Fujica ST601 [1975 - 1976]

Fuji's follow-up to "the world's most advanced automatic exposure camera" was a humbly unsophisticated model. You may read elsewhere that the ST601 dates to 1976, but it was actually advertised by dealers in late 1975.

 

The Fujica ST601 was the first of several 600 models, and effectively replicated the third version ST701. Aesthetically and functionally it differed very little, but for a reduced shutter speed range; down a stop to 1/2nd at the low end, and more than half a stop to 1/700th at maximum speed. For some reason, Fuij stuck with this half-stop approach in later models. In addition, the highest film speed setting dropped to 1600 ASA, the second FP flash connection was lost (but this facility was effectively redundant in 1976). It also used the same mercury batteries as the ST701.

 

The ST601 was accompanied by a new 55mm f/2.2 lens. Unlike the variant popularised by the ST605, which had segmented plastic focusing, DOF and aperture rings, plus a plastic helicoid, the original version of this lens was a metal construction. More information can be found on the Fujinon lenses page.

 

Despite this lens being sold with a stop-down metering camera, it still had an aperture indexing tab, and a lens lock cavity, and would accommodate open aperture metering with any Fujica ST series camera with such capability.

 

This lens is an uncommon "Unar", which comprises four separate elements (i.e. an air space between the elements and no cemented pairs), designed in 1899 by Paul Rudolph of Carl Zeiss Jena (who went on to design the famous and much copied Tessa, with its four elements with the rear two cemented together). The lens has a characteristic bubble bokeh, which I find ugly and distracting, but others find desirable. I suspect Fuji chose the Unar on the basis of lower production costs rather than its performance characteristics.

 

Strangely, the ST601 was sold alongside the ST701, and had all the hallmarks of a product developed and launched in haste, but it signalled Fuji's new ambitions*: they were refocusing on the mass-market rather than the high spending amateur.

 

* Fujifilm's Japanese corporate website includes a "History of Fujifilm" , which talks about how "the oil shock from the end of 1973" (see the Wikipedia 1973 Oil Crisis page) shrank the entire world economy, suppressing consumption of camera exports from Japan, and Fujifilm's reactionary development of a more economic popular SLR. The ST601 isn't mentioned in Fujifilm's account, which leads me to suspect it was an export model.

 

The ST601, which was only made with a chrome finish, was produced for a very short time before being replaced by the Fujica ST605 in 1976. According to an article in a 1976 edition of Practical Photography, the camera sold with an f2.2 55mm lens for around £90.00.


Practical Photography magazine's assessment of this camera was enthusiastically favourable. It said -


The Fujica ST601 is a refreshing change from the complex automatic cameras which are attracting most attention at the moment. Here's a camera which is straightforward, simple to use and easy to understand. Yet it still makes use of the latest advances in camera design, with silicon metering cells ... In fact we'd go so far as to say that the Fujica ST601 is one of the best value cameras around at the moment.


The magazine also commented on the odd top shutter speed. It said - 


Off-hand, we can't think of any other camera which has a top speed of 1/700 sec. (Well that's not true - (†) there are quite a few cameras with a top speed of around 1/700 sec. but they have shutter speed dials which pretend this is 1/1000 sec. Fujica are just being honest.).
(†) A case in point is a review of the Mamiya DTL 1000 by Ron Spellman in the November 1968 edition of Photography magazine, in which testing showed that the speed marked 1/1000 actually operated at 1/769th sec.

 

fujica st601
fujica st601
fujica st601

My ST601 fitted with a later (1977 onwards) f/3.5 35mm Fujinon-W lens.

fujinon f2.2

There were two versions of the f/2.2 lens. The first (left) made for the ST601 had an engraved distance scale, and a longer barrel with stamped (rather than printed) numbers in a small font.

practical photograph