I have had this Fuji GSW 690 Mk III for over two years and can’t think why I have never mentioned it before. I was first introduced to the camera when a friend was visiting Corfu and brought his with him. Foolishly, I accepted an offer to try it out and was smitten with it!
Back in July 2021, it was with the only camera repairer that I could find in Greece for nearly six weeks. It was only for minor surgery which didn’t actually effect it’s use. It had a crack in the viewfinder glass and a loose diffuser panel. Both were a result of transport from the UK. Happily the repairs were successful.
A Little History
Originally, Fuji began building medium format rangefinders in 1967, in a 6×9 format, but from there they branched out to other formats which included 6×7, 6×4.5 and even 6×8. The original cameras had interchangeable lenses but this was discontinued from about the mid-1970s for a fixed focal length lens. This meant you needed to decide your focal length at the time of purchase.
The first GW690 model was sold with a 90mm lens. In the mid-1980s Fuji introduced the wide lens with the Mk II. The two cameras that were introduced then were the GW690II with the standard 90mm lens, and the GSW690II with the 65mm lens. The Mk III was introduced in 1992.
The Specifics of My GSW690 Mk III
What can I tell you about this beast, for beast adequately describes it as it weighs in at over 1.5 kilos and shoots massive 6 x 9 cm negatives. This is about five times the size of a 35mm frame due to the wide angle lens. The advantage for someone like me that has shot 35mm film for so many years, is that the aspect ratio is the same. It is affectionately referred to by owners as ‘The Texas Leica’ as its design resembles a Leica rangefinder camera on steroids!
It has a fixed 65mm f5.6 Fujinon EBC lens, full manual control and no metering. The lens is very nice and is the equivalent to a 28mm lens in 35mm terms. The camera is fully manual and has no batteries. I see it as a great tool for landscape photography.
Shutter speeds run from T to a modest 1/500th second and the aperture settings run from f5.6 down to f32 in half stop increments. Focus, aperture and shutter are all controlled by rings on the lens. The aperture and shutter rings can be turned in unison to preserve an EV setting, If that is how you work. The rubber covered focus ring is firm but precise and unlikely to slip. It has a built in lens hood.
Surprisingly, unlike many large cameras, the shutter is very quiet. However, the peace is disturbed by the clunk of an odometer on the bottom of the camera which measures every ten actuations of the shutter! I should add that this is disputed by many users! However, it definitely is not a camera for street-shooters. Unobtrusive, it ain’t!
Lens: EBC Fujinon 90 mm f/3.5, 5 components, 5 elements, non-interchangeable, 1m nearest focusing distance, F32 minimum aperture, screw-in filter (70mm outer diameter, 67mm inner diameter)
Shutter: No. 0 inter-lens shutter, T, 1-1/500 sec., shutter release lock
Focusing: double-image, coupled range-viewfinder, 0.75x magnification, 95% field of view at 1m, 44.3 mm effective baseline length
Flash: hot shoe with X sync connector
Film Type: 120 or 220 film (8/16 exposures respectively)
Dimensions: 119 mm × 201 mm × 129 mm
Weight: 1,460 grams
Other features: shutter actuation lever, spirit level