GW690 Woes


I am back, at least for the start of 2016. I had a lot of fun doing this in 2015 and managed to finish the year which took some doing as I was in the field quite a bit, including long stretches off the grid entirely. I have no idea what work will bring for me this year, so I am going to launch into a 2016 project and see where it takes me. If I don’t finish, then at least I will be dropping by for a visit and making the occasional post. Once I get started it may well feel wrong to stop.

Both of these rolls of film that I have used for week 1 were shot in 2015, but the second one was not processed or scanned until 2016 and I wanted to hold the first one till I saw the results of the second as I anticipated that two rolls might better help diagnose what was wrong with the camera.

I am having trouble with my Fuji GW690 – the shutter sticks open, but with no discernible pattern. Seeing the first roll where one frame was toast and two adjacent ones had partial overlaps with over exposure I thought it might be operator error and related to not setting the exposure before cocking the shutter. With the second roll, the first four shots were toast and the second four were fine. I find that the shutter sticks open randomly, on different shutter speeds and regardless of the order in which I set the exposure and wind the film. When it sticks open it only closes when I wind the film – it shuts with a mechanical action that is in time to the rate which the lever is advanced. This is different from the way the shutter closes after being opened in “T” mode, which is a rapid self-closing once it is released by advancing the film (or rotating the aperture ring away from “T”). It also seems that the more I examine it (ie wind it forward for another try) the more often the problem crops up, so I have stopped that activity.

EDIT: I have taken the camera in to our local camera repair shop and they were quite discouraging. Fuji parts are now extremely difficult to come by, Fuji Canada and USA are unable to help, and indeed the people they speak to there have not even heard of the camera. This accords with my own experience – I could not get through Fuji’s appalling phone tree to a knowledgeable person and was merely told to ship my camera to Florida and they would have a look and let me know (shipping alone would likely be $50). The Fuji Canada website misdirects one to the wrong part of Fuji USA website, and digging around that website only ends up with ignorant receptionists. My local shop were willing to have a look, but they felt the likelihood was that they would spend a huge amount of time, and my money, probably getting nowhere.

On a brighter note, the repairman suggested that it might just be lubricants stacked up where they shouldn’t be if the camera had been sitting for a long time and that I could try warming up the camera (not too hot!) and see if that fixed the problem. And indeed, when warm, and after a few cycles, the shutter stopped sticking. This also fits with the experience of the last roll of film where it stuck for the first 4 frames and not the last 4. The first four were shot when the camera was chilly after being out of doors or in the car for an hour or so. The last four were shot after the camera had been sitting around the house for a while and had warmed up. So, after these successful tests, I put the camera away overnight. Our house is not kept really warm and in the morning the camera is sticking again, intermittently and usually for only one shot or so, rather like the first time it happened on film. It seems that the lubricants might be the issue, and thus a CLA could be all that it is needed. I will be asking the shop what they think about that when they open after the weekend. For now feel a bit more positive about the future of the camera.

I have put scans of some of the failures in the gallery below if anyone is in a diagnosing mood and wants to check my thinking on this. If you have experience of this problem with a Fuji or similar fixed lens rangefinder and can suggest something I can easily do to fix it, then please let me know in the comments below. Otherwise, it will be going in for a CLA. This is rather disappointing because I have only put half a dozen rolls through the camera which I bought in the fall, with assurances it had been serviced every year by the professional that owned it previously. It is by far (>5x) the most expensive used film camera I have purchased. Perhaps I did set the exposure after advancing the film, and as this is said to potentially cause problems with the linkages in the lens maybe I have made this happen. But since it is intermittent and unpredictable, I think it more likely to be wear and or gunk in the shutter assembly. I am hoping for gunk as worn parts might be pretty hard to replace.

These pictures were taken on expired Ilford film – some are on XP2 400 that expired in April 2000 which I rated at ISO 320 due to its age, and others are on Ilford Delta 3200 that expired in June 2014, metered at ISO 3200. I took the XP2 roll in November and early December, and the Delta on Boxing Day when some of the family had Christmas dinner with my parents.

Some more pictures from the XP2 can be found at my blog post published simultaneously to this one and called Happy Anniversary as it is my parents’ 61st today.


 To view a larger version of any image in the gallery below, click or tap it, then navigate to other images.


Delta 3200




To view a larger version of any image in the gallery below, click or tap it, then navigate to other images with the arrows or swipes.




Week 1: Fujica GW690, 90/3.5 lens, Ilford XP2 400 exp 4/2000 shot at 320 ISO and Delta 3200 at box speed, developed commercially, scanned with Epson V700





17 thoughts on “GW690 Woes

  1. That’s too bad! Personally I’ve only ever heard that you need to be careful of the order in which you do things with FSU cameras. I never paid attention to it with my GW, but then I only used it for a roll or two before selling it again. I would suggest to send it out for a CLA and hopefully it won’t need one for many years after that.


    • Thanks Urban. I have read that one should be careful of the order. I have also read that the reason most of the GW690-1 lenses have a “T” mode (rather than “B” which is very rare) is to avoid this issue.

      Fortunately there is still one good camera servicing shop in this rather small city, so I can just drop if off rather than send it in the post somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have edited the post above after further tests suggested by my camera repair store. I think that the problem may be lubricants congealing in colder conditions and that repairs may be possible.


  2. Love the portraits … and the fact that you have musicians in the household!!

    About the shutter issue, I feel bad for you, and CLA looks like the only option. Still, I do have some questions (of course, I’ve never used a GW690, so questions may seem silly):

    1. About the issue of the stuck shutter closing at the same rate the film advance lever is cocked … does it keep closing through the two strokes of the advance lever? Or somewhere in between? Have you tried stopping in the middle of the film advance to see if the shutter remains stuck open?

    2. Instead of film advance, have you tried close the shutter by moving the aperture ring (like after ‘T’)?


    • Hi Ashoke – I’m glad you like the portraits, I think it is what I like best about using this camera. And musicians in a household are fantastic. My son makes his living with music which I find pretty astonishing that anyone is able to do that straight out of highschool in a small place like Victoria.

      1. The film advance lever is physically closing the shutter on the first stroke of the lever. The shutter will stay partially open if I stop advancing the lever. Once the lever is fully wound around, the shutter is fully closed and then might, or might not, work properly after that.

      2. I did try changing the aperture when it was stuck open and it makes no difference – it stays open.


        • Thanks for the link! Nice to know of someone that tinkers with these cameras.

          As to my son, you will see more of him around here, and probably quite soon. I was just shooting him and his band in the recording studio while helping make a video (doing what I was told on one of the DSLRs). My mjuii went along and made a valiant job of the low light with some 800ISO film.


        • Frankly I can’t hear the difference. 🙂 But I’ve heard the rumour that this is where the loud clacking noise comes from a few times already. If someone could confirm that it’s possible to silence that damn thing I’d be the first to buy another one of these cameras.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hi Urban. I couldn’t hear the difference either – doesn’t help that the ambient noise is quite different between the two examples, and that the last one has only one example. If there is a difference it is trivial. The sound of the shutter does not bother me, but perhaps my expectations have been conditioned by SLRs (and especially my Mamiya M645 which sounds like a passing freight train when the shutter fires). I suspect that users of quiet rangefinders are the ones most offended by the shutter noise, and certainly I like my quiet rangefinders for that reason. But, I can live with the sound.

            I have been reading about these shutters a lot more now that mine is acting up. The shutter noise originating from the shot counter is an internet myth that has been debunked by a few writers (and unwittingly by the guy trying to illustrate the sound differences in the linked video). See for instance this long discussion by someone that took his camera apart and tried to eliminate the noise: The discussion in that thread includes some ideas for dampening the sound, like sound absorbing layer inside the top of the camera and rubber washers on some metal parts. But the takeaway is that these cameras cannot be made significantly quieter.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Eben. That is my son. It is probably the most spontaneous shot as he looked up just as I was taking the picture. His face says to me, with humor, “what’s taking you so long”. He takes very good photos as well as making excellent music and tolerates my camera pointing at him to a surprising degree.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Spending so much money for a camera which then gave up working properly is a sad experience.
    I had a Fujifilm as well, mine was the GA645zi, and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one again, and the build quality impressed me. The only thing I noticed was that I wouldn’t go for a zoom lens in a 645 again because I’d like to see what a fixed lens in such a camera is capable of.

    Some days ago, I managed to buy a ME super in good shape, but first I bought two (2!) ME super in a row that were in bad shape. The sellers told me that everything was fine with them and just lied. At least they took them back, but Alas, where is all that wasted time gone?

    Luckily I found someone in Germany who can do all this CLA for me, I found him in a forum. Maybe it’s possible to find someone like this in your area in classified ads? In my case he had to repair a lot of lenses, because I like the old Nikkors which also need a helping hand sometimes after several decades.

    My next camera might well be another Fujifilm 645.


    • Hi Pollux. I am really cheap when it comes to buying cameras and try to keep the purchase to around 5 or 10 dollars, with a big purchase 20 or 30 dollars – there are a lot of good thrift stores in my area, with quite cheap cameras. Today I bought three point and shoot zooms, which I normally avoid like the plague, but all had partially exposed film in them, and two came with working batteries and I paid $15 for all three. So, long way of saying the GW690 was not terrifically expensive on a camera scale, just on the scale of my buying habits.

      I like the fixed lens cameras – it eliminates a lot of decisions when heading out with camera bag. I have an M645 Super and about 6 months ago I bought a wide angle lens for it. I have not even put it on the camera yet as for most purposes a “normal” lens works just fine. Not being able to change lenses on the GW690 simplifies things, and keeps me from buying lenses that I don’t really need as well.

      There is a good camera repair shop in my town, so I will get them to do the CLA. I won’t regret it too much if the problem can be repaired as I love this camera and expect to own it and use it for years to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: GW690 Woes | burnt embers

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