ST901 [1974 - 1977#]

The Fujica ST901 (April 1974) was Fuji's third offering, and their top of the range camera. When first sold, it was marketed as - the world's most advanced automatic exposure camera.


It was an open aperture TTL metering SLR like the ST801, but with aperture priority auto exposure, and an electronic step-less shutter (along the lines of the Pentax ES II) with the range of 20 seconds to 1/1000th. It had limited manual override capabilities, with five mechanical shutter speeds (1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000), the selection of which disabled the automatic metering (but made the camera capable of working without batteries).

 

An advertising brochure claimed the moving parts of the shutter were made from a special oil-less metal (silicon-oil-incorporated sintered alloy), and good for 100,000 shots.

 

Like the ST801, the camera used nickel/zinc or silver oxide batteries.


The unique selling point of the ST901 was the digital LED shutter speed readout in the viewfinder: the first camera with such a feature. The shutter speed readout isn't as sophisticated as it might first appear, and the display only gives a rough indication of the speed being used: for example, 1/250th would display as 200, and 1/125th would display as 100.

 

The "problem" was that only the first LED digit was in the "8" pattern we are now so familiar with. The other three were a smaller "o" shape. The first LED could display the integers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, while the others showed only zero when lit, except LED three which could also display "-" indicating whole seconds.

 

So, the read-outs were: 2o-x, 1o-x, 5x-x, 2x-x, and 1x-x (whole seconds), then 2xxx, 5xxx, 1oxx, 3oxx, 6oxx, 1oox, 2oox, 5oox, and 1ooo (fractions of a second).


The lens mount was Fujica's variant on the M42 screw thread, with an aperture indexing tab and lens lock ... as introduced by the ST801 (see the Fujinon lenses page for more details).


The camera featured nice little touches, such as a built-in eyepiece shutter (used with the self timer, or long exposures, where the users eye does not block the entry of light from the viewfinder), a DOF preview switch and shutter release lock button (which also turns off the meter), an auto/manual switch-over-lever that prevents the accidental selection of manual shutter speeds, and a film confirmation window.

 
According to an advertisement in a 1974 edition of Amateur Photographer, the RRP of this camera, with an EBC f1.8 lens, was £276.50. However, the rival Pentax ES II with an f1.8 Takumar sold for £188.60, and the ST901 no doubt actually sold for a very similar price.

 

(#) It's my guess that production effectively ceased in late 1977, when the Fujica AZ-1 was launched. This was essentially a simplified auto-exposure model.

 

fujica st901 controls
fujica st901
fujica st901 display

This graphic shows the configuration of the ST901's LEDs, and their inbuilt limitations. It has to be remembered that LED displays first entered our daily lives in 1973, when Clive Sinclair unveiled his Sinclair Cambridge pocket calculator.

fujica st901 black
fujica st901