Evolution of the Fuji SLRs
Fuji Photo Film started producing SLR cameras in 1962 with their Fujicarex leaf-shutter SLR, which was followed by the Fujicarex II in 1963. They were innovative, with the controls for the exposure and focus made via thumbwheels on the back plate. The cameras had other quirks, and like most leaf-shutter SLRs from the 1960s, they were limited in lenses, shutter speed, and were left behind by the focal-plane shutter SLRs. Today, they are somewhat rare, and probably rarely work well.
In the days when many SLR camera manufacturers that were not Nikon, Canon, Topcon, Miranda, Minolta, or Olympus, the M42 mount (or Praktica screw mount, or Pentax Screw Mount, or just M42) was the “other” mount. Fuji came out with their series of ST models which used the M42 mount. The ST701 appeared in 1971, followed by the ST 801 in 1973. The ST 901 appeared in 1974, and featured Aperture-Priority exposure. The ST 605 appeared in 1976, and the ST 705 came out in 1977. All of these models have cloth horizontal shutters, are well-made, and use match-needle metering visible in the finder. The exception is the ST 801, which was the first SLR to use diodes in the finder instead of a match-needle and scale. The Fujica AZ-1 was their last M42-mount camera, which featured Aperture-Priority, TTL auto-exposure, and was the first SLR to be sold with a zoom lens (43-75mm) as the kit lens.
Nearing the end of the 70s, the demand for more features such as full-aperture metering and easier lens mounting, led to the abandonment by Fuji of the M42 mount and the adoption of a new mount, the Fuji X-mount (not to be confused with the x-mount of the current Fuji digital mirrorless cameras). Fuji introduced their new system with the STX-1 in 1979. There were a limited number of x-mount lenses available, and the STX-1 came with a 55mm f/2.2 X-Fujinon lens. The odd thing is that the shutter speeds go from B, to ½- 1/700th sec. Again, a cloth focal plane shutter. Match-needle metering, visible in the viewfinder. There is a depth of field preview button above the self-timer arm. The camera is fully manual, and the flash sync speed is 1/60th sec. There is a locking collar around the shutter release, preventing inadvertent releases. The camera has a clean design – I would say that while it is not a “spectacular” SLR, it does what it does well. The meter is engaged when you press halfway-down on the shutter, and the match needle is easy to see on the right side of the viewfinder. On the left side of the viewfinder you can see the shutter speeds. I like the meter markings, which are handy in adjusting the exposure. As a full-manual camera, it is pretty much perfect. The film advance lever is well-designed and comfortable to use. The camera requires 2 S-76 or SR-44 cells to power the meter. The only oddball thing is that the tripod socket is not centered on the camera, and is to the left. The camera was received with the 55mm f2.2 lens and a 28mm f/2.8 Fujinon-x lens.
|Clean design and controls|
|Through the viewfinder|
The X-mount continued with the AX series, which started with the AX-1 in 1980, followed by the AX-3 and AX-5. These cameras all have more automation and features than the STX-1. The STX-2 was introduced in 1985, and the AX-5 Multi-Program appeared in 1985, and they were the last of the 35mm SLRs made with the Fuji X-mount. The STX-2 was sold as the Fuji STX-2, and not Fujica.
Fuji Photo Film Co. has produced some amazing cameras over the years, especially in the medium format area. While first and foremost a film producer, they did produce some very fine lenses and cameras. I can understand why they stopped producing 35mm SLRs in the mid-1980s. The market was dominated by Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta and Olympus. While the Fujica SLRs were reliable, sturdy, and certainly had the typical features that one needed, I suspect that Fuji felt they could produce cameras where there was less competition – and so we had some excellent medium format cameras and lenses. In using the STX-1, I found the camera to handle very well, but certainly not much different than any other compact SLRs from the early 1980s. The 1/700th sec shutter speed is odd, and that was rectified by the STX-2 with a max shutter speed of 1/1000 sec. Had Fuji adopted the Copal Square vertical shutter rather than the horizontal cloth shutter, they might have had a longer run with 35mm, but by the mid-1980s, it was pretty much Nikon, Pentax, Canon, or Minolta for people looking to buy a 35mm SLR as a system camera.
You could do far worse than the Fujica 35mm SLRs. If you are looking for an inexpensive manual 35mm SLR, the ST 801 or the STX-1 are certainly worthwhile purchases. The X-mount lenses were only produced for about 6 years, so there are fewer of them out there. The advantage of the ST 801 might be the plethora of M42-mount lenses that are available. One review makes the case for the ST 801 as the best M-42 mount SLR available. I have to agree, based upon what I have seen over the years.
You should be able to find an STX-1 on ebay for less than $50.
Here are a few samples taken with the STX-1 on Ultrafine Xtreme 400 film.