I continue to acquire old cameras when the opportunity arises. Just after the New Year, when I got back to work, I saw a post on one of our internal forums – “Free 35mm SLR”. About an hour later I had a Fujica STX-1N on my desk, together with a couple of third party lenses. It seemed solid enough, and in good condition, and although the TTL metering didn’t appear to work, the shutter fired okay, and sounded about right at all speeds. The 50mm f/1.9 Fujinon-X lens that was mounted barely seemed used. When I got it home I gave it a bit of a clean, and found some fresh batteries. These seemed to do the trick and the metering came to life.
After that the next step was to load a film and go shoot. Seeing as it was the depths of winter I loaded a 24 exposure roll of HP5+, and took it for a walk the next morning before work around my usual testing grounds of the sunken garden and cemetery. I found it a nice camera to use; it’s solidly built, and feels right in the hand, and all the controls are smooth without being too light. I found it impossible to move a setting by mistake. The current shutter speed is indicated by a needle on the left of the viewfinder and the meter works by showing one of three LEDs on the right; green for “correct” or red above or below to indicate over- or under-exposure. As such you can use it in effectively either aperture or shutter priority metering depending on which quantity you vary, although naturally adjusting the aperture is easier.
A great feature is that if the battery is dead the only the meter is affected – the rest of camera still functions. I presume that inside it is entirely mechanical, which makes it ideal for long exposures, in contrast to my Canon A-1, for example, which consumes power to hold the shutter open. The downside appears to be a limited range of shutter speeds, with only ten available from 1/2s to 1/700s, plus bulb. That did limit my choices a little when shooting the HP5 in brighter conditions, since I couldn’t limit the depth of field as much as I’d wanted to, having to stop down. Using a slower film, it would be less likely to cause a problem.
One thing I noticed is that if there is tension on the film advance lever, then you can’t press the shutter. This is a bit awkward for me as I’m used to holding my A-1 with my thumb between the body and lever, and so when my hand assumed that position on the Fujica, I kept pushing the lever too far to the right and then wondering why the shutter was jammed. Once I figured it out I started to learn to hold it with the lever flat.
So what about the pictures? Well the meter seems accurate, as everything came out reasonably exposed, and the lens performed really well. It’s not really a surprise to find a 50mm lens is pretty sharp, but this ones seems to be so even wide open, with nice smooth out of focus areas. However, I would need to test it with a finer grain film to give a proper judgement on that. It also seems fairly contrasty, which is just fine by me.
Overall I found it a very likeable camera, easy enough to use, and well made, with a good lens that produced some fine negatives. It’s not a camera I’d have gone out of my way to buy, but I’m glad I acquired this one, and it might just see more action.