Fuji Klasse W – Initial Impressions

By Hamish Gill

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Fuji Klasse W represents for me the end of one story and perhaps the beginning of another. I started out my journey as a photographer with a compact film camera and have, some 20 years later after trying pretty much everything else have returned to one. Through rediscovering the love of the things via a Yashica t5 and Ricoh GR1 I decided to invest in something a little special!

The Fuji Klasse W was chosen for a variety of reasons. The primary one being the 28mm f2.8 lens. I did love the Ricoh GR1 though, and that also had a 28mm f2.8, so why sell it?

The initial plan was to buy a GR1v, which I did! I even arranged the sale of my GR1 an was very pleased I had a ‘v’ on its way… Until it turned up!

Thankfully the eBay seller was a very reasonable type as something was not right with this camera. In fact a few things weren’t right.

Firstly the bit of plastic that surrounds the viewfinder had come away. This had made the on/off button mostly unresponsive. The LCD was on the blink to; an apparently common fault. We concluded it had happened in the post, the camera and money were returned to their respective owners and my search recommenced.

The experience had made me nervous about buying one though… c.£350 for a second hand camera is a lot of money. Especially when there is a possibility of buying something wholly similar with a few more features for the very similar money!

Enter the Fuji Klasse W… and a whole other series of possible issues.They are available on eBay once in a while often from Japan or the US, but seemingly never from the UK. If I am going to buy a new camera instead of a second hand one it needs to carry all the advantages of buying new. One of those being a guarantee. I’m sure I could get one from one of the Japanese dealers but I was concerned about the language barrier – I was concerned a detail might get lost in translation.

I needed an English speaking dealer in Japan, a camera dealer, one that could ‘hunt’ down one of these now discontinued cameras in new condition… A ‘Japan camera hunter’ shall we say… That is of course where Bellamy came in… More on that experience another time.

So a few £pounds and a few weeks later I’m taking a brand new Fuji Klasse W out of it’s box …

Long winded introduction out of the way, what are my first impressions of the Klasse W?

Thankfully, they are mostly positive! I will get the negative out of the way first though… It is bigger than the Ricoh, the Ricoh is a slip of a camera. The fuji is certainly larger! Thankfully though its not a big as some of the 80’s and 90’s monsters… It’s just big compared to the very small Ricoh.

That’s about it for negatives… For now at least.

The very first impression of the Klasse W is one of quality! I have read comments about the Fuji not feeling as robust as the Ricoh, not true in my view. It does have more rubber and plastic parts but that doesn’t detract from the high quality build.

I had fears about the viewfinder, they were ill founded, it’s fine… and it displays the shutter speed! Even low speeds are displayed unlike the Ricoh which just blinks ’30’ when it’s below 1/30th.

When the Klasse W is on program mode the aperture is also displayed on the top screen. It’s interesting to see the aperture it sets on program as there is now visual confirmation of what I found the Ricoh to do; never choosing 2.8 even at very slow speeds. As an example, here in my living room I can point the camera at the bookcase and get a 1/10th of a second shutter speed and f4. The logic behind this is that as the optimum aperture for the lens isn’t going to be when it’s wide open and that the depth of field is greater when at f4. Combined with the less than perfect AF systems of old there is more chance of a sharper photo this way… I kind of get the logic, but the thresholds seem a little strange. Further testing proves that it will go to 2.8, but only when the camera reached 1/4 of a second! Odd!

(Edit: I have discovered the above only applies when the camera is set to 100iso)

So why haven’t I put this in the negatives? Well, I quickly got over it with the Ricoh, any low light situation and it was set straight to f2.8… Its a camera with aperture priority so when appropriate that’s what I will use. And from what I have read elsewhere online, this is fairy standard stuff for a camera of this type.

Another nice feature of the Klasse W is the displaying of the distance focused on the top screen when on auto focus, not to mention the fact that the camera has manual focus settings… All be it menu driven ones.

I also prefer the location of the exposure compensation control over the Ricoh. It was very loose on mine and I often found it had changed settings in my pocket. I can’t see that happening on this camera.

The custom settings are nice too… If a little fiddly until you get used to setting them. Having the ability to set the flash to remember what it was set to when you turn on the camera is very nice! Mine stays off so I don’t have to think about it. A physical switch like on the Ricoh would be nice, but this is nice too especially as there are more flash modes (that I will never use) on the fuji.

The rest of the controls feel nice and responsive, there is a thread on the side of the Klasse W for attaching a cable release which might come in handy one day. Especially combined with the ability to select slow shutter speeds and ‘B’ via the menu.

There are a few more features which I shall explore at a later date, but for now…

…All in all, very impressed so far (and slightly relieved). Fingers crossed for me that no nasties crop up in use!

Updates since original post:

First shots from the Fuji Klasse W
Fuji Klasse W – Comments on Exposure and Focusing
And here you can find my final thoughts on the camera

Thanks for reading


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About The Author

By Hamish Gill
I started taking photos at the age of 9. Since then I've taken photos for a hobby, sold cameras for a living, and for a little more than decade I've been a professional photographer and, of course, weekly contributor to 35mmc.
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