A Circuitous & Sentimental Fuji Journey

Fujica ST701 and Fujifilm X-T2

As far back as I can remember, my dad took photos. Not just casual family snaps either — he attended photography classes at our local community college, developing and printing artful imagery.

He had what I think was a GAF L-CM early on (I only know this because it appears in mirror self-portraits), and at some point he traded up to a Fujica ST701. This is the camera I remember — mostly because of my strong personal connection with it.

In the mid 1980’s, I signed up for photography classes, like my dad. Mostly, I wanted to meet girls and smoke cigarettes — but photography seemed like good excuse to do that. I appropriated the Fujica, went away for the summer, took lots of photos, learned to use a darkroom and smoke cigarettes (though not at the same time).

I didn’t think much about the camera — not like people think about their cameras now. It’s been said the best camera is the one you have with you, but at that time, the best camera was the one I had — and I didn’t want for more.

I “forgot” to give back the ST701, and it went where I went — capturing important, artful, and sometimes embarrassing moments over the years.

When the light meter failed in the early 2000’s, I replaced it with a very capable Nikon FE (maybe the subject of a future blog post) — eventually going digital and moving to a humongous Nikon D1x, and then a D200 (which seemed downright puny compared to the D1x) complemented by a handful of lenses.

Problem was … my cameras had gotten so darn big that I’d only use them for occasions or paid gigs. Sure, I had a pocketable digital camera too, but the images were distractingly characterless. There was nothing nostalgia-worthy about them. What I missed about my film cameras, and in particular my Fujica (for the sentimental reasons), was the sheer spirit of spontaneity — a product of the reasonable size and the image quality which left nothing to be desired.

When I saw the Fujifilm X-Pro1, I immediately thought back to blissfully shooting the ST701. I bought the X-Pro1 with the XF35 f2, hoping to recapture that … the simplicity … the sense of nostalgia.

Did that happen? Kind of. I regained the ability to throw a camera in the glove box, and it reignited my will to take photos (which is ridiculous — because the will to take photos is not the same as taking photos). At the same time, I figured out how to approximate the look of the film images I missed so much (ironically, by degrading my now “superior” images).

But, as with so many things in this era, there’s a certain amount of “analysis paralysis” brought about by the endless flow of information. “Would another lens be better? … Do I need these video features? … Is my auto-focus fast enough? Blah. Blah. Blah.” I succumbed to Gear Acquisition Syndrome — contracting an X-E2s, X-Pro2, and the X-T2 pictured with the old Fujica ST701 at the top of this post (but I can forgive myself, because they’re all so danged gorgeous).

I’m pretty sure I’ll never get back the exact feeling I got from the Fujica; too many things have gotten complicated over the years. But there are things I’ve gained…

Simplr, for one (you can read a little about that here). Also, an underlying sense of camaraderie with others who felt photography had gotten too complicated. In particular, I’d like to thank the Fujifilm community — especially the pros, who graciously donated their time to help develop these camera straps — for the love of beautiful images and the desire to keep things simpler (if not simple).


The Swiss Train Intercom

Train Intercom in Switzerland

Some years back, I embarked on a week-long hiking excursion in Switzerland. My expectation was that I’d see lots of mountains, vast green pastures, goats with bells, and quaint Swiss cottages.

What I hadn’t grasped, was the extent to which design pervades almost every aspect of Swiss culture. Now, it’s no secret that Switzerland holds design in high regard — after all they did invent what we now know as modern typography and minimalist design — so I expected to see terrific examples of art and architecture (and was not disappointed).

It was where I hadn’t expected to see it that made the biggest impression on me. Case in point: the Swiss train intercom.

Growing up in the New York metropolitan area, I’m accustomed to seeing lots of ugly, failing infrastructure. You steer clear of it for fear of getting electrocuted — or at the very least — a bad case of cooties.

This contraption really caught my attention. My inner “design guy” walked over and just stared at it. Why? It ticks a few boxes for me:

  • Well Made — It’s obviously been around for a while (guessing it’s about 50 years old) and doesn’t look like it’ll break any time soon.
  • Everything Has a Purpose — I’ll go out on a limb here and say if I want to call someone, I probably push down on one of those levers and then talk into that microphone. I believe every thing on a thing should do something, and if it doesn’t — then it shouldn’t be there.
  • Nice to Look At — Purpose doesn’t trump design. They should live happily together. Every piece on here has been enriched without compromising function. Don’t you just want to push those levers? I know I did. They’re smooth, and curved, and I imagined they would feel springy. And that color … as inviting as an orange creamsicle!

You might be thinking “Why on Earth is this camera strap company talking about a Swiss train intercom?”

The reason is, it pretty well sums up our design philosophy:

  • Well Made — We use strong materials, and assemble them to last with a high degree of workmanship.
  • Everything Has a Purpose — Each piece of hardware does something. Furthermore, it does what it looks like it does.
  • Nice to Look At — If you take each piece that does something, make it look and feel good, you enrich the experience of the user. If a particular color of strap begs a photographer to wear their camera, we’re all for it.

… and that’s why we care about a Swiss train intercom (plus, we like orange).