FUJI GSW690III – Long-Term Review
Since medium format cameras are so expensive, I started researching my first medium format camera that would fit my budget. I had a rule that the camera couldn’t cost more than $600 and should have either an interchangeable lens or a fixed wide-angle lens.
Sometime later, I learned about Fuji medium format cameras ranging from 6×45 to 6×9. Initially, I was attracted to the Fujifilm GA645 but the price was way out of my budget. Then, I came across a video that completely changed my mind. The only camera I wanted was the Fuji GSW690iii.
During that time, I started very intensively looking at other people’s photos on Flickr, reading through old discussion boards, and watching videos that were available at that time. Then, one day, I got on eBay and spent a week bidding, messaging sellers, and so on. Finally, one eBay seller accepted my offer and I purchased this beautiful beast from Japan for $550.
Let me take you down memory lane and explain why this camera became one of my favorites.
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Fuji released the GSW690iii in February 1992. With a price tag of $1,408,17, this rangefinder is a fully mechanical camera without an internal light meter. When Japanese photographers were doing tourist pictures back in the day, Fuji manufactured four exposure rolls of film. The purpose was to speed up the film processing process and turn the camera over to another photographer.
Photographers were able to get contact roll prints (from 120 and 220 films) very cheaply in the 80s and 90s. A long roll of contact-sized paper could be easily cut into individual proof papers. Since it takes some of the most stunning and sharpest photos, it’s not surprising.
Fuji redesigned their exteriors with curves instead of right angles and rubberized coatings. They also have a push-button spool release and a small spirit level embedded in the top in front of the wind lever (it serves only to balance the left and right). The rangefinder has a baseline length of 59mm.
The GSW690III lens is a Biogon-type 65mm F5.6 with six elements in four groups mounted in a mechanical #0 shutter. The Biogon design typically consists of eight lenses. However, Fujifilm utilized high-index glass and increased the lens thickness and curve radius to produce a novel six-element design. The only difference between the 6×9, 6×8, and 6×7 models is an altered film gate with different gearing and numbering. Dimensions and weights remain the same, and prices in Japan remain the same as well.
There has been an allegation that these new models are “plasticky,” but the designers actually used plastic to reduce weight. To keep rangefinder accuracy and lens alignment precise, the body frame is die-cast aluminum alloy. Additionally, designers emphasized the use of plastics in extremely cold temperatures to enhance grip and protection and It uses ABS plastics.
FUJI GSW690II has very few settings; it’s very easy to operate. Whether you already own it or are considering buying it, here are some basic things you should pre-check:
- Check for any fungus or fogging inside the viewfinder or lens.
- See if there are any damages or scratches on the exterior part or lens
- Check the shutter speed ring – it should move slowly
- Try the aperture ring – it should be faster and clicker than the shutter speed ring
- Dry fire the shutter (you can only dry fire with the backdoor open). Note that this camera has two shutter buttons.
- To make sure the shutter is firing and the aperture blade is moving smoothly, test various shutter speeds and apertures
- Look inside the viewfinder to see if the parallax lines are moving. When you zoom in or zoom out on the lens, they should move.
- Try it with a film roll if you can. Make sure the film slides into the spool correctly and that the camera inserts the film correctly.
- Make sure the light seals haven’t deteriorated. If so, then your camera needs a new light seal.
- Shutter actuation counter: You will be able to see at the bottom of your camera how many times the shutter has been operated. This will allow you to determine when the camera requires maintenance. It counts 10 shutter actuation as 1, so if it shows 150, the shutter has been actuated 1,500 times. When it gets to 999 (9,990 shots), it’ll go back to 000.
Pro tip: Seeing a Fuji GSW/GW 690III advertised on eBay or the marketplace for sale with shutter counts between 000 – 100 (advertised as Near Mint or Mint), but the outside of the camera looks really worn, this means the camera was used very often and the seller isn’t honest about the product description.
How to use the camera
After completing the pre-check and making sure everything is functional, let’s learn how to use the camera. Note that these tips are the same for FUJI GW690III and FUJI GW670III:
Selecting the correct film format
Opening the camera back
To open the camera back, erect the camera back lock and press it down toward the camera bottom. To close it, keep the lock erect, and press the camera back against the body, then snap the lockdown. The Camera back won’t close unless the camera back lock is erect.
12O/22O film selector
While pulling the film selector lock, turn and set the film selector for the film you are using as follows:
Make sure your film selector and pressure plate are set for the film you’re shooting (120 or 22O). You’ll need the side of the pressure plate marked “12O” if you’re using 120 roll film, and “220” if you’re using 220 roll film. Turn the pressure plate over by pushing it toward the arrow and lifting it. You won’t get perfectly focused photos if you don’t use the correct pressure plate.
Loading the take-up spool
Press the spool knob release buttons (small red buttons on the supply and take-up sides) to remove the knobs. Place the empty spool in the take-up chamber (on the same side as the film advance lever), then press the take-up spool knob.
Inserting film for 120 selector
Place the film in the film chamber (on the same side as the viewfinder eyepiece), then press the film loading knob. It’s easier to load the take-up spool and film roll on the top side of the camera. Take out the film paper leader, pass it through the film channel, insert the tip in the slot of the take-up spool, and wind it around the spool.
As soon as the arrow mark on the right-hand side of the film channel lines up with the film start mark on the leader paper, stop winding.
Pro tip: You can prevent the film from slackening by pressing down the leader paper with your finger near the supply side. Use the film advance lever to keep the leader paper taut while closing the camera back until you snap it back into place.
Adjusting the camera’s settings
Unlocking the front shutter release
If you see an “L” on the shutter release, it’s locked. To unlock it, push the front shutter release lock toward the lens so that it covers the “L”.
Built-in lens hood
Lens hoods are built into the barrel. To use, just pull it out.
Set the shutter speed selector and aperture ring
Pull out the lens hood and set the shutter speed and aperture for your photo. Be sure to set the shutter speed ring at the click positions. Caution is required because the shutter blades may not open if you set it anywhere between click stops.
Focusing the lens.
Using the viewfinder eyepiece, center your subject, then turn the focusing ring to merge the double images in the yellow center spot. Make sure your eyes are lined up with the center of the viewfinder. You won’t be able to focus the lens accurately if you don’t do that, because the yellow focusing spot will disappear from the center of the bright frame.
Composing your picture
Use the bright frame to compose your picture. As you focus, the top and left sides of the bright frame move and correct for parallax. The top and left frame lines are moved. In the viewfinder, you will find a 0.45X magnification and parallax correction, as well as 93% field of view at 1 meter and 90% at infinity.
Film winding and shutter cocking
You can open and close the shutter blades when the number “1” appears on the exposure counter. Simply wind the film advance lever two times to advance the film and cock the shutter.
The first stroke will cock the shutter and partially advance the film; the second stroke will complete it. The winding angle of the film advance lever will differ from the amount of unexposed film left on the second stroke.
Test dry the shutter buttons by opening the camera backdoor (don’t open the backdoor if there’s already a film in place). If the camera back is closed, you can’t press the shutter release
You can take long exposure pictures by setting the shutter speed to “T” (Time) and pressing the shutter release. The shutter will remain open even if you take your finger off the shutter release. After you’ve finished shooting long exposure, cover your lens with the hat or lens cap and change the aperture speed back from “T” to “1” sec. This is important if you’re shooting at night or if you’re taking longer exposure more than 1-second photos. To learn how to properly use T mode, click here for Nico’s take from Nico’s Photography Show.
Pro tip: For “T” mode, you’ll need a tripod, shutter release cable, and something to cover it.
Taking infrared pictures
Using the focusing ring, measure the distance of the subject and set that distance to the infrared mark (red line labeled “R”). By doing this, you’ll be able to focus on a slightly closer point.
I know it sounds silly, but always check if the lens cap is off. In SLRs, you can see if the lens cap is covering the lens through the viewfinder. With rangefinders, you don’t see. Oh, how many times have I missed the shot when the lens cap was on.
This camera accepts 67mm filters. While some people say that these models cannot be used with lens filters because of the built-in lens hood. I know that some people remove lens hoods, but in my case, my Fuji GSW690III fits lens filters perfectly. Please refer to the following picture:
For a more detailed manual please click here
Pros and Cons
What type of gear and films should I use?
There are a few things you’ll need for this camera, like a shutter release cable, an external light meter, and 120 film. Since there isn’t any “right film or gear” for any application, they all have their pros and cons.
Here are a few things I recommend:
4. Viewfinder eyepiece
a) Nikon Dg-2 Eyepiece Magnifier
5. Shutter release cable
a) JJC 40cm/15.7″ Red Mechanical Shutter Release Cable
Pro tip: I always choose a bigger lens filter so I can use it on all my lenses. Decide what size works best for you.
7. Current camera listings on eBay:
a) Near MINT in Case] Fujifilm Fuji GSW690 III 6×9 film Camera w/ 65mm JAPAN
b) Count 075 [ MINT Strap] Fuji Fujifilm GSW690 III Medium Format Film Camera JAPAN
c) [Top MINT] Fujifilm Fuji GSW690 III 6×9 Film Camera w/ EBC 65mm f/5.6 From JAPAN
d) [MINT Count 210] Fujifilm Fuji GSW690 III 6×9 EBC SW 65mm f/5.6 From JAPAN
e) “MINT 561” Fujifilm Fuji GSW690 III 6×9 Camera Body EBC SW 65mm f/5.6
f) MINT Fujifilm Fuji GSW690 III 6×9 Camera w/ EBC SW 65mm f/5.6 From JAPAN
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It is no secret that as film shooters/enthusiasts, we all yearn for that perfect camera. In spite of the praise that this camera has received recently, I do think that it does deserve the praise that it has received. This camera produces one of the highest-quality negatives in 120 film, despite the fact that it is portable.
Would I buy it today? Yes, of course! If I had more money, I would purchase a stack of Fuji 690 cameras. This will be one of your best purchases if you don’t mind the “T” mode and carry an external light meter.
This camera is not intended for those on a tight budget. However, it is great for someone who wants to start exploring medium film photography, as well as more experienced photographers.
I’ve really enjoyed writing about FUJI GSW690ii Long-term review. I hope you will enjoy and learn something as I did in writing this post. In the previous topic, we touched on My first experience with Super 8mm. If you have missed the post you can check it by clicking here.
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About Analog Dayz
Analog Dayz is a blog authored, edited, and published by Ivan Kristić that features articles about my hobbies, such as film/digital photography, adventures, product reviews, cycling, and more.
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