8other Fujica cameras in my collection:

 

JapanFujica ST901 [1974 - 1978*]

 

Overview

Fujica ST camerasThe Fujica ST901 was the top model in a range of cameras comprising (at that time) the ST701 and ST801. When first sold, it was marketed as the world's most advanced automatic exposure camera.

It's an open aperture TTL metering SLR, with aperture priority auto exposure, and an electronic step-less shutter along the lines of the Pentax ES II (here's a summary of the similarities and differences between the two cameras). It has limited manual override capabilities, available shutter speeds being mechanical, and the selection of which disables the automatic metering (making it capable of working without batteries).

The lens mount is Fujica's variant on the M42 screw thread, creating an issue with non-Fujinon lens compatibility. For more information see the clam shell coloured box at the bottom of this page.

The unique selling point of the ST901 was the digital LED shutter speed readout in the viewfinder: the first camera with such a feature. The shutter speed readout isn't as sophisticated as it might first appear, and the display only gives a rough indication of the speed being used. For example, 1/250th would display as 200, and 1/125th would display as 100. An advertising brochure claimed the moving parts of the shutter were made from a special oil-less metal (silicon-oil-incorporated sintered alloy), and good for 100,000 shots.

* It is my guess that production effectively ceased in about 1978, when the Fujica AZ-1 was launched. The AZ-1 appears to be a revised/updated/simplified ST901.

According to an advertisement in a 1974 edition of Amateur Photographer, the RRP of this camera, with an f1.8 lens, was £276.50. The common sale price was £182.20. In 1974 that was the equivalent of just over three weeks average UK wages. The same retailer sold the Pentax ES II - the very similarly specified and clear rival of the ST901 - with an f1.8 lens for £188.60.

 

 

Specifications

Lens mount: Fujica M42 screw

ST901 viewfinderFocus: Split-image rangefinder and micro-prism collar in ground glass screen. 0.96x magnification and 92% field of view. Also has a lockable DOF preview.

Shutter: Rubber cloth step-less automatic 20s to 1/1000th (B and 1/60 to 1/1000 - mechanical).

Meter: Silicon blue photocell, TTL, open-aperture metering with automatic aperture priority, LED shutter speeds at the top of the viewfinder.

Exposure: Fully automatic aperture priority, with meter-less manual override. Has an exposure compensation of +2/-2 in 1/3rd f stop increments.

Film Speed: 20 to 3200 ASA.

Flash: Standard X and FP synch, with X-synch hot shoe at 1/60.

Film Advance: Single short stroke lever.

Frame Counter: Automatic count-up and reset.

Rewind: Via crank and bottom release button.

Size: 143 x 91.5 x 52mm (W x H x D).

Weight: 622g (body only).

Battery: 6v 4LR44 type.

 

 

My Camera

I paid £7.78 for this camera in June 2013 (without a lens) - from a seller in Germany. My camera is fully operational, and in almost mint condition (I got lucky).

The camera has a noticeably large and bright viewfinder; the brightest I have experienced. It also features nice touches: a built-in eyepiece shutter (used with the self timer, or long exposures, where the users eye does not block the entry of light from the viewfinder); DOF preview; shutter release lock button (also turns off the meter); lens lock; an auto/manual switch-over-lever that prevents the accidental selection of manual shutter speeds; plus a film confirmation window. I replaced the light seals, film confirmation window seal, and mirror damper.

I'm not so keen on the strong bias towards automatic aperture priority metering, and the unavailability of a meter reading for manual operation, but the ST901 is nevertheless a lovely camera. I have lusted after this model since the impressionable age of 14, and waited almost 40 years to own one.

 

updatedI have been searching for the correct (original) lens to twin with this camera: a Fujinon EBC (Electronic Beam Coated) f1.8 55mm (6 elements in 4 groups). I didn't hold out much hope of finding an inexpensive one, but in August 2014 I got lucky again with an Ebay Buy it now. The lens, which is clear and clean, cost me a miniscule £7.50.

Better yet, this lens came with a black ST901 body, which is in very good condition and fully functioning, but for the fact it was sold with a non-working meter. The problem turned-out to be nothing more than a dirty battery contact. A couple of minutes spent on fault diagnosis and cleaning has given me a second ST901 camera body in full working order. The only signs of use are a little scuffing around the strap lugs (hardly noticeable).

The black ST901 light seals had been incorrectly replaced at some time: the door seals were (deteriorating) open cell foam, applied to the door itself rather than the seal channels in the body. The mirror damper was original, and gooey. Everything has since been replaced (by me), including the film confirmation window seal.

updatedIn January 2015 I acquired another lens for my Fujica cameras; a Fujinon Z f3.5-4.5, 43-75mm zoom (7 elements in 7 groups), which was initially made available with the AZ-1. Incidentally, this lens was another first clocked-up by Fujica: the first zoom lens offered as standard on a camera body (i.e. the AZ-1). The lens cost me £16.00, which is not so bad, because M42 Fujinon lenses are thin on the ground, and can be super expensive. I was able to sell a hard case that came with the lens for a mere pound, reducing the purchase price down to £15.00.

 

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Fujica ST901

Fujica ST901

Fujica ST901

Fujica ST901

Black Fujica ST901

M42 Fujinon Lenses

There were two types of Fujinon lenses; auto and manual. Post ST801 lenses were auto in so far that they automatically communicated aperture setting information to the camera. Earlier lenses were manual, as in they did not communicate the aperture setting. The terms auto and manual are convenient descriptors, and are not stamped on the lenses.

Auto lenses often have the aperture indexing tab filed off, so they can be used on other cameras (which is sinful).

Auto Fujinon lenses also have two tiny indentations on the side opposite the aperture indexing lug, and these allow the engagement of two tiny pins on the camera body, which lock the lens in the correct position. These locking points do not affect compatibility with other M42 camera bodies.

Read more on the ST801 page.