Fuji GW690 – Medium Format Camera Review

Fuji GW690 – Medium Format Camera Review

1280 720 James Tocchio

After nearly three years of running this website, I’ve finally discerned the characteristics that make up my ideal camera. I like versatility and affordability, so interchangeable lens SLRs are my starting point. I really love to travel and explore, so compactness is key. And I often use photography as a relaxing escape, so my ideal camera has to have at least one auto-exposure mode; aperture-priority, if I’m being picky.

Given these parameters, Fujifilm’s GW690 seems like an awful fit. This rangefinder camera has a fixed lens, is farcically large, and offers no auto-exposure modes. In fact, it doesn’t even have a light meter. Cumbersome, heavy, and let’s not forget expensive to shoot, it’s a camera that logic and experience would tell me to avoid. After more than three months of shooting this bloated behemoth, I’m sure of two things; it’s an amazing camera, and it’s not the camera for me.


Why’d I give the GW a shot? Its popularity certainly played a part. Spend any time on photo forums or Instagram and you’ll see these monsters crop up on the daily. More often than not, this camera porn is accompanied by a comment or caption heralding Fuji’s big gun to be the very best medium-format camera around. Those who love them boast of the GW’s unmatched image quality and ease of use. I love quality images and using things easily, so naturally, I had to try one.

And try one I did. From portrait sessions with my daughter to long-exposure cityscapes at night, and everything in between, I shot this Fuji for a long, long time. Still, I never seemed to find the camera’s purpose, the style of shooting that would bring me the amazing results achieved by so many other photo geeks. But let me step back a bit.

For those unacquainted with the camera colloquially referred to as the “Texas Leica”, here’s what we’re looking at. The GW690, and its successors the GW690II and III, are fixed-lens, leaf-shutter, medium-format (120/220) film cameras. They’re manual focus rangefinders that take no batteries, offer no metering, and sport, by all accounts, exceptional lenses. They’ve got an accessory shoe on top (cold on the GW690, hot on the GW690II and III), two shutter release buttons (on the II and III), and a built-in lens hood. Aperture, shutter speed, and focus are all adjusted via rings around the lens barrels, and there’s a tripod mount on the bottom.

Pretty basic, right? Yeah, except for the very fact that someone even made a medium format rangefinder that exposes negatives so outrageously large. Think about this for a moment; we’re looking at a relatively portable camera that exposes images that are approximately 6 by 9 centimeters. Compared to 35mm (2.4 by 3.6 centimeters image area) there’s no contest in image quality. For those who may be new to film, this extremely large negative makes for images with high resolution, fine control of depth-of-field, and the capability of making massive enlargements without visible grain. All good stuff.

And it’s this massive image area that’s the GW’s greatest claim to fame. It, combined with the EBC (electron beam coating – whatever that is) equipped Fujinon 90mm F/3.5 lens, are said by many to make images that are unbeatably sharp, free of distortion and aberrations, and worthy of enlarging to a sixty inch print. Yes, the image quality offered by the GW690 is legendary, and rightfully so. Which makes it that much more galling that I barely made a decent shot with the thing.


How could this be? Some of you are likely thinking that it’s because I’m a terrible photographer. Which is sad, but true. But it’s also true that there are things about the GW690 that make it unforgiving and hard to love. So instead of discussing the many ways that I’m bad at photos, let’s talk about the camera.

Fuji’s designers equipped the GW690 with a leaf shutter, a type of shutter that’s typically quieter, more compact, and more flash-capable than its focal plane counterparts. Leaf shutters are also different from focal plane shutters in that they’re mounted within the barrel of the lens itself. This is no different with the Fuji. What this means is that the controls for the shutter are also placed within and around the lens as opposed to somewhere more familiar, via a dial on the top-plate, for example. Instead of one of these more commonly positioned dials, the Fuji’s shutter speed selector takes the form of a ring around the lens barrel found directly adjacent to the similar aperture control ring. While other cameras have used concentric rings to adjust shutter speed in the past, the GW690’s implementation is less inspired.

Access to both the shutter and aperture rings is criminally stymied. Small cutouts offer paltry finger access points that are so small it’s physically impossible to spin the rings from one extreme setting to the other in one fluid motion. Additionally, the rings are placed so tightly together that adjusting one invariably causes the other to move as well, unless the shooter is being careful. As with any control quirk, long use will eventually create a situation in which the photographer has adapted to fit the machine. If this happens, it’s hypothetically possible that he or she can more easily select the shutter speed, relax his or her finger grip, and subsequently set the aperture, but this shouldn’t be necessary. The camera should accommodate the shooter, not the other way around.

This control foible causes uncomfortable moments and interruptions in the shooting process. Using the camera for street photography or general snapshots (understandably not the style of photography for which the camera was designed), it’s hard to make quick adjustments to capture fleeting moments or spontaneous action.


The viewfinder also causes heartache. With a rather small rangefinder patch, general dimness, and a metal bezel that scratches my glasses, I often wished I was looking down at the waist-level focusing screen of a TLR or through the prism finder of a 6×7 Mamiya. On the plus side, it offers parallax correction. Which is good, if you’re going to shoot close subjects. Except you’re not, because the minimum focus distance is one, long meter away. This can make subject isolation a challenge, even wide open at F/3.5, where bokeh isn’t that great.

And focusing isn’t much of a treat, either. Shooting this thing at any kind of moving subject is out of the question, unless you’re a lucky person. In my time with the Fuji I shot a whole lot of blurry frames. Yes, this is my fault, but the camera doesn’t make things very easy. As mentioned, the rangefinder patch is small and dim. I even attempted the age-old trick of dotting the viewfinder over the rangefinder patch to improve contrast. Didn’t help. Perhaps my difficulty stems from the fact that the contrast patch is a circle? Perhaps it’s just too small? Who can say. I only know that focusing was a slow, methodical process, and that I only ever succeeded when shooting a stationary object at smaller apertures.

What’s most troubling about all of this is something I’ve alluded to, but not yet said outright. I wasted a lot of film with this camera. Normally that doesn’t bother me too much. But the Fuji only makes eight exposures per roll of 120 film! That’s four less shots than most medium-format cameras. The result is that every frame is more expensive to shoot, and that every badly exposed or out-of-focus shot is that much more painful on the wallet. Sure, the massive exposures are great, but are they that much better than those made by a 6×6 or 6×7 camera? Cameras that are easier to use and will offer more chances to get the shot? Hard to tell.





Try as I might, the Fuji’s raison d’être eludes me. It seems to be a camera at odds with itself. It shoots massive negatives of impeccable detail and has an incredibly sharp fixed lens. This signals to me that it’s supposed to be a landscape camera, mounted to a tripod, and used in moments of patient calculation. But then, why do we need it to be a rangefinder? And if it’s a rangefinder so that we can use it as a more versatile camera, why is it so slow and cumbersome? If it’s meant to be used on the street, why doesn’t it have an auto-exposure mode? Or a light meter?

I’ve read that this camera was made for a very specific (and somewhat odd) purpose, but since I haven’t corroborated that with Fuji I’ll not mention it until I make that connection. Until then, the GW690 just leaves me feeling… confused.

All this said, there’s no denying the Fuji GW690 is a special camera, and I completely understand why so many people love it. With a metal core and bulletproof mechanics, it’s well-built and robust. Its exceptional lens is a proven construct capable of making fantastic images (even if mine rarely were). And the very heart of the machine, it’s large and interesting format, offers something that not many other cameras can. Rangefinder focusing is loved by many photo geeks, and for those shooters this camera will be the ideal medium-format machine. And landscape shooters who are comfortable with massive view cameras and large-format giants won’t be bothered a bit by the Fuji’s size and weight. People who use this camera often and know it very well, make incredible images with it, and that’s undeniable. There’s amazing talent out there doing great things with this Fuji.

Believe me; I get it. It’s a really great camera, and all told I made some pretty nice shots with it. But those few decent shots were made with hundreds of dollars worth of film (factoring purchase price, plus development and scanning). After more than two months shooting one, trying everything I could to make high-quality images consistently, I never did make the most of my time and money. Rangefinders challenge me. It’s too heavy, and too big to use comfortably. I wasted too much film. And I rarely got the shot. The Fuji GW690 is a wonderful camera that’s supremely capable. But for me, it’s just not a good fit.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • I use the sister camera to this model, the GSW 690 on a regular basis, and I find the advantages to far outweigh the downsides. It is definitely a camera that rewards those who take their time, but the results cannot be matched with any camera I’ve ever used. (I’m definitely glad it’s a rangefinder though, I don’t think I would enjoy carrying around a 6×9 SLR, even a fixed lens!

    • James – Founder/Editor October 31, 2016 at 2:26 pm

      Perry, link us to your photos if you have them anywhere online. I’d love to see them and I’m sure others here would too.

    • I agree – the writer said “I wasted a lot of film” Doesn’t a poor workman always blame his tools ? And the point about 8 images – well it is a 6×9 and youd would know that before buying this camera. Seems to me its more about using film for the right purpose and digital for the rest. I’ll shoot regular on digital but for a large print of a landscape, this is far more cost effective than buying a medium format digital. If I needed to shoot large every day then the MF digital would be a wise choice for me.

  • Excellent review! I applaud your bravery for writing a critical, but honest, review of an often heralded camera. Something that you only really discover after building a collection of film cameras is that just because a model has a “legendary” reputation, does not mean it will produce the best, or easiest to capture images. I’ve had similar opinions of the Mamiya M645, a camera that SHOULD produce some of the best auto exposed images, I often find myself struggling to get a roll of consistently good pictures, not to mention, it has horrible ergonomics.

    I would never pass up a chance to try out a GW690 of course, but after reading this, I won’t go through any heroic effort to acquire one! 🙂

    • James – Founder/Editor October 31, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement. It can be a bit daunting, but I need you guys to know that you can trust what we’re doing here. Thanks again!

    • so it is!…. a real camera for real photographers and not for hipsters

    • Uta Kvaratskhelia February 3, 2019 at 5:25 am

      Get older one with interchangeable lens like GL690 and rangefinder patch is huge really easy to use it has standard 100mm down to 65 and to 150 as I know

    • I have this camera and it’s very simple in every way. The only thing not simple is the focusing. At f/3.5 and 6×9 I think it’s like an f/1.2 35mm . You better be spot on . Mine is the orginal model and has a yellowed and dim viewing experience. It’s very hard to see in low light where I like using it wide open with fast film like the Ilford Delta 3200. But as for the adjustments on the lens being slow they are designed close together for speed . Once set you grab both at the same time and move them together, f/stop or aperture and shutter speed not one at a time . That’s speed

  • Great (and brutally honest) review. I think you summed it up best in saying that this camera is made for a very specific purpose. It seems to be a capable rigid-bodied landscape shooter that has the plus of being able to have critical focus in situations where you are focusing on still scenes with focus at less than infinity. The lack of at least a metered manual ability is admittedly a big shortcoming even in the above situations, particularly with unforgiving transparency films.

    I could see myself using one of these on some outings, but admittedly those opportunities would be rare. It offers little real advantage to my Super Ikonta, which is far more compact. It would be similarly tough for me to “want to like” this camera, yet consistently feel underwhelmed by it when all is said and done.

  • I use the GW690III model with no issues. The aperture and shutter rings are intentionally so close so that once you have set your exposure, you can adjust the aperture and shutter speed in tandem to get variations of that initial exposure setting. e.g. say it was 1/125 @ 5.6, you can turn it to 1/60 at 8 or 1/250 at 4
    The rf patch does not match up to my Leicas, or CLEs or Xpans. But their image quality does not come remotely close to what 6×9 can do.
    I manage to get far more ‘keepers’ from this camera than any other I use because of the fact it only takes 8 shots per roll. It makes me very selective with it!

    Attached is a shot of the Peace Bell in San Pedro – Ilford PlusX (I think ) with a green filter. It has sold very well for me at my gallery (shameless plug huzgalleries.com!)


    One thing I should note, it took a while for me to find a good version of this camera. There are lots for sale, mostly from Japan, and the first two that I got had very hazy viewfinders (even though the sellers claimed everything was perfect). I finally located an excellent one locally.

    James, if you ever are in my ‘hood (LA or San Pedro) you are welcome to check/try my one out.

    Best regards

    • James – Founder/Editor October 31, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Fantastic angle on this camera. I’d be interesting in trying the III. Maybe my II is just a bit beat down.

  • p.s the Voigtlander VC Meter II is perfect in the hot shoe, and looks like it belongs on the camera.

  • I was curious about these but after reading this review I think I’ll pass. I didn’t realize that there’s no meter. The price is a pretty big plus though if you can’t afford a Mamiya 7 or a Plaubel Makina.

    • James – Founder/Editor October 31, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Yes, they are fairly affordable. And don’t let this review dissuade you if you’re thinking about trying one. Like I said, it’s a fantastic machine that just doesn’t match my lifestyle. It could very well work for you!

  • I shoot the wider GSW690III, and recently wrote about it on photothinking.com . Interestingly I hit quite a few of the quirks you wrote about James, with the only difference being that I tend to gravitate towards quirky. Mind you, that lens hood is a pain in the behind.
    One thing I can say though, is that it is a very sharp lens, and those luxurious negatives are great. You just need to forget about trying to use like a Leica type rangefinder.

  • A nice review and downright honest., sometimes you hear so much about a particular camera that when you shoot it you don’t see what the fuss is about. I know there’s plenty of camera’s I’ve shot with that I just didn’t get on with despite being told how great they are, in the end we all have different photography styles and ways of working hence why there’s no one size fits all camera for everyone……despite what the manufacturers want you to believe :p

  • I have been waiting for this review since you mentioned it on a past article about a Minolta Rokkor-M lens, also because I own a GW6900iii.
    I truly love iteration of the 6×9 Fuji, but I totally understand your honest perspective. The camera can deliver amazing pictures, if you’re willing to slow down. A lot. Like seriously slow down your photographic flow.
    In my case, it felt great going back to basics, but you’re exactly right about the camera limitations. I do consider myself lucky whenever I get 4 or 5 good exposures out of the 8 frames a 120 roll will give.
    The camera can really work wonders with Ektar100 and Portra400, but I get the feeling I’d appreciate a Pentax 67 ii much more. Too bad it’s 4x the cost…
    Some of my shots on the 6×9: http://bit.ly/2f2IwCL
    Spot on review! Looking forward to many more.

  • When the camera (and it’s forebears) were current, I sure was looking into getting one at a sensible price, but failed to do so.

    Do bear in mind that the 120 film was originally designed to take eight nominally 6X9 pictures, it’s basically returning to its roots: cameras were mostly made as folders, ranging from very basic ones – effectively a box camera that can be folded – to very sophisticated ones with coupled rangefinder etc.

    The reason for Fuji – along with Doi-operated Plaubel etc – to carry on building rollfilm cameras was basically for professionals working for publications. Sure enough, a technically decent 35mm transparency was – and still is – more than good enough for a double-page spread, but larger first-generation pictures would certainly look more impressive on the light table, and more likely generate more sales.

  • I’m using the GSW 680 III and found it great for shooting landscapes In the scottish highlands, with tripod of course. The lens is fantastic and the simplicity of use is a positive point for me. Of course, and as you said, you need to shoot by taking your time for composition and settings (with the Voigtlander VC meter on the hot shoe). For sure, it’s not an action cam or a street photography one and it’s not the kind of camera you have always with you as it’s big and heavy (but not as big and heavy as the Pentax 67…)

  • But wait, there’s more! The design of the lens hood is fantastic BECAUSE it covers the aperture/shutter rings when not in use. This forces you to use the lens hood, maximizing image quality.
    If that’s not enough, Fuji have even thought of a way to make sure you never take a shot with the lens cap on (a huge deal with only 8 exp per 120 roll). The lens cap fits over the lens hood. So when you pull out the lens hood to use the camera, to reveal the shutter/aperture dials, your hand naturally grabs the lens cap. And so you always take it off!
    These were all conscious ergonomic design choices by Fuji. And all make sense.

    • I love my gw 690 and am looking at a mint++ gwsiii . Definitely want it for landscape and some live music artsy stuff with Delta 3200 film .

  • I recently purchased a GSW690III – I see the strength of it’s rumored purpose alluded to in your article – shooting group photos of tourists. New to the site and really enjoying the articles, thank you.

  • Hey James,

    Nice review, it does hit home in some points well seen. From my modest experience with it (GW690III) it requires a bit of a mindset to operate and I share your conclusion on photographing not so moving subjects, more towards scenery. I’m also conflicted about it at times.

    There are some particularities that are IMO a bit unfaily attributed:

    The format, 3:2 just like 35mm! Sometimes it is a bit meh, rather wideish but not so.

    The lack of meter, is shared by many 135’s such as the Leica M. I use phone app (+ graycard) and a bit too much sunny 16. I do have a minolta meter with both incident and spot attachments, I did an unfulfilled resolution to use it more by forgetting to take it last weekend!

    And comparing it with Mamiya 7 and Plaubel Makina is not that fair (IIRC the M7 with lens would be 2x the price of a GW new back then, $3K vs $1,5K).
    I got one of these from Japan because it’s terrific bang for the buck (neg size and modern machine) and decided that a RF was nice to save prism SLR weight, as the P67 seems even more of a Titan in weight and maybe size.
    Sometimes I do feel I’d veer towards a 6×6 or 6×7, travel for example, a situation I want to take it but haven’t yet. I’d like to try a GF670, M7 or Makina for sure, but prices are way steeper.

    The hood is a nice design but I feel too for those who want to use P, Cokin, GND and such filters. The T setting also seems a PITA for lower than 5-10s exposures.

    In some ways it doesn’t seem that bad and unwieldy, the 35mm form factor does help. It is after all, a rather Large Format camera or perhaps a cinematic still camera. Again, and agreeing on Huss, it’s about taking time. 15-30s at least of zen prior exposing. Many shots that I’d take in 35mm are a no-no in 6×9. Then, I’ve taken weeks to do the 8EXP. I’m a poor grad at the moment so very selective.
    When those big negs/slides come back and are really nice, I like the camera again. When a frame is sh*++y because of my composition, I’m like “dude, you are an idiot for taking that, don’t!”.

    BTW, I have an OM1 which sadly jammed (short on $ for CLA now). Thought that by having the GW I’d leave 35mm, as I shot film very slowly. I got an F80 cheap to play around the sea, it was quite nice to go from manual to AF and AE priority; shoot much more 35mm, and kind of compensates and compliments the GW!

    And I have to confess, I feel a bit self-conscious carrying this thing around on the open; and don’t shoot as much as I could because of it and some of the slower pace quirks. I mostly use a backpack and take it in and out at the designated scene, where the film shall be exposed.

    • James – Founder/Editor November 5, 2016 at 6:13 pm

      Thanks for these detailed thoughts! Let me know if we can see your shots anywhere online? Thanks again, my friend.

  • Great and honest review! I completely agree that the GW690 is made for a specific purpose, even if it wasn’t your own specific purpose it was a very even-handed review.

    I own a GW690II and have found that that purpose is portraits for me (https://www.flickr.com/photos/tommfy/30836001275). The lack of metering does not bother me as I always use a handheld meter anyway, certainly as mentioned earlier in the comments I think it’s a bonus that the shutter and aperture are so fiddly and close together; you can adjust the aperture and shutter speed in tandem to get variations of that initial exposure setting á la Hasselblad style.

    I bought mine in a sorry state for £50 and had it rebuilt by Aperture in London, the focus patch is still pretty large and bright and is more than adequate for any situation – perhaps it was just bad luck that you found a dim one. Once you get over the size, the GW690 is one of my favourite and most versatile medium format cameras – great for spontaneous sessions or on the street!

    Keep up the good work, I love your articles!

  • If I am taking 6 x 9, I prefer to take more time and care than commonly one would do with a hand held Fuji 690. For this format I use a Graflex Speed Crown Graphic with a Singer 6 x 9 back and unusually, an 80mm/f2.8 Zeiss Tessar. I suspect the lens is a refugee from a Super Ikonta, transferred onto a Graflex lens board. There I have the dual options of using the Kalart side mount rangefinder (after I managed to get an 80mm cam for the coupling) or putting on a ground glass screen in place of the roll film back and using a magnifying glass to focus. Obviously all this is done on a tripod. 35mm film is so good nowadays (T-Max 100, FP4, Fomapan 200), I agree with James, that 6 x 9 is just not a particularly good fit for rangefinder style photography. That said, I would still love to acquire a Graflex KE-4 70mm rangefinder military camera, the original “Texas Leica” but all the ones I have looked at had BIG problems, like a dead clockwork motor or serious fungus in the lens (lenses).

  • James,

    here is a link to a photo of the Graflex. https://www.dropbox.com/s/nttcfrpazge5fdd/Graflex.jpg?dl=0 I was trying to use it the other day, only to find that flash sync appears to have died. I thought it was my Grafflash but when I tried another flash, my Rolleiflash Type 1, which I knew worked, that was dead as well. It is going to have to go and have some TLC from Kelvin at Protech. I suspect it may just be some dirt on the contacts, as it was working last year. It is just a standard Prontor SVS shutter, so not to difficult to either mend or replace. Interestingly it had some strange marks on the back mating surface with the lens board, which I examined with an illuminated sensor loupe. It says in tiny writing “Manufactured in the USSR occupied zone of Greater Germany.” I imagine if the person who engraved that had been caught, he would have been the next against the wall.

    The Graflex is good to use for architecture, as it has a rise and fall front plus positive and negative Scheimpflug tilt. There is a studio version where you can adjust the tilt but this one, as more of a press camera, just has one setting for each direction. I have 6 x 9, 6 x 7 and 6 x 6 120 roll film backs for it, all of the late type Graflex or the later Singer ones, with film counters and lever wind.


  • Interesting post and user opinions, thanks!

    I find the camera really easy to use, even though I am not a huge fan of rangefinders. It is surprisingly light for a negative real estate of this size and, unlike other SLR MF cameras, it allows for fairly low shutter speeds due to its leaf shutter. Tripod is always best, of course, but I am pretty confident that I am able to get a decently sharp shot at 1/60 which is impossible for me with my Mamiya 6×7 SLRs for instance.

    The RF system is no Leica but it’s easy to use and accurate; I also find it requires very little periodic adjustments and does not tend to ‘drift’ over time. I also like the fact that it causes very little distractions during shooting – it’s only one lens, no need to choose, you only focus on the subject and framing; although, this aspect and the focal length are rather subjective.

    I agree with previous posters; there’s a lot of dubious equipment coming from Japan generously described as ‘excellent and 100% working’ but often untested and/or hidden flaws. I took some time (and hard to swallow returns and customs/vat fees) until I found a properly working AND sharp example.

    Some examples: https://www.flickr.com/photos/10668647@N06/26325308050 and https://www.flickr.com/photos/10668647@N06/26325308050

    This is the last ‘walkabout’ film camera I kept and find difficult to let go of as (bearing the HUGE negative size in mind) it is so portable and unobtrusive.

  • Excellent review and I’m enjoying reading the feedback. I’ve used large and heavy cameras almost my entire career. I shoot with mostly Yashica TLRs and enjoy (somewhat) the square 6×6 format. I had a monster Asahi Pentax 6×7 that I loved (format, bells and whistles, nice lenses, SLR) but it was in mint condition and I freaked out whenever I walked around with it because as a collector, I was afraid of scratching it and lowering its value. Not a good situation. So now I have a beat up Fujica GW690 (1978 version) headed my way from Japan. No worries with this one as it has a fair share of character marks already! I can’t wait to go 6×9 – all 8 exposures of analog beauty.

    • Chris, make sure to check out the lens really well. I had to send back two that I bought from Japan because of fungus. And those were recent GW690II models. Japan is a humid place.
      Good luck!

      • Thank you Huss… I will. Mine arrived today (EMS 3 days from Tokyo to Florida) and it’s working just fine. I lived in Yokohama for 3 years and boy do I know about the heat and humidity of Japan. I tend to look closely at the bodies of cameras that I buy from Japan (Yashica mostly) and find that if the body has no rust or corrosion (on aluminum) and the seller answers me honestly, I’ve done OK. This one has clear glass… even the rangefinder is bright and beautiful. It’s been used big time but it is super clean. I’ll be out with it tomorrow shooting a roll of Fujifilm PRO400H through it. We’ll see.

  • I own and use a gsw690ii, and for my purposes, it’s a terrific camera. My typical subjects are vintage cars at outdoor car shows, and nothing captures metalflake and fine detail like the big Fuji and Velvia. I agree, this isn’t an all-purpose camera, but it wasn’t designed to be, either. Having shot with a whack of vintage cameras, the Fuji just sorta ticks the boxes for what I want it to do.

  • After using my Fujica GW690 a couple of times now, I can say it’s a phenomenal camera! I shot Neopan 100 Acros and I was blown away by the detail (edge to edge) of the images. If you’re interested, I’ve posted the images at http://www.yashicasailorboy.com

  • No doubt the Fujica GW690 is not the jack of all trades, but I haven’t enjoyed any medium format camera as much as I love mine. I think I like it because 1. the quality of the images (amazing lens + huge negatives) is really stunning, and 2. this camera has a lot less ‘quirks’ than a lot of other older medium format cameras do. No backwards point of view like a TLR, no finicky loader back like Pentax 645, no need for weird ancient battery adaptation, etc. The downside, it’s huge, but many of these medium format cameras are (looking at you, Bronica). It’s not really a street shooter but I use it along side my digital cameras, shooting street, and then pulling out the Fujica for an occasional, more composed, thought out street landscape. Bought it through eBay from Japan (where I’ve purchased most of my film cameras) and have had nothing but great condition items from good sellers. Sometimes paying a little more for the better rated sellers but I think worth it in the long run.

  • I’ve been shooting with my Gw690iii for about 5 months now and haven’t experienced any of these issues. I mainly use it as a travel camera. That being said, for about 2 years prior to me buying it, I made a conscious effort to learn how to meter with my eyes as well as I shot only manual focus lenses on my dslr because they were more affordable as well as all manual focus film cameras. That forced me to learn how to zone focus and to learn about hyper focal distance. All things that made my transition to the Gw690iii a non issue. Being that it’s pretty much the only camera I use, it has become a part of me in a way. I no longer have to look at the lens to change aperture or shutter speeds. As far as aperture is concerned, you can indeed go through the entire aperture range in one spin within the small window. As far as shutter speeds, you can go from 500-2 in one spin. I’ve found it to be the easiest camera to focus out of all of my medium format cameras but in dim light it becomes impossible, at least for me. It just proves that every photographer has cameras that will or won’t work for them. I enjoyed reading your write up on it and I can see why this GW isn’t for you. For what it’s worth, I think you got some fantastic images out of it.

    • Hey pal! I’m glad you love it. That’s really all that matters, and I know I’m in the minority with my feelings regarding this camera. And thanks for the kind words regarding my photos. Feel free to share yours here if you have them in a linkable location. Happy shooting.

  • Hi!
    I recently got 65 mm lens and there is a god chance to get a viewfinder for this lense,too.
    The problem is that I have no clue of how to operate with viewfinder and what is the main purpose of it due the very poor info on line.
    Is it really necessary or it is possble to live without?
    Would you enlighten me,please?
    Thanks in advance!

  • Hi, The cameras take the standard nikon diopters for fm/fe/fa series which has a rubber ring to avoid scratching glasses etc. These sre often missing on second hand examples, but can still be purchased. The cameras were made in 3 frame sizes, 6×7, 6×8 and 6×9. The 6×9 is the most commonly available, but the others offer 1 or 2 more shots. I have the 6×7 version which gives 10 shots a roll.

  • Hallo,

    I’ve just received a GW690. I’m uncertain about the button on the front of the body, beneath the shutter release lever. I have found manuals for later models but not for the first GW690. On later models this button seems to be a shutter release lock/ unlock button. In the photographs of the camera in this blog post, it looks like there’s a lever around this
    button that you can rotate. I don’t have that lever.

    Can anyone help?


  • Interesting review! For really accurate portrait focusing did you ever think of trying a measurement from the film plane similar to how a 1st AC would get precise focus in cinema? I know it’s tedious, but it’d be one way to get super accurate focus. I’ve done this before with older cameras where I couldn’t see enough through the viewfinder. Of course, it’s a massive hassle, but it’d be one way of getting guaranteed results from those awesome 6×9 negatives.

  • I know this is an old review, but people have posted replies lately so I’ll go along.

    James-As an owner myself, I think you made great points and as I read your account, I found myself nodding in agreement. I picked up a GSW690II (65 f/5.6 lens) in 2017, and have struggled to like it. This is how it breaks down for me.

    Pros-Great build quality/very sharp lens/love the perspective/film size equal to half a sheet of 4×5 divided the long way/camera feels great in hand, although heavy

    Cons (more narratively expressed)- 5.6 lens very slow, making hand held use almost impossible even with 400 ISO. Although I haven’t used the 90mm version, on this one the lens is visible in the viewfinder, blocking off about 15% of the scene in the lower right hand corner. That viewfinder is actually my biggest complaint. The rangefinder patch is very small and dark, so trying to use it is guesswork at best. Also, although my eyesight is great beyond 40”, closer than that I need reading glasses. So that issue makes using the rangefinder focus even more difficult. I tried using a screw in diopter correction which helped to see the rangefinder but then the whole rest of the scene was soft, which wasn’t a good trade off.

    Having said that, for a younger photographer with good eyesight, this can be a fun camera. But it has to be approached with the understanding that-at least on the 65mm version-this is a tripod mandatory shooting experience, carrying a hand held light meter unless that person is very good at using the Sunny 16 method. I don’t think that way of working is necessarily a negative thing. It is one of the attractions of these cameras for someone who is interested.

    Again James-Great write up!

  • As a user of the GW690III I don’t understand this comment:

    “..5.6 lens very slow, making hand held use almost impossible even with 400 ISO…”

    Using Sunny 16 as an exposure guide, 5.6 allows you an exposure of 1/500 on an overcast day, or 1/250 on a very very dull day.
    It’s only once the sun goes down or you are indoors that a tripod would be needed.

    Of course you could also load up with a faster film, all the way to ISO 3200.

    Best regards

    • It may be a slightly overly large camera due its 35mm RF like factor, but it’s quite easy to handle in any case. Compare to other titans in 6×7 such as the RB67, P67 and even 645 SLRs that will of course have some better features but are as bulky and even heavier.
      The lack of light meter is shared as well by classic M series Leicas, and not many complain about it. The GW690 gets some bad rap that isn’t really that deserved. A big gripe indeed is the ping, except when you want a group being photographed to know the camera has fired.

      Having said that, I’m finding that using HP5 and a Yellow filter yields quite a comfortable speed (EI 160). I do want to try pushing it, or Delta 3200 but in a way it defeats part of the slower pace and quality of medium format.
      Running a batch of E6 soon, might be time to use up some of the fine Provia.

    • It wouldn’t normally be my choice to shoot 400 speed film, but on the GSW 65mm using anything slower is tough without getting the tripod. I usually rate negative film at half the box speed. Shooting on an overcast day at 200 gives about 1/60 between 5.6-8, which is almost wide open, and if you need a little more dof, even another stop, you are at 1/30.

      I just wanted to let people who are considering this camera know that 5.6 is giving up a lot of light. It took me a couple outings to realize unless it was brighter conditions, using 50 or 100 ISO would be too slow to handhold.

      Obviously the subject of this review-the 90mm f/3.5 version-is more forgiving along those lines.

  • Thank you for your article. I Own one of these cameras and love it ! Unfortunately the web page pictures that you are showing does not give the picture quality any justice. If you look at a printed pictures (On Photographic papers) with your own eyes and not through the myopic glasses of a digital web page photograph that your are looking will make you appreciate the details of the picture and texture which are incredible. Not that I want to stir a debate comparing digital with film photography, my point is that one need to see the picture output of this camera through the lenses of a well dark room processed photograph!!.
    Thank you , I personally love this camera and use it regularly with a monopod.

    • I’m ready to give one of the later versions a try. I think my mind could be changed.

      • I have the gsw690 III. And used it for mostly landscape and travel. I never expected it to replace my Leica or Nikon. Rather, I got it instead of a large format camera. This is more like the Leica of large format. When traveling I use a small Bogan table top tripod and got some amazingly sharp photos inside cathedrals and the like, shooting about 1/2 second. You have to think more like a large format shooter where each picture counts. You should also try to tripod every shot. I can’t imagine a large format photographer ever complaining about no built in meter. When every shot counts you want a hand held light meter anyways. I also usually use a cable release or self timer to get the sharpest possible. When you get really sharp pictures, it’s kind of amazing how sometimes normal photos just pop. The value of this camera being fixed lens, is that you are basically getting the body free with every lens you buy. That’s the beauty of this system. With the GW and GSW, you have a two lens system and the price for each is cheaper then most lens of comparable systems. This camera is actually well thought through if you really understand the intent. This camera can give you the best possible pictures for the money. Sharper then my Leica, Mamaiya 7, Bronica. Correct me if I am wrong, but I think only large format would get sharper photos.

        • Timothy Du Vernet January 14, 2024 at 7:09 pm

          Hey Do, clearly someone who has experienced the wonder of portable medium verging on large format cameras. The Fujinon lenses do have a wonderful reputation. If I were to boast, I think my Graflex XL with an 80 Planar is hopefully better! I also like the versatility of interchangeable backs offering three different frame sizes. It’s also nice to have the option of a ground glass, when situation permits. The 500cm was one of the most common pro cameras for a reason. Superb lenses, modular system, slr convenience and the square format meant you never have to rotate the camera for a vertical. Just crop later. The perfect wedding or portrait camera!

  • Cheyenne Morrison July 24, 2020 at 12:24 am

    Fuji made a prototype Fujica GW690 Professional camera with a 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach Super Angulon lens. I own the Brooks-Plaubel Veriwide 100 with the same lens, but this looks pretty sweet. I have no idea where the prototype is probably in Fuji’s museum.

    Source: https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/PROTOTYPE-FUJI-6X9-WITH-47MM-MC-SUPER-AN/87DB17B6C1C9EEEE

  • Thank you for the review, I really enjoyed it. I must admit that I am saving up for one of the gsw690 cameras as I think it would be almost perfect for landscapes. It would have been perfect if it had Bulb instead of the T mode… But of course it has to be a rangefinder because of size, weight, plus focusing SLR with ND filters is such a pain…

  • Timothy Du Vernet January 14, 2024 at 7:02 pm

    The GW690 fits in a genre of cameras that include a Mamiya and the Graflex XL, among others. They are an evolutionary step from “field cameras” of the 1940’s and onwards. The Crown Graphic shot 4 x 5 sheet film using a rangefinder or it could use roll film. So by comparison, these monster rangefinders are shoot from the hip. They also offer considerably more film real estate than a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 camera like a 500cm. This isn’t a Canonet or Leica M. It demands attention and patience. I have the Graflex XL and I took it on a bicycle trip some 20 years ago and got wonderful images. Here’s a shot I took with a Linhof 23. BTW, a Gossen Lunasix or Minolta light meter can do a far better job than anything built in. https://www.duvernetphotography.com/photo48195177.html. An ever more cumbersome camera to use. Patience and anticipation.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

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