Fujica ST701 [1970 - 1976#]

Launched in July 1970, the ST701 was Fuji's first proper system SLR, and a landmark camera: it was the first with a metering system that used two silicon photo diodes. Prior to the ST701, all TTL metering cameras had Cadmium Sulphide (CdS) sensors.


Silicon photo diodes react tens of times faster, with a greater sensitivity range and improved accuracy over conventional CdS photocells, and became universally adopted by other manufacturers, although it took a while; Pentax, for example, first started to use them in their 1975 top of the range K series cameras.


The Fujica ST701 may seem pretty conventional; with its stop-down TTL metering, viewfinder centre-the-needle display, and cloth focal-plane shutter with speeds of 1 to 1/1000th. However, it was slightly smaller than other cameras of the time, and had a nice bright viewfinder; claimed to be nearly 50% brighter because of a silver coated prism and aluminium mirror. Everything you could possibly want to know about the detailed specifications of the ST701 can be found in this wonderfully informative Fujica dealer notebook.

 

The lens mount was an unmodified Praktica M42 screw fitting, and the ST701 was sold with either a Fujinon 50mm f1.4 (7 elements in 6 groups), or a 55mm f1.8 (6 elements in 4 groups) lens. All the alternative lens options (28mm, 35mm, 100mm, 135mm and 200mm) initially shared a common silver aperture dial, and black metal focus ring with "peaks" or "waves", but variations were introduced over time (see the Fujinon M42 page for more information).


There were three versions of this camera.

  1. The first had a raised and shiny "Fujica" logo on the front of the pentaprism housing.

  2. The second version, released in 1971, had the pentaprism logo engraved and painted black (or white on a black camera), but otherwise appeared to be identical. Judging by the website location of Internet images, this version doesn't appear to have been sold outside of Japan.

  3. The third version came in 1972 (although it didn't appear in the UK until about 1974), and boasted a more radical face-lift ... of the plastic replacing metal variety. The metal rewind knob was changed to a plastic one, as was the self-timer setting lever and the mirror box. It also had a plastic-tipped wind-arm, and black-painted shutter speed dial to match the other black bits. On the plus side, the ST701 gained a hot shoe*, plus a split screen focusing spot in addition to the original micro-prism field.

 

* This third version ST701 is often cited as being the first SLR with a hot shoe, but that's not true. I can think of three models that were earlier: the 1971 Miranda Auto Sensorex EE, the 1970 Praktica LTL, and the 1968 Yashica TL Electro X.

 

(#) The ST701 was still in production in 1975 - according to an article in the UK's Camera User magazine - and so I guess it continued to be made up until Fuji introduced the replacement ST605 in 1976.


The original Fujica ST701 was priced at £76.95, and the third version was advertised at £89.95 in an October 1974 edition of Amateur Photographer (both with an f/1.8 lens). All three models came in chrome or black finishes. Today, the first version seems to be by far the most commonly available.  


The problem with ST701 ownership nowadays is its reliance on the defunct mercury battery. Because mercury batteries produced a constant voltage, devices like the ST701 were built without voltage regulation circuitry, and the meter will therefore not work at all with modern and slightly higher voltage batteries. The options are: a) use zinc air batteries, b) get an MR-9 voltage reducing converter, c) buy genuine mercury batteries from Moscow (the wisdom of this option is left to your own judgement).

 

st701-sp500

The ST701 was smaller than the 1971 Pentax Spotmatic (this one is an SP500).

Fujica ST701

This is my first version ST701 with its correct f/1.8 55mm lens: note the raised chrome Fujica pentaprism logo.

Fujica ST701

Second version ST701: note the engraved and painted Fujica pentaprism logo (Internet image).

Fujica ST701

Third version ST701: note the hot shoe, plastic wind-arm tip, black top-plate controls, plastic self-timer setting lever, and black mirror box.

version 2 fujinon lens

Several ST701 adverting leaflets (and the third version ST701's instruction manual) depicted cameras with lenses that had a black aperture dial, and rubber ridged focus grips. These lenses also had an indexing tab and lens lock pit, and thus accommodated open aperture metering with other ST models. The later lenses appear to have been sold only in the home market, and are rarely seen outside of Japan. The third version ST701 was typically fitted with an ST801 type lens, which had a flat profile focus grip, plus meter coupling and lens locking capabilities.