Retro camera: Fujica ST605N

The last couple of weeks has been spent sorting out stuff from my parents’ house. Some to be shipped here to the States, some that my sister was taking, some Victoriana (mostly furniture) to be auctioned off, and the rest to be disposed of. One of the things from my past that I found was my first 35mm SLR camera.

Fujica ST605NI bought it in 1979, my final year at University, because I wanted to learn about photography. Was I capable of training myself to take good photos? Did I have an ‘eye’? Would my photos be aweful or awful? The photos I took with this camera are on the slow boat to Colorado, so I’ll sort them out eventually and scan the best. I gave up the camera for a simpler Olympus point-and-shoot when I came to the States in 1993, a going away gift from my colleagues at Deutsche Bank.

The camera I’d bought was a pretty good inexpensive SLR: the Fujica ST605N. Completely manual, simple TTL metering (that worked surprisingly well), and the standard M42 mount (well standard at the time, anyway). It came with a Fujinon 55mm f/2.2 lens, but because of the universal mount it was easy to get other lenses. I eventually got three others (the first two of which I’ve now abandoned): a wide angle, a telephoto, and a Hoya 75-205mm f/4 zoom in 1985. I even went as far as getting some extension tubes to really play around with macro work.

However, because I used this when I was somewhat poor (students didn’t get a lot of money, and during my first few years of working I wasn’t earning that much and then got married), I was somewhat parsimonious when taking photos: the cost of processing was comparatively expensive. These days, I take photos with abandon on my DSLR, because they’re all essentially free. I can discard crappy ones without a thought. But with film I was under some self-imposed pressure to make each photo count.

Here’s a couple of examples I shot on a vacation with my then wife using Kodachrome slide film. We were holidaying in Normandy, so I’m guessing it would be around 1981, I suppose. (I scanned these examples with the film cassette of my Canon scanner at 1200dpi. No post-scan photo fixing.)

First is a boat in the harbor at Honfleur at low tide:

Honfleur at low tide

(Click to make larger.) Looking at this now, I just love the color and seeing the old French cars on the quayside...

Here’s another, perhaps not quite as successful. It’s of the central monument in the main German World War II cemetery in Normandy at La Cambe:

Memorial at La Cambe

It seems this one was taken late in the afternoon. I find La Cambe difficult to photograph in dim or cloudy light: unlike the American cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, the gravestones are all dark, somewhat dismal stone. It definitely feels more melancholic than the grand American memorial, or even the simpler British one at Bayeux.

I feel like trying film again now that I’ve become a more confident photographer through using the Canon Digital Rebel XTi. So I’ll be buying some reels of film and seeing what happens next. The light meter still works after replacing the batteries, so there’s hope...

Now playing:
Steely Dan - Do It Again
(from FM (Original Soundtrack))

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2 Responses

#1 Dominic said...
24-Jul-11 3:30 AM

Nice article about your camera. I have one gathering dust somewhere too. Love the shot of the harbour with the old French cars.



julian m bucknall avatar
#2 julian m bucknall said...
24-Jul-11 11:25 AM

Dominic: Thanks! And then I just noticed that I'd scanned and published it reversed (or mirrored). Oh well. It still works.

Cheers, Julian

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