of those cameras for the enthusiasts' lazy days,where you just want something to point and shoot. It's compact body is very compact indeed, falls into a pocket and still leaves space for a couple of rolls of film,but yet the body feels well put together. The lens gives good results and seems acceptably sharp wide open, but in this first test it seems it may need a little contrast correcting in either the printing process or in Photoshop if you scan your film, comparing to other cameras' results. Obviously, if you are scanning, final results may also have to take into account your scanning equipment, but looking at transparencies through the loupe, they seem to hold very well. The only real downside considering this package, it is that the viewfinder has no dioptre correction,but one does wonder if it really needs it.
Again, here's a camera that can challenge the perceptions of the most demanding photographer, particularly that of the one who wants full control over the exposure process.
It is certainly a camera not to be dismissed for its minute size and automatic exposure control. Scracth the surface and it's a gem underneath.
Some images available here . As I still go through the transparencies, few more may be added.
I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Until next time,