Last summer, the time had finally come. We had been planning this trip for a very long time. Along with my Fujifilm X-T10 and the X-Pro1 (I promise, I’ll update the “my gear” section soon) and some lenses, filters, tripod, etc., I decided to bring a film camera with a few rolls of film.
Because I’m afraid of thieves, I didn’t dare bringing along the Leica R5 with all the red dotted lenses. However, I stumbled onto a truly compelling offer. There was this guy who sold a great looking Fujica ST901 with two lenses and some accessories for as little as 50 bucks.
The camera came with an EBC Fujinon 55mm f/1.8 and an EBC Fujinon 28mm f/3.5. While the 55mm is an astonishing lens (I will hopefully get a chance to compare it to the 50mm f/1.4 EBC some day..), I mostly used the 28mm during the trip. Such a great focal length for my style of shooting.
The Fujica ST901 was the top of the pops of Fujifilms line-up back in the 70’s. According to this site, it was even marketed as the world’s most advanced auto exposure camera.
It really is a great piece of craftsmanship and the rubber cloth shutter still works smoothly. The “user interface” of the camera is very simple, with only a few knobs and buttons to work with.
Also, the LED indicators in the viewfinder, the USP of this camera, are of a rather simple design as well. But they still work perfectly.
However, there’s one thing that’s special about Fujica cameras. Because Fujifilm went a step further with the development of the m42 lens mount, the Fujica m42 lenses cannot be used on regular m42 screw mount cameras. They have a little aperture indexing tab that tells the camera what aperture you currently selected (Which is essential for the Aperture priority auto exposure mode to work). My old radioactive Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 lacks that tab and I must admit that I sinfully filed off the tab on my EBC Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 when I realised I couldn’t adapt it to my Canon otherwise. “Why should I ever buy a Fujica film SLR?”, I asked myself, before I took the file and went to work.
That was only half a year before I actually bought the Fujica. *sigh*
Well, let’s look at the camera then. It’s in a very nice condition optically.
The back of the camera looked like new. Unfortunately, the ring around the viewfinder is made of metal and you gotta be very careful when you wear glasses to shoot. Since this camera has no built-in diopter adjustment, you either have to buy corrected lenses, or you keep your glasses on. (I mostly wore contacts)
The camera is very easy to handle and the auto exposure (aperture priority) mode works nicely as well.
It makes for a beautiful package together with the lens:
The seals should be replaced, but I didn’t find the time before the trip and didn’t bother since..
Unfortunately, at first, there was a technical issue, so I opened the camera and fixed it. It really was that easy, because the clamp-thingy didn’t grab the handle-thingy that operates the film-advance lever.
The battery, however, did set me back nearly 20 bucks.
Fujinon 55mm f/1.8 EBC
The Fujinon 55mm f/1.8 EBC seems to be comparably rare these days, considering it was a kit lens. There really isn’t much I could find regarding this lens, except for a few raving reviews. I would love to put it up against the 50mm f/1.4 on my 1Ds. Unfortunately, I’ll have to find a solution to use it with an adapter without having to remove the aperture tab.
Below is a sample image that I took on our balcony. Shot on Fuji Superia 200.
Fujinon-SW 28mm f/3.5 EBC
The Fujinon-SW 28mm f/3.5 EBC is the reason I bought the Fujica ST901 in the first place: a cheap way to get into the world of the 28mm field of view. While my Leica Elmarit-R 28mm f/2.8 is a great little lens, it’s street price tops almost all of my other lenses and I handle it with utmost care.
The Fujinon-SW 28mm f/3.5 EBC is solidly built and very small and light, which makes for an amazing travel companion.
As with the 55mm, there’s only little to be found on the web regarding this lens, but there’s this review with sample pictures. This is an image I took of our beautiful city with Fuji Superia 200.
When I got the camera, I had a roll each of Kodak Portra 160 and Fujicolor Superia 200, because I wanted to decide which one to buy in heaps for the trip. I shot the Portra with my Leica and the Superia with the Fujica.
I find that the Superia produces superior greens but seems a bit cold otherwise.
The Portra, on the other hand, does much better with warmer tones.
Because I knew that there would be more “desert” and “city” than “forest” to be shot on our trip, I decided to go with the Portra. However, I went with Portra 400, because I hoped for a little more of that “retro” style, larger grain and less saturation.
These are some samples I shot on Portra 400 after the trip.
Our west coast trip made for a very intense 3.5 weeks. Mostly, because there was almost 6’000 kilometres of driving spread over only 22 days. Sometimes, we sat in the car for 7 hours a day, but it was worth the effort looking back.
This is a map of our route. We started out in Vancouver and spent the last two days there as well, after flying back north from San Diego.
Seattle and Mt. Rainier
In Vancouver, I was so overwhelmed with Jet lag and the impressions, I didn’t bring the film camera with me at all when we left the hotel. So, the first images I took were captured at our second stop in Seattle, WA.
We obviously took the elevator to the top of the space needle and visited Chihuly’s museum. The Fuji X-T10 was my camera of choice in the dark but incredibly impressive museum, often at very high iso values. The pictures from the Museum will follow at a later point in time.
Stopped down, the 28mm Fujinon is a very, very sharp lens
When we arrived at our Airbnb that evening, I wanted to take some pictures of the skyline. I tried two shots (20sec exposures) with the Fujica as well
The next day, we had to leave for Mount Rainier quite early, because we would spend the night in Ellensburg (that’s almost 400 kilometres and over 5 hours of driving, without the walking and hiking in the park).
The lighting conditions in the redwood forest were very tough for the Fujica/Portra combo, so there’s not much more to say to these pictures.
On the road
From Ellensburg, we drove to Missoula (“600km straight ahead”, Navmii said) and then on to the North Entrance of the Yellowstone (another 450km) the day after.
As you can see, my 28mm had a technical issue with light leaking in on the side. There was a screw loose on the side of the lens barrel that caused this.
Yellowstone National Park
In the park, I took quite a lot of pictures with all of my cameras. Must have made for a good laugh, the guy carrying three “retro styled” cameras around his neck and shoulders.
Yellowstone river and the falls.
The plains with hundreds of Bison feeding.
Old Faithful. And again, that naughty light leak.
I was relieved to find that our trees on the balcony aren’t the only ones that look like this..
with the strongest light leak of all the images, because the sun is actually in the picture
the sapphire pool
Grand Prismatic Spring
I took more pictures when we were in the Grand Teton National Park and around Salt Lake city.
Unfortunately, when I tried to change the film in our Motel in Beaver, UT, I used too much force on the rewind and ripped the film apart. That way, around 6-10 exposures were lost to the light flooding the chamber when I foolishly opened the camera.
I probably even took a picture in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, because it’s not every day that you enter a little town in the desert that’s overflowing with young people in swim shorts carrying inflatable rings and rafts to ride in the river.
I really fell in love with Page. What a great place and with so many great parks to visit in the surroundings. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have time to do too much exploring. But we will be back.
Especially love the red sandy rock. So much prettier than the grey granite we’re used to from the Alps.
When we visited the Lower Antelope Canyon, I only brought my X-Pro1, but you’ll see some pics in a future post, I promise.
However, in the evening, we went to enjoy the sunset at Lake Powell.
And, at 3 in the morning, we got up early to catch the sunrise at Horseshoe Bend. Here, the 28mm lens was a bit of a limitation, but the lighting was simply amazing!
I’ll post more pictures soon in pt. 2 of this article. Stay tuned and leave your feedback, questions and remarks below.