dante stella stories photographs technical guestbook

Infinite diversity in infinite components
Evolution of Fuji Medium Format Rangefinders

G690 G690BL
GM670 GL690
GW670 GW690


Yes, a freaky promo picture from "New and Dynamic Horizons with the Fujica G690"
What exactly
is the photographer doing in this shot?!


third series



1967 - G690/G690BL: This is the grandfather of all Fuji rangefinders.

The G690 (1967) is the earlier version. Black or chrome finishes with lenses to match.

The G690BL (1970) has a circular (rather than teardrop-shaped) darkslide knob and a BLP logo on the front. Black only. Otherwise identical to the G690, as far as I can tell. BL stands for "Breech Lock."

Interchangeable lenses; heavy die-cast frame; black-painted brass covers; 0.75x combined view/rangefinder (gold beamsplitted, fuzzy-edged gold rectangle on bluish field) with framelines for 100mm and 150mm lenses; field-compensating; 96% coverage at 1m, 92% at infinity. Available lenses are 65mm f/8, 100mm f/3.5 and 180mm f/5.6.


second series



Early 1970s - GL690 / GM670: Same as the G690BL but

— slight redesign of viewfinder frame;

— "hump" on lens mount (for the "G" logo);

— mating suface for lens bayonet now anodized black, rather than chrome plated;

— added front shutter release with cable release socket;

— omitted darkslide warning in viewfinder;

— omitted the "100mm" and "150mm" labels on the framelines. Frameline illuminator window now ribbed. Framelines improved;

— changed eyepiece type to Nikon FE/FM/FA/F3 size and thread; and

— changed normal strap lugs to Pentax-style mushroom lugs.

Some lenses contemporaneous with these models have multicolored aperture rings and rubber focusing grips.

An AE 100mm f/3.5 lens becomes available, as do 50mm f/5.6 , 65mm f/5.6 and 250mm f/5.6. I believe that the 65/5.6 is very close to the same lens as the one on the GSW cameras. All lenses are backward-compatible with older bodies.


Mid-1970s - GW670 and GW690: In the mid 1970s, Fuji changed over its GL and GM series interchangeable-lens rangefinder 6x7s and 6x9s into the GW series. The first of these new cameras, the GW690 (also GW670), had the following differences from its predecessors:

— Fixed 90mm f/3.5 Fujinon lens (5 elements in 4 groups) in meters. This meant the elimination of the dark slide mechanism and the second set of finder framelines (the earlier models had 100mm and 150mm framelines). Compared to a 35mm systen, this is a 42mm equivalent for 6x7 and a 35mm equivalent for 6x9;

— A new T setting in which you close the shutter by changing the shutter speed or moving the wind lever;

— A fuzzy-edged round rangefinder spot (gold plated beamsplitter, so gold spot on a blue field;

— Plastic body covers;

— Plastic wind lever;

— Redesigned film selector (120/220);

— No (R)oll / (S)heet selector - camera now dry-fires only with back open;

— New loop-style strap lugs (so you can run a strap directly through them) instead of the GM670 and GL690-style Pentax pins;

— Back now opens by pulling a lever on the bottom of the camera; and

— A shot counter ("odometer") shows 1/10 of the number of exposures made. This is allegedly to show you when to have the camera overhauled (every 5,000 shots). Fuji Canada has apparently been telling people it's more like 10,000.


fourth series



Mid-1980s - GW670II, GW690II, GSW690II: The next generation made the following changes: (1) checkered grip surfaces; (2) redesigned film selector (added short roll 120); (3) hot shoe in addition to body-mount synch terminal; (4) built-in sliding lens shade. The GSW690II added a 65mm f/5.6 Fujinon (probably similar to the older interchangeable lens).

fifth series


Mid-1990s - GW670III, GW680II, GW690III, GSW680III, GSW690III: The next and last generation did not change much in terms of optics but made a lot of changes nonetheless:

— GW and GSW680III models are introduced in Japan (6x8 cm, 9 shots per 120 film) to resurrect the obsolete 3x4" format's proportions in a new camera.

— Totally new VF/RF mechanism. The older gold-coated beamsplitter system is replaced by a new vernier (Leica-style) hard-edged rectangular spot on an aluminized beamsplitter. The upshot is that brightness is increased but VF-RF spot contrast is reduced.

— Pushbutton loading means that pressing two small red buttons inside the film chamber releases the film spools.

— Redesigned back now has latch on the camera back, as opposed to a pull-down lever on camera bottom. Pressure plate is unchanged.

— Matte plastic covers with new, rounded proportions. Anatomical grip on front and back of right side.

— Bubble level on top of camera.

Not surprisingly, the III series sells for a lot more, even used. Discontinued.


Plastics: the urban myth of the Fuji RF: People constantly complain that the GW and later Fuji RFs (particularly the III series are "plastic." This is nonsense. The camera has a pretty hefty metal content, demonstrating that the camera has gradually evolved from the G690 rather than being a remake of it.

(1) The III series is not light. In fact, a GSW690III weighs about the same as a GW670II, which is only about a pound lighter than a G690 with a lens. The major weight savings appears to have come with the elimination of the interchangeable lens mount. If this camera had a plastic structure, you would expect it to be a lot lighter.

(2) The external parts are in fact plastic, but the frame is still die-cast and the back is stamped metal. The lens barrel is also metal (I can see that from some pinpoint finish marks...). This was the same situation with the GA645 - people think that because it has plastic covers, it must be plastic. Of course, plastic and rounded corners makes it feel "lighter..." Erwin Puts'"haptics" in action.

(3) You can see that the attachment screw locations for the covers have not changed one whit since the G690BL - telling me that this is probably the same or similar tooling for the main casting. I would tend to doubt that enough of any one model was made to justify the tooling costs for a complex body casting. These were never cheap cameras to buy new.

Why the funky "T" setting? I learned through some discussions with Greg Weber in relation to some Koni-Omega stuff that the "B" setting on many Copal-type shutters is activated by a pawl that can get bent if the shutter speeds are changed on a cocked lens (regardless of what the speed is and what it is being changed to). Fuji's T setting may be a response to that problem.

Bottom Line: Hard to lose with any of these.