Every now and then you get a duff camera: one which has been sold with undisclosed or unrecognised faults, sufficient to exclude that camera from remaining as part of a collection. These are the ones that got away.

 

JapanFujica Fujicarex II [1963 - ?]

 

Overview

Fujica FujicarexThe original 1962 Fujicarex was sold only to the Japanese market. The Fujicarex II was introduced to Europe in about 1963, and the Fujicarex SLR 35 to the US in 1964. Folks seem to expect there to have been a Fujicarex I, but there wasn't. There appears to be no differences between these three cameras; only their names set them apart. The last trace of the Fujicarex (any type) that I can find is an advertisement in a 1967 edition of the New Hampshire (USA) Portsmouth Herald newspaper (courtesy of Google's search results).

The Fujicarex is a weird camera in many respects. It's an SLR, with an automatic diaphragm and instant return mirror. Focusing is via a ground glass screen with a split image rangefinder, which is operated by a thumb wheel on the back of the camera top-plate housing. The rangefinder provides a three-way split, so a central section within the circle is the bit that moves (see the viewfinder graphic in the specifications section below).

The camera also features a selenium powered, centre-the-needle, shutter speed priority, auto-exposure system. The meter needle is visible through the camera viewfinder, and also operated by a second thumbwheel on the back of the camera top-plate housing. Aperture selection is coupled to the meter, so the thumbwheel sets the lens opening size, but the diaphragm remains fully open until the moment of exposure. The shutter speed ring is also coupled to the aperture setting, so altering the speed has a corresponding effect on the aperture size, thus maintaining correct exposure and allowing selection of a preferred aperture.

The aim of the control cluster (illustrated at the bottom right of this page) was to make a camera that was operated with just the right hand; focus, exposure, shooting, and wind-on. The left hand role was reduced to the single task of steady support.

The lens (an f/1.9 50mm Fujinon-S) is not removable, but the front element is replaceable, and retained by a bayonet system with a locking pin/switch. Alternative front element 35mm and 80mm lenses were available, plus a close-up attachment (Kodak and Canon models also experimented with this system).

The final items of weirdness are that the camera has a leaf-shutter (a Citizen QR - made by the company better known for their watches), an unexpected (by me anyway) depth-of-field preview button, a side mounted rewind crank (like other Fujicas of the time), plus separate meter scales for 160, and 64/32 ASA films (see the viewfinder graphic in the specifications section below). The ASA selector ring is not graduated for these film speeds (just for 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600). The operational procedure for snapping with films of these three speeds is shown in the table below.

 

Fujicarex metering procedure for 32, 64 and 160 ASA film
Film Speed Set ASA to - Centre meter needle on -
32 ASA 50 ASA 32 scale
64 ASA 100 ASA 32 scale
160 ASA 200 ASA 160 scale

 

The Fujicarex wasn't cutting-edge technology, and neither was it unique: in fact there were quite a few other camera manufactures at the time who employed elements of the Fujicarex's format (like the Kowa E), but none (so far as I know) put it all together in one camera like Fuji.

Hanimex (Fujica importer) took a full page advert in, what I'm guessing to be a 1963 edition of Practical Photography, which shows the price of the Fujicarex II as £67, which was more than 3 weeks average pay.

 

Specifications

Lens mount: Camera specific removable bayonet type fitting front element only.

Lens: Fujinon-S 50mm f/1.9 (unknown number of elements). Accepts 40.5mm screw filters.

Fujicarex viewfinderFocus: Eye-level penta-prism, ground glass with split rangefinder central spot. DOF preview button.

Shutter: Citizen QR leaf-shutter, 1 - 1/500th sec., plus B and 8 second self-timer (V setting). Standard screw-thread shutter button cable release.

Meter: Selenium powered, non-TTL, coupled meter with viewfinder needle pointer.

Exposure: Open aperture shutter speed priority centre-the-needle metering, with indicator needle visible in viewfinder, and automatic aperture coupling. Can also be set manually, in which case the wheel on the back of the top-plate is not used to set an aperture, but the shutter speed is instead set manually (using the viewfinder match needle to find the correct speed).

Film Speed: 10 to 1600 ASA with lock on selector dial.

Flash: PC socket with X and M sync selector, and offset cold shoe. Flash sync at any speed due to leaf-shutter.

Film Advance: Single-stroke lever action.

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via body edge crank and bottom release button.

Size: 142 x 92 x 78mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 899 g.

Battery: N/A.

 

doc

Fujicarex

 

My Camera

Sadly my Fujicarex (bought on eBay in May 2015) turned-out to have serious problems. The camera appears to have been dropped or suffered some similar impact, because the lens barrel is obviously out of alignment with the camera body (but the seller's photos didn't show this).

Outwardly the camera looks fine, but there is much internal damage to various linkages. The focus and exposure controls on the back of the camera are ceased. The film speed dial cannot be moved. The meter is unresponsive, the DOF preview lever does not operate, and the M/X sync selector switch is jammed. Shutter speed selection is possible but stiff.

The cosmetic condition is excellent, the optics clear, and the film transport mechanism absolutely fine. The aperture blades are oil free and stop-down correctly, while the shutter and its many associated parts (film blind, reflex mirror) trip crisply. I managed to free-off the lens release lock (unbend the lever), so the front element now detaches but alas ... the poor Fujicarex is a total write-off.

Fortunately the seller was honourable, refunded my money (£27.99) and did not require return of the camera, so the Fujicarex was briefly part of my collection. I don't mind if the odd feature doesn't work on an old camera, but I'm not really interested in collecting items that are totally unusable, and visibly damaged.

Nevertheless, I thought I might as well write about the camera anyway, since I had already done pre-purchase research, and enjoyed the opportunity to examine a Fujicarex first-hand.

My overall impression is that the control cluster would be very easy and pleasant to use. However, the left hand would be far from redundant, because this is a heavy camera, making it difficult to use one handed. The split image rangefinder configuration is pretty good as it provides two separate points of alignment, and the shutter trips with a delightfully loud click clunk.

The Fujicarex is a likeable yet super quirky camera. They are uncommon, and make a good addition to any collection that values diversity of design. I'd buy another, but only at a significantly lower price than I paid for this broken example, because unfortunately it's one of those models that confound sellers with little knowlege, and I fear the chances of getting a good one are pretty slim.

 

Fujicarex

The Control Cluster.