When I was searching for a new medium format go-to camera, I had a few specific wants. I wanted a small camera exposing a big negative, interchangeable lenses, a price under $1,000, and rangefinder focusing. My options were limited. Suitable cameras from Mamiya and Plaubel are popular these days, and consequently too expensive. Older folding models from venerable companies like Zeiss Ikon are beautiful, but a bit archaic for me. And this is where the Fujica GM670 came in.
The Fujica GM670 is just one of the cameras that make up Fujifilm’s first series of medium format, interchangeable lens, rangefinder cameras, which debuted in 1968. It’s essentially the same as the original Fujica GL690 (a 6×9 camera) with light baffles and transport gearing to instead expose 6x7cm frames. This consequently means that the GM670 allows the user to shoot ten shots on each roll of film, instead of the 6×9 camera’s paltry eight. I’m on a budget, after all.
Although less popular than its newer, plasticky descendants (the GW and GSW series), the GM670 checks off my boxes. It’s simple, sturdy, relatively inexpensive, and offers a small suite of Fujinon lenses that I trust to create beautiful images. I know James didn’t like the newer, fixed-lens GW690, but I believe some of the issues he had with the camera are actually better handled by its predecessor.
For example, the Fujica GM670 is a more versatile camera. It offers a suite of leaf-shutter Fujinon lenses ranging from a 50mm f/5.6 (25mm equivalent on 35mm cameras) to a 180mm f/5.6 (90mm equivalent), all glorious primes with relatively quick maximum apertures. The kit lens is the Fujinon S 100mm f3.5, and though it’s a large lens, it weighs less than the Nikon NOCT Nikkor 58mm f/0.95 or even the Sony T* Planar 50mm f1.4. The leaf shutter inside also means you could sync your flash and easily use the camera as a huge press camera, if you really wanted to. The changing of lenses is handled with an internal dark slide that’s pulled in front of the film plane via a rotating latch on the bottom of the camera.
At 19cm wide, 12cm tall, and 15cm deep, and weighing in at 1,750 grams with the 100mm f3.5 lens attached, the GM670 is no featherweight. But compared to other 6×7 cameras, the Fujica’s downright portable. Not sure you believe me? I’ve got statistics!
The Pentax 67 with pentaprism and 90mm lens weighs almost 2,400 grams. The Mamiya RZ67 is a similar beast at just over 2,400 grams. For the record, that’s 5.30 lbs of camera where the Fujica weighs just 3.7 lbs. The only similar cameras that beat the Fujica GM670 in lightness are the Mamiya 7 (1,200 grams with the 80mm lens) and Plaubel Makina 67 (1570 grams), but both those cameras come with outrageous price tags (and the Makina can’t change lenses).
Let’s stop with the comparisons, though. The Fujica GM670 is a wonderful camera that deserves to exist in its own right. It’s a joy to use and to own, and has produced some of my favorite images I’ve created.
The GM670 is an all-black, all-metal beast of a camera with a large, parallax-corrected rangefinder and very little in the way of controls. All the shutter and aperture controls are on the leaf-shuttered lenses, which means that the only controls on the camera are a dial on top to indicate what film type you’ve loaded (120 vs 220), and an odd switch on the back labeled R and S. The film type switch moves the pressure plate inside, and the R/S tells the camera if you’re using roll film or sheet film. This feature was removed for newer models but (from what I gather) was used to get single photos developed more quickly than was possible with roll film. Why they’d need this feature is anyone’s guess, but for my purposes the camera will only dry fire in S mode.
Directly above the R/S switch is the massive film advance lever that must be cranked about one and a half times for each exposure. At first this made me groan and even miss a shot or two, but it quickly became second nature. Double stroke Leica users rejoice, there are others like you. Nestled within the advance lever is the cameras first shutter button. Yes, the first one. There are two, and the other is right on the front of the body.
I cannot emphasize enough that this front shutter is the most brilliant part of the camera. When you pick up a camera this large, getting a finger to the traditional shutter location requires that we either have giant hands or claw the camera in an awkward way that’s not conducive to balance, which you’ll need to shoot this beast handheld. You’ll notice, though, that the front shutter button rests perfectly (emphasis on perfect) underneath your middle finger. Again, it’s something that may require getting used to, but other cameras have had front facing shutters and been successful. Hasselblad, Bronica, and Topcon users know what I’m talking about. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve only ever used the top shutter button with a cable shutter for long exposures. Whenever the camera is slung around my back I’m reaching for that front shutter.
One interesting design choice is the massive letter G slapped onto the breech lock lens mount. It’s there, and it’s large. So if you want a camera with only a small G, or god forbid no G at all, I suppose the Fujica GM670 isn’t for you.
The rangefinder is also carried over from the 6×9 model, aside from frame-lines, meaning the rangefinder has ample room on either side of the frame for photographers to line up their shots.
But how does it shoot? The answer is, well, great. With the inevitable (and justified) caveat “for a 6×7 camera,” the Fujica is light, small, and easy to carry around. I have friends with Pentax 67 kits who carry entire backpacks with them everywhere, and I laugh at them. I can sling the Fujica GM670 over my shoulder for a day of hiking and shooting and not wake up with bruises covering half my body. It gladly accompanies me on my bike in the city or trekking up mountains.
The images are crisp and versatile from the 100mm f3.5 kit lens, working well for landscapes, street photography, and long exposures. It renders color in a very realistic way, and I haven’t noticed any aberration, softness, or other things you’d only notice when you zoom in 2,000x on a test shot. I’ve been able to get some great images handheld in low-light without much fuss, something that can’t be said for the competition.
The camera, despite being large, is very discreet. I’ve only received a handful of curious passersby asking about it, and those people have tended to be other camera geeks like me. To the untrained eye used to large DSLRs with huge lenses, the Fujica GM670 isn’t really that big or bulky. It’s all black, and the leaf shuttered lenses are quieter than most 35mm cameras. The loudest noise comes from releasing the internal dark slide. Side note, from what I gather the dark slides might be the most failure-prone part of the camera. It doesn’t kill the camera to have it not work, fortunately, just be sure it’s fully retracted before using the camera or you’ll cut off some of that beautiful 6×7 goodness.
So what’s the verdict? The Fujica GM670 is a large, all-metal, manual rangefinder with no light meter or auto exposure. Would I recommend it to everyone? Of course not, I wouldn’t even recommend it to James, although I think he’d enjoy it more than the GW he reviewed simply because of the ability to change lenses. But for those unique individuals who are interested, you’ll find a camera that punches way above its weight class and occupies a unique point on the price-to-weight-to-quality matrix.
At the time of writing, a GM670 with a 100mm lens can be bought for about one-third the price of a Contax T3. One third the price for three times the image area? That’s a smart buy.
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