Leicas are cool and nice to shoot, other rangefinders often are nice too. But, when real film image quality is required, you need a big negative.
Big, as in Texas-kinda BIG. Enter the Fujica and Fuji rangefinders, dubbed 'The Texas Leicas'. Prepare to be blown away by their image quality (and their size, too)!

Here you will find a table of the Fuji fixed lens 6x7cm, 6x8cm (yes, really!) and 6x9cm cameras produced over the years. If you are patient, you can find super bargains on eBay, although prices have steadily crept up in the last decade. 

Currently, I am saving pennies and dimes to get myself a nice GM670 with 100mm 3.5 lens in good working order. It will complement my Horseman Convertible 842 with its stunningly good 62mm lens. As such there aren't any pictures shot with a Texas Leica in this article yet, but I'll remedy that soon, I hope... 

 

Model Evolutions: Breech mount cameras

The early cameras had breech lock mounts and interchangeable lenses. These early cameras recently passed the 50-year mark (the G690 was introduced in 1967), so expect to spend some time finding a good one if those are the ones you are after. Allegedly there are quite a few repairpersons in Japan and Hongkong that can service them fine, but I do not know of anyone in the EU and I reckon there won't be many in the USA either. The models with interchangeable lenses have their lenses listed in a separate table, below the camera overview table that you will find under this text.

There wasn't much to improve on the initial design of this camera, really. Fuji got it right the first time and they stuck to it for the next 10 or so years.

The lens mount and the lenses for it never changed. As a result, all breech lock lenses fit all breech lock camera models.

Also, all lenses have 67mm (later models) or 72mm (early models) filter sizes. Yep, you read that right, huge filters! 'Some say everything is bigger in Texas, others think the Fujica rangefinders are nearly as big as Texas itself so you best not get any ideas in their heads when trying to sell them the camera', seems to be the general notion with the online sellers. Don't let the images you see online fool you, in 98% of those online images there are no other size-relating items present since the sellers are scared nobody would buy those big-ass cameras from them.

Then there's the perception of weight. The general idea is that the earlier breech mount models are more hefty than the later models, since the early cameras are made from metal and the later ones are made from plastic. WRONG. In fact, cameras from both eras are made from metal, but the later, fixed-lens models have rounded edges and their metal innards are merely covered by plastic. The only difference in weight is due to the fact that the breech mount was omitted in the fixed-lens models and that saved some weight. 

Surely the 670 models must be lighter then? WRONG AGAIN. The 6x7 and 6x9 models are so similar in dimensions, weight and operation that instruction booklets supplied with either camera were tailored to the 6x9 cameras and had values for the 6x7 model in brackets in the text. The only difference between the models really is the frame counter, the number of frames and the framelines in the viewfinder, everything else is identical. 

Expect to haul approximately 1.7 kilos around for camera and lens, whether it's an early G690BL, a GM670 or a later GW690III.

 

Next Evolution: fixed lens cameras

The early 1980s saw the introduction of models with fixed lenses. The naming convention of these models is slightly confusing but at least it's straight forward: they all have a 'W' in their name since their standard lens is a 90mm and that's a bit on the wide side, but if a camera also has an 'S' in the name, it is the super wide version.

The GW690 and GSW690 cameras were produced in three versions (models I, II and III). The GW670 Camera had two versions (models II and III). The lenses on the GW670II, GW670III, GW690, GW690II and GW690III are identical - the Fujinon 90mm F 3.5. All of the GSW models have the same Fujinon 65mm F5.6 lens.

In the fixed-lens models, lenses all are labeled EBC. Price differences between versions are small, as most of the changes over time were cosmetic and ergonomic improvements - not optical performance. The last versions always sell for more, but most users of the second version camera are very pleased with the results their cameras get them. These camera provide very high quality for good value.

The GSW ("Super Wide") camera has a secondary benefit, it can be used for quality, panoramic photography. Since this camera provides a semi-wide angle view on a 56 x 82.6mm negative, it is possible to crop the negative in half along the height, for a 27.5mm by 82.6mm negative, which is a 3:1 ratio.

Why would you do this? The negative is 27.5mm in height which is actually 10% more negative than the 22.5mm height of an Hasselblad X-Pan camera. Blowing up this negative 8X provides an impressive 20cm x 60cm print of very good quality! With this camera you get a built-in terrific panoramic option for free, aside from having a great wide angle camera on a 6x9cm piece of film. 

 

Final Evolution: the 6x8 models

In the early 1990's, Fuji decided to launch two models that had a 6 x 8 negative size, so a 3 : 4 ratio. 

It is really unknown why they made that decision. 3:4 had been dead for a long time by then already and it has not had any specific purpose since it was abandoned. As a result, not many 6x8 rangefinders were even sold and nowadays they are hard to find. Which is totally okay, since they're still not sought after... Think of it as a marketing boo-boo from Fuji...

 

During all these evolutions, all cameras could do either 120 film (readily available today) or 220 film (of which I have a huge stash to carry me over until 2025, gna gna) and even short end 120, which was only a few frames really. But only commercial group portrait shooters in Japan used that and it's nowhere to be found nowadays... Some of the earlier models could take a sheet film back (those cameras have a switch on the back that has an 'R' for roll and an 'S' for sheet) but shooting 6x9 sheet film is pretty cumbersome these days so forget I ever mentioned it...

 

MODEL / INTRODUCED LENSES (•)=fixed lens model 35MM EQUIV NOTES
G690 (1967)  See table below See table below  Black or Chrome finish, with matching lenses. 0.75x viewfinder, fuzzy-edged rectangular rangefinder spot, gold-colored in a blueish viewfinder. Regular eyelets.
G690BL (1970)  ,, ,,  Regular eyelets. 
GL690 (1973) ,, ,,  Introduces front release button, threaded for cable release. Mamiya and Pentax-style studs for neck strap fastening, NOT Hasselblad!
GM670 (1974) ,, ,,  Has cable release-threaded front release button. Mamiya and Pentax-style studs for neck strap fastening, NOT Hasselblad!
       
GW670II (1985) (•) 90mm F 3.5
5 elements in 4 groups
44mm  
GW670III (1992) (•) 90mm F 3.5
5 elements in 4 groups
44mm Changes include: New Rangefinder / Viewfinder, film loading release buttons added, camera back latch changed, bubble level, and body cosmetics.
       
GW690 (1978) (•) 90mm F 3.5
5 elements in 4 groups
39mm The 90mm lens is the same on all 3 models of the GW670 and GW690 Cameras.
GW690II (1985) (•) 90mm F 3.5
5 elements in 4 groups
39mm Changes include: Body grip checkered, hot shoe added, built-in lens shade, film switch changed.
GW690III (1992) (•) 90mm F 3.5
5 elements in 4 groups
39mm Changes include: New Rangefinder / Viewfinder, film loading release buttons added, camera back latch changed, bubble level, and body cosmetics.
       
GSW690 (1980) (•) 65mm F 5.6
6 elements in 4 groups
28mm The 65mm lens is the same on all 3 models of the GSW690 cameras
GSW690II (1985) (•) 65mm F 5.6
6 elements in 4 groups
28mm Changes include: Patterned plastic body grip, hot shoe added, built-in lens shade, film switch changed. 
GSW690III (1992) (•) 65mm F 5.6
6 elements in 4 groups
28mm Changes include: New Rangefinder / Viewfinder, film loading release buttons added, camera back latch changed, bubble level, and body cosmetics.
       
GW680II (1992?) (•) 90mm F 3.5
5 elements in 4 groups
  3x4 dimensions model, for the Japanese market. 9 frames on a 120 roll
GSW680III (1992?) (•) 65mm F 5.6
6 elements in 4 groups
  3x4 dimensions model, for the Japanese market. 9 frames on a 120 roll

 

 

Lenses for the Fujica Breech Lock camera models 

All lenses fit all models. The mount never changed in the approx. 10 years that the interchangeable lens mount models were produced. As a result, all lenses are also backwards compatible. Or forwards, for that matter... haha!

All lenses for the breech mount cameras have 72mm filter size.

Easy to distinguish between the early and the later lenses: the later ones have rubber gripping. The early ones are fully metal. And all chrome lenses are early, later ones were only available in black.

All lenses have Seiko leaf shutters. They are easy to use, fail safe and easy to repair when needed.

Also, all lenses have a top shutter speed of 1/500th and they flash sync on all speeds, because they are leaf shutters! Due to the fact that there is no curtain opening and closing and no mirror slapping (looking at you, Pentax 67...), the camera is very useful for shooting hand-held pictures, 1/15th can be used when bracing yourself against something sturdy.

The sound of the shutter going off has been compared to dropping a toy car on a concrete floor though. Not very silent in use but given the size the camera is not meant to be used stealthily anyway...

 

Focal Length Groups/Elements 35mm Equiv. on 6x9 35mm Equiv. on 6x7 Note
50mm 5.6 Fujinon SW S   21mm 25mm Near impossible to find. Aux. finder
65mm 8.0 Fujinon SW S 4 groups, 6 elements 28mm, 75º diagonal 32mm Aux. finder. Similar to Schneider Angulon design
65mm 5.6 Fujinon SW S 4 groups, 8 elements  28mm, 75º diagonal 32mm Aux. finder. Similar to Schneider Angulon design

100mm 3.5 Fujinon S

 3 groups, 4 elements 44mm, 53º diagonal 50mm

1 mtrs close focus.

Classic Tessar design lens
100mm 3.5 Fujinon AE  3 groups, 4 elements 44mm, 53º diagonal 50mm

1 mtrs close focus.

Auto-exposure lens!

150mm 5.6 Fujinon TS 4 groups, 5 elements  64mm, 37º diagonal 74mm  2 mtrs close focus
180mm 5.6 Fujinon TS  5 groups, 5 elements 77mm, 31º diagonal 89mm

Very hard to find. Aux. Finder.

2.5 mtrs close focus

 

 

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