Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FUJIPET GO!

I was recently sent a message by my internet provider saying that all free web space would be deleted in December because of "low usage". Well, my Fujipet site (link soon to be dead, I guess) will go bye bye, though it's had almost 23,000 Fujipet fans visiting since 2005. So instead of paying someone to host it, I figured I could just break it down into a series of blog posts. I haven't talked about the Fujipet on this blog, except to tear one apart, so what better opportunity?

Welcome! This blog post is dedicated to the Fujipet (フジペット) camera, made by Fuji Photo Film Co. from 1957 to 1963. I will mainly be covering the 120 style Fujipet (also nicknamed Thunderbird in Japan) here, but I will try to offer information about other models as I can. The Fujipet is considered a "toy camera." It isn't built like a toy camera, as the body is made of plastic and aluminum and is quite sturdy, but most of these cameras sport a plastic lens. It was intended as a starter camera for young people, easy enough that even "women and children" could use it.
When I saw my first Fujipet, I instantly fell in love with its design. To me, it is the epitome of 1950s Japanese futuristic style. It is art. It has Astroboy hair. It just looks COOL. When I finally found one (then two), I knew it was something special. Again, it just looks so COOL, and you look cool using it. When you carry it, people give you that "what the..." look. And, yes, it is fun and easy to use! What can it do? Check out the site, and I will do my best to let you in on everything I know about this little wonder. Which isn't a heck of a lot so far, but I hope to increase my knowledge base and share it with you.

THE CAMERAS

FUJIPET 6X6 120 CAMERA
As far as I know, there are three Fujipet models. The camera I will focus most of my attention on is the original 120 roll film camera as seen on the front page. It takes 12 6x6 shots on a roll of 120 film, color or black and white. It was first introduced in 1957 (Showa 32) with production ending in 1963 (Showa 38). There were minor design changes and a few different colors throughout its life, which I attempt to catalogue on the Camera Gallery page.

Technical Specifications:
- Plastic or glass, single element, fixed lens.
- 70mm.
- f11, f16, f22, two plate, with no detent.
- B, 1/50 leaf shutter.
- 6x6 cm ‘Buroni’ format (Bronica - 120 in Japan) for a 56 x 56 mm exposure.
- Base is tripod threaded.
- Flash shoe (cold, with ext sync socket).
- 120x100x75mm, weight:332g.

The key components are as follows:

The lens is plastic in some cameras and glass in others. It is fixed focus (seems to lose focus at around less than one meter). The main body is plastic, with the top being aluminum. The back and bottom piece is also aluminum. As you see, it has a two-lever shutter mechanism. You first press down 1, which "charges" or cocks the shutter, then press 2 to take the picture. Cocking the shutter does not open the shutter. The opening and closing is done by lever 2. I'm not sure why it was designed this way, as one-click cameras were available at the time. It's part of the charm. The shutter itself is a leaf-shutter. The textured color surfaces are glued onto the body. They tend to peel apart, but are easy to glue back on. There are two feet on the bottom for stabilization when storing. The aperture lever acts as the third foot. The notches on the sides are for the camera strap.

There are two shutter settings. I probably stands for Instant and B for bulb. The little red switch slides easily from one mode and back. In bulb mode, you can hold down 2 for as long as you want, keeping the shutter open for extended exposures. Here, you can see the counter window through the open shutter in bulb mode.

The aperture lever under the lens attached to a ring that surrounds the barrel. It slides smoothly from side to side.

The aperture ring offers 3 different graphics. I assume this was done to make it completely obvious for everyone using it. The right side offers apertures of 11, 16 and 22. The top is a visual representation of the aperture opening, from wide to small. The left side offers sunlight variations.

The hood is a simple aluminum or plastic ring that slides out from the body. It is loose and tends to move around a lot on its own. The first model had an aluminum hood, while most are plastic. Very late models seem to have some sort of plastic piece on the lens barrel to lock the hood in the out position. One thing to note about the plastic hoods is that they all have "burn" marks on them. Never appearing in the same place, eahc hood has its own special scar(s) that look as of they were damaged...but all of them have the burns. I have no idea what these are from...most likely some manufacturing foibles...but what, I couldn't say. So fear not if your Pet has these marks.

The Pet uses an external bulb sync flash. It fits on the shoe and plugs into the barrel. Note the hood must be extended to plug in the flash on most models. The plug is closer to the body on early Pets. Releasing the shutter sets off the flash. I don't know if there is an official Fujipet flash.

The Fujipet winds film to the left (as you hold the camera) instead of to the right. I have no idea how common this is with 120 cameras. The film rolls through upside down, but there are upright numbers on 120 film for this design, so it must not be unusual. The back side has a counter window for viewing the numbers on the film. The silver piece on the bottom serves as a tripod mount and holds the back cover of the camera.

The Fujipet next to a 35mm camera for size comparison.

And next to a Diana, or Diana clone in this case.

Note that the Fujipet does not generally leak light. It has a solid aluminum back that screws tightly into place. This kind of goes against the trend for toy cameras. Most toy cameras are built very cheaply (Dianas and Holgas), or are just very old (Brownies and box cameras). The plastic lens makes the camera a toy. There are a few later models that sport a glass lens, and I don't consider the 35mm cameras to be toys, as they are basically "real" cameras, though very cool looking real cameras. My black Fujipet does have some kind of leak on the side that adds a large flare, but I'm told this is very rare. My guess is the seam isn't flush...but I don't really mind. The red Pet has no leaks.
To counter the plastic lens effects (mainly vignetting), the film plane on the inside of the camera is curved. You can see this in the photos that aren't cropped on the Photo Gallery page. I find it particularly interesting that they spent so much time designing a very well-built camera that counters the effects of a plastic lens, rather than just using a glass lens. I guess the initial R&D stage was cheaper than producing precision glass lenses for all the cameras sold.
In creating this camera, Fuji intended to open up the Japanese photography market by including women, children and beginners. Until then, photography had generally required high-end equipment (other world markets had already introduced popular "family friendly" cameras, such as the Brownie, long before). Design was a joint venture between Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and the Konan camera laboratory. Fuji sold nearly a million Fujipets by 1963, making a domestic sales record at the time. The original selling price was 1950 yen. To distinguish the 120 from the other Fujipet models, it earned the nickname "Thunderbird."

Words from a Fujipet User
The camera for boys & girls of Fuji and its name was also Fujipetto. The factory of Fuji Film was located on the north side of Imaizumi Elementary School (in the old Yoshiwara city, in Fuji prefecture).
Nobody used full names these days, so it was only called the ‘Film’. The company houses were also along side the school, and a classmate’s father was a factory manager there (Suzuki-san).
A monthly manga was our favorite magazine – we used to read it while eating chipped-ice in our favorite mom-and-pop candy store. One day I went to play in Suzuki-san’s house and we discovered an accumulation of ‘Children’s’ Science’ magazine. We did not have money to buy such magazine, we were very enviable, and went crazy and read.
Since Suzuki-san was Film employee, although I do not know if he was ‘rich’, he had Fujipet laying in his house.
Then probably Fujipet was considered garbage and thrown away. Now it is remembered in our hearts…

FUJIPET 120EE
The Fujipet 120 EE was introduced in 1961. It uses no batteries, just a selenium cell to move a snappy variable slot aperture over the opening depending on how much light there is. Note the single lever for releasing the shutter.

The later model EE, commonly referred to as EE-2, looks about the the same but has a meter sensitivity knob added to the side Also note the gold badge and the differences on the lens. I believe this camera was made for export due to the increase in popularity of color film in the US and Europe. This information and photo come from this site.


PET 35
The Pet 35, a 35mm version of the camera, was introduced in 1959 to meet the needs of the growing 35mm market. This camera employs the dual levers and can be focused.

I have a Pet 35, and I haven't used it. So at some point that will happen and then the Pet 35 will get its very own blog post! In any case, on to more information about the cameras...

COLOR VARIATIONS
The 120 came in various colors. I'm not sure how production runs and year produced relates to the available colors. Some colors are fairly common and seen on different models, while others are very rare. Grey, or black, is the most common and easiest to find.

Red seems to be the second most available color...my personal favorite.

Green is a bit more difficult to find.

Brown is also very rare.

An interesting and rare green Pet with gold trim. I didn't realize it was different until I had it sitting next to a silver Fujipet. Note that the badge is bronze with green paint.

This is an interesting brown Pet with its red marbling on the back. Mine has green marbling. The Japanese Fuji site lists a grey as a Fujipet color. This is probably the same color I call brown.

A rare yellow pet with gold body. The only one I've seen so far!

This transparent Pet may be one of a kind. It can't be used because the film would be exposed, but it looks to be operational. It may have been a demonstration model. It is also an early model Pet. This sold for 39,500 yen! though having seen regular Pets go for $400 on eBay, maybe it doesn't seem so expensive.

As far as I know, the Fujipet EE camera was produced only in black. The EE-2 has a gold badge on the front.

The most common color for the Pet 35 is black.

With green being very rare...

This is the Pet 35 "Astroboy Special". It was probably a prize or sold at a comic fair. The kana on the bottom says "1959 Manga Matsuri". I borrowed these images from this site.

Here you can see another yellow 120 with gold trim. The Pet 35 came in various colors...black, pink, teal and red, at least. There are two EEs in the photo, but I can't tell if they are different. The group photo is borrowed from this site. I have also seen listed for the 120 the colors blue, yellow (with silver trim?) and peach, but cannot verify that they do exist. They may be have been referring to the Pet 35, as the peach and blue could be pink and teal.

I don't have a lot of information on the Fujipet EE. Other than there being two versions, the original with the red badge and the EE-2 with the gold badge and the sensitivity knob, I don't see much variation between these cameras. The only one I know of for sure is the color of the Fuji Film sticker inside.

THUNDERBIRD
Before the Fujipet that we all know and love, there was... The FUJIPET. Actually, it's still just a Fujipet, but the original model was different in many ways. I haven't really thought of a cool nickname for this model to differentiate it, though I've heard it referred to as the Thunderbird by a friend. I usually refer to it as the first-generation Pet or simply Pet-1.
The biggest difference is in weight. Pet-1 is much heavier than the remodeled Pet. It feels, and looks, more serious than later Pets. Viewed from the front, the levers are slightly skewed. The shutter mechanism is a little bit different and can't be swapped with the later model. The fake leather is much smoother and actually feels like leather. The Pet-2 feels distinctly plastic. The badge is more silver compared to that on Pet-2 (non-gold models), which have a slight bronze color. Overall, a heftier build. Pet-1 is most common in black with silver trim. It is also less common than Pet-2, but there doesn't seem to be any difference in value between the two.

The second most obvious difference is the hood. It is made out of aluminum and is much lighter than the plastic hood on the Pet-2. You can see it is rolled on the end. It is very loose and actually quite annoying. There are small clips on the side that one could possibly bend inward to hold it in place, but it would probably only scratch the barrel.

Another major difference is the placement of the flash plug. It is below the hood, while Pet-2 keeps it under the hood. Visually, this doesn't make that much of a difference, but it changes the design of the shutter plate, keeping you from swapping these parts between Pet-1 and Pet-2. You can actually put the Pet-1 shutter plate in Pet-2 with some degree of success (i think it's always on Bulb), but the Pet-2 plate will not fit into Pet-1.

On the back, we can see that the counter window has a cover, as opposed to the Pet-2 at far right. Again, this is more annoying than anything, and tends to tear up the leatherette.

Inside there are four screws instead of the 3 found in Pet-2. The film winder screw is also different, requiring some sort of camera caliper deal that I don't have. Another minor variation not pictured is with the screw mount on the bottom of the camera. It is smoother and doesn't grip to your fingers as the Pet-2 mount does.

Overall, a very different feel to the first-generation Pet. It's hard to describe, but you feel it when you hold it. The parts are heavier and have a more solid feel to them (except for the aluminum hood). It feels more like a "real" camera, and even has a somewhat less retro look to it than the Pet-2. The Pet-2 isn't a lesser build, it's just lighter and feels a bit more 1960s, while Pet-1 has more of a 1950s feel.Pet-2 does seem a bit cheaper when held alongside Pet-1, but this is probably because it was cheaper to make. Which do I prefer? Pet-2, most definitely. Pet-1 has a few issues that make it less fun to use, such as the hood and the window cover. Also, the bulb switch is very loose, something I'm told is common for these models. Makes for a lot of blurry photos. There doesn't seem to be any correlation between glass and plastic lenses and older and newer Pets. I don't know the reason for that particular variation.

Most first-gen Pets are black, but they were also made in red and green. These are definetely rare and even bring a higher price in Japan, where the Pets are cheaper in general. I haven't seen the green variation, and this is the only red I've seen. It's a very nice looking camera!

OTHER VARIATIONS
There are other variations between Fujipets, regardless of Pet-1 or Pet-2 status. The most obvious would be the date stamp under the top metal piece. Every Pet I've seen has a different stamp, which also appears under the leatherette on the bottom of the camera. I assume the middle is the Showa date. 33 would be 1958... how that compares with the 9 9 30, I have no idea. The bottom is possibly who built the camera, or where it was built. I think that the name at bottom right is Muranaka, but that's with my bad Kanji skills. The others all have too many strokes for me to figure out.

This is the only Pet I've seen with a stamp under the viewfinder, as well as under the metal frame.

Two different decals for Fuji film that appear on the inside back of the camera.

This pet has a screw holding the shutter plate in place. It was a later model Pet with the plastic hood, but it's the only one I've seen built this way. I'm told that some first-generation Pets had this.

The typical shutter plate with no screw as seen above. It is just held in place by the front plastic lens mount screw.


I guess that's enough Fujipet overload for now...to come are extra goodies, manuals and a camera breakdown!

Fujipet Goodies...mmmmm!

Fujipet Maintenance

Fujipet Manuals

4 comments:

  1. The stamps are who inspected the camera. The top says "kensazumi" which means "inspected by". The bottom is, as you expected, the name. The name on the right is "Muranaka" as you said. The one on the left is "Sato". "9 9 30" is odd as in Japan, the format is almost always "year - month - date". 1955? Maybe?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Love! What a great, thorough post - and now I need one or ten.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous3:10 AM

    Hi there...
    I have fujipet 35 black color. Does anyone know how much its worth now?
    Thanks much

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous12:16 PM

    Re Sato: 9 9 30 reads as date: year=59, month =9 and day=30

    ReplyDelete