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Surprise Supplies

One 4LR44 battery, a Fujica ST901 SLR, and a happy photographer.


My Fujica ST901 with Super-Takumar 55mm f/1.8 borrowed from my Pentax SV

For my Edge of Town project (whose gallery I really must update), I have chosen to use Pentax screw mount cameras (Spotmatic F and SV) with external light meters. The type of images in this project are suited to slow, considered image making. The Spotmatic F’s meter works absolutely fine, but I removed the battery so I was not to be tempted to ‘cheat’ and use the camera meter.

However, one thing about the Pentax cameras I do find challenging is focusing without a split prism finder (strangely though, the SV is easier than the Spotmatic F). So when I spotted a Fujica ST901, which is an M42 camera that does have a split prism finder, on the auction site, I decided to buy it. I was swayed by the reasonable price, the fact that they don’t seem to come up for sale very often, and that it is a landmark camera; more on that in a minute.

I wasn’t bothered that it wasn’t battery tested, for I was buying it for the finder. I knew I could use it without batteries in manual mode with Takumar lenses, albeit with a limited selection of shutter speeds; although I haven’t found the array of 60th, 125th, 250th, 500th, and 1000th shutter speeds limiting at all.

Anyway, an hour ago I was rummaging in my battery stash (held in a rather nice tin Leica; thanks William Henry Prince), looking for a battery for another camera, when I happened upon a 4LR44 battery, the very one needed for the Fujica. I found a one pence piece, unscrewed the battery chamber lid and popped in the battery. Switching the mode dial to Auto I looked through the finder and crossed a couple of fingers. Half pressing the shutter release, I saw what I was hoping for. The world’s first camera with an LED readout in the viewfinder was still working in automatic exposure mode. I could see red numbers in a very small LED top middle of the viewfinder It’s a pretty primitive readout, but it is working; what remains to be seen is how well it is working! I will have to source a Fujinon EBC lens to get the best out of this camera in auto mode.

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I make conventional and experimental images and write about photography projects, vintage cameras, the environment and time.

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