Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III

Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III – Review by Johnny Sisson

My Petri rangefinder obsession began earlier this year when I finally saw one in person for the first time. In February, a pair of Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super (1.9 CCS) Green-O-Matic rangefinders appeared on the shelves of Central Camera Company in Chicago, where I work selling cameras and photo equipment.

Photo of Central Camera Company new sign shot with Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super
Central Camera Company, Chicago. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit

Intrigued by this fixed-lens rangefinder, I looked it up in our copy of McKeown’s at the shop. The Petri 1.9 cameras are described as “common”, having a high quality taking lens, and dating from 1960. They were made by the Kuribayashi Camera Company of Tokyo, Japan, which produced many popular fixed lens rangefinders that sold well in the early 1960s.

The Petri RFs at Central Camera Co. were in a box of broken cameras that had been gathering dust in the repair department for years. Charles Ezaki, my coworker at Central who’s been working there since the 1990s, found them during a big clean-up at the start of the year, and sent them out to a specialist for repair. Thank you, Charles!

Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III on shelf
Petri and Canon rangefinders at Central Camera Co. in Chicago

Of the two Petri cameras, I chose the one with the most ‘character’, in the form of rust, corrosion, and some brassing on the camera body. However, the lens was crystal clear, accurate shutter, with bright rangefinder and well aligned focusing patch. Despite what it says in McKeown’s (which does not include all variants of the 1.9 CCS model) other sources suggest my Petri 1.9 CCS Type III is a less common version to encounter these days. It was made for about a year, after which the Petri 7 series of fixed-lens rangefinders were introduced. These were made in large numbers and are much more common today. They have a completely different design than the 1.9 CCS models: the Petri 7 line is a boxier (some might say sleek-looking) camera, very similar to Canon’s Canonet line in terms of looks and specification.

Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super green-o-matic camera
The Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III,  featuring the ‘Green-O-Matic’ viewfinder system

Few things bring such swift ridicule as buying a Petri camera when you work at a camera shop. Petri, Miranda, and Topcon cameras in particular are held in contempt by old school camera guys who’ve been working in the business since the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Struggling to survive in a competitive SLR market with the likes of Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Minolta, etc., these companies released a series of unreliable SLRs in the 1970s that ruined their reputation, despite the quality of their earlier camera products. Petri went bankrupt in 1977.

So, when I made it known I was buying one of the newly-repaired Petri cameras — rather than the Canonet QL-19 G III that was on the shelf next to it — the conversation went like this:

Johnny: I’m getting that Petri, it looks great!
Coworker: Why? The QL-19 is a better camera for the same price…
Johnny: I like the Petri: Copal shutter, 45mm f1.9 lens, bright parallax corrected viewfinder, and that green window
Coworker: Same specs on the Canonet, plus the quick load system and metered auto exposure!
Johnny: But the Petri has a green window!
Coworker: I’ll get you a highlighter, you can color the Canonet’s viewfinder window green…
Johnny: Yeah, but feel how this camera handles — it’s as heavy as a M2!
Coworker: (eyeroll & facepalm)
Johnny: Did I mention it has a green window?
Coworker: Ok, Perti-Boy…

…aaaand that’s been my nickname ever since.

user manual Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super
All hail the Green-O-Matic System! Petri 1.9 CCS III instruction book

Thing is, my coworker had a point: the look and feel of the Petri is what appealed to me more than the camera’s specs. Canonets are deservedly popular, but they’ve never felt quite right to me. I don’t particularly like the placement of the shutter release on the film advance lever, the boxy design, and the overall ‘thin’ feel of the construction.

By contrast, the Petri is friggin’ solid. It has the heft missing from the Canonets. The dimensions and shape of the Petri feel perfect in my hands. The fact is, I fell for the Petri as soon as I held it, and I had to have it. Only 1 other camera has every had that effect on me: the Olympus Pen FT. My relationship with that camera has been great, so I trusted my instincts and got the Petri. I’m very glad I did!

Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III Specs:
Lens: Orikkor f1.9 45mm (Planar, six elements in four groups)
Focus Range: Infinity-2.75 feet
Aperture Settings: f1.9-f16
Filter Thread: 43mm
Shutter: COPAL-SV M/X leaf shutter
Shutter Speeds: Bulb, 1-1/500 second
Aperture Blades: 5 curved blades
Dimensions: 134x84x70mm
Weight: 720g
Selling Price (1960): ¥16,800
Rangefinder: Coupled
Viewfinder: Parallax Correcting bright line
Light Meter: None!

This is a great looking camera. The chrome finish is dull and doesn’t have the luster of higher-end cameras, but the lines and design elements are very appealing; decorative, but not to the point of being gaudy. The black-on-chrome accents are attractive, and the Green-O-Matic frame line and rangefinder patch windows give the camera a truly unique look. The angled side edges of the camera are remarkably similar to Canon LTM rangefinders, however, Petri takes it a step further and subtly curves these angles. There’s a thoughtfulness to the shape and design that makes the camera feel great in the hand.

design details of the Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III
Design details of the Petri CCS Rangefinders

The Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super’s Planar-formula lens absolutely delivers image quality. It has great character, and I particularly like the way it renders on color film, which is mostly what I shoot with it. I use a shallow 43mm hood to control flare, along with a vintage 81b filter to accentuate the unique 1960’s color rendering of the lens. Image quality is classic Planar: pleasingly messy and a bit nervous wide open with moderate fall-off in the corners, nice 3d separation and subject isolation at f4-5.6, very sharp stopped down as expected. The lens has a short focus throw, and the preternatural placement of the focus tab sits perfectly under the left thumb.

Addison Station CTA station photographed with Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super
Addison Station, CTA Blue Line. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
CNA Building photographed with Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super
Loading docks, CNA Building. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
motorbikes photographed with Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super
Wabash Avenue. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Bergger Pancro 400 / Rodinal 1+25
Wabash Avenue. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
Adams Street. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit

Most of my photography is pedestrian: I shoot everyday while walking to and from work and on my lunch breaks in downtown Chicago. Lots of candid shots and quick street grabs. This is where the Petri’s Green-O-Matic RF/VF system proves it’s more than just a marketing gimmick. This camera is perfect for street shooting due to the high contrast frame lines. It also has a ’snapshot mode’ indicated by red markings on the shutter ring at f11 and 12 feet on the focus scale, which essentially makes the Petri a zone focus point & shoot.

Adams Street CTA Station. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
Lunchtime. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
Under the Irving Park CTA Blue Line Station. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Bergger Pancro 400 / Rodinal 1+25

Petri RF cameras are often found non-functional, with shutter problems, frozen focus helicoids, rangefinder misalignment, and oily apertures. There’s many examples online that produce soft images due to lubricants disintegrating and fouling lens elements, leading to the mistaken assumption the lens is a poor performer. My recommendation is to buy with caution, buy cheap, and plan to have your Petri serviced by someone who knows what they’re doing.

Hangers on the back porch. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
Abandoned Hi-fi. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 1600 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
Winter windows. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit

As for my Petri, I’ve put 15+ rolls through it so far this year, and it’s been mostly reliable. I lose a frame or two per roll when the shutter hangs up, but that’s mostly operator error: it’s easy to accidentally nudge the self timer lever (aka: vintage camera auto-destruct mechanism) and foul the shutter for the next exposure.

Irises poking through the snow. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
Magnolia in bloom. Petri 1.9 CCS III + Fuji Superia Xtra 400 / Unicolor C-41 Kit
Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III
Johnny’s Petri 1.9 CCS Rangefinder family

I like my Petri 1.9 CCS so much that I’ve bought 3 more of them on the cheap to be repaired. This is a camera I always want in my lineup of daily film shooters, and I’m glad to invest in having them serviced. Furthermore, I started a cult on Facebook for fellow Petri Green-O-Matic rangefinders users. Get yerself a Petri RF and join us!


Classic Lenses Podcast
Photography With Classic Lenses Facebook Group

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Subscribe here.

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.

About The Author

20 thoughts on “Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super Type III – Review by Johnny Sisson”

  1. Great read and lovely set of images to back up your point about the quality of the lens.
    By 1969, the current Petri equivalent camera in the UK was the Petri Color (yes, US spelling) 35 and with an f2.8 lens was a couple of £’s more expensive than the highly regarded Olympus 35SP and which sported an f1.7. The Canon QL19 was still around, priced within £1 of the Petri. So by 1969, you can see that the Petri could be seen to be quite pricey for an f2.8 equipped camera, and
    for what many would see as a second tier manufacturer, this was a problem.
    But, as you’ve shown, if you can pick up a working Petri today, and cheaply enough, it should be a rewarding camera for the lucky owner.

    1. Thank you, and great market perspective, Terry. I haven’t found contemporary sales figures to back this up, but I suspect the UK was a much more competitive market for fixed lens RF cameras in the late 60s/early 70s than the US, where Kodak 126 point and shoots ruled the day. The UK still seems to be awash in cameras like the Olympus Trip, which are not as common to find here in the US. I think most Petri cameras made their way to the US via military servicemen in Japan and elsewhere in Asia who had money to burn at the PX. Petri clearly had their back against the wall by the mid-60s, and I think your analysis is right about them being viewed as a lesser and pricier option.

      1. Johnny, re your observation about fixed lens r/f’s and point and shoot style cameras is probably to the point. 35mm had more or less eased out roll film for family cameras and we saw lots of simple and basic 35mm cameras with just a simple leaf shutter with three or four speeds, and an adequate 3-element fixed lens of f3.5 or even f2.8. Prices were coming down too, both for film and b/w processing. Colour was still somewhat expensive and I think it wasn’t until the 1970’s that High Street competition for d&p saw costs really plummet. It reached a point where b/w was actually more expensive!
        Clearly the market had to cater for hobbyist photographers, too, so this is where the advanced rangefinders, with fixed or interchangeable lenses, took hold. My reference for what was generally available is a series of annual catalogues published by a well-known UK photographic retailer, Wallace-Heaton, and which were called The Blue Book. They don’t cover everything available, only what the company sold, but they do give quite an extensive overview of mainly UK and German made (to include Kodak) cameras with prices.

  2. Cheyenne Morrison

    This is great, after hearing so much about them on the photography with classic lenses podcast. I always liked the Petri Racer, really unusual style and shutter button placed on the front. I listened to an industrial designer on a podcast who used the Racer as a great example of good industrial design. Shame they went out of business, there was some really original design going on with the Petri cameras

    1. Hey, Cheyenne! Thanks for the comments, and I’d love to hear that podcast if you happen to recall where you heard the discussion about the Racer. Mike Eckman has also spoken very highly of the Racer ( I’m extremely impressed with the Petri RF cameras that I’ve handled, and they seem to have an almost Maitani-level of thoughtfulness in terms of design and user experience.

  3. Oh, I love this. I’ve been a Petri CCS fan since I traded a Crown Graphic for one back in the early 90s. The dealer I traded with called it a Pyrrhic victory.
    I now have several CCS models, including the DeJur version of what you have. Lovely, underrated cameras.

    1. Gotta love a camera that invites comparisons to classical tragedy! Petri were definitely on to something in the design department, and they put out an amazing number of diverse models is a short period of time. No kidding: I just found a DeJur today stashed away in a box at the camera shop! I’ll be checking it out in more detail tomorrow…

  4. Pingback: Three 50mm lenses that fit my needs (video) - 35mmc

  5. Okay stop, just STOP! I have about 30 cameras too many already and trying to whittle them down. Reading this kind of thing makes me want to go out and buy one to try out; and that is not going to happen… no it is not! Quite happy with my Miranda and my clutch of Voigtländers thank you very much, I don’t need any more distractions.
    Hmm Ptri 7S for under $20?… No no no! Don’t make me do it!
    I’m going to stop reading Hamish’s website now.

  6. Great write up Johnny,
    My collection of film cameras started a few months ago when adding a new dimension to my better halfs photography business. I am a lover of vintage everything and all things gadgets – This is a dangerous mix when finding things to collect (or hoard if you ask my better half)
    I’ve picked up some bulk lots on eBay and sold what I didnt like, starting to put together a nice little collection.
    The pride of the collection was a Petri 7 that came in the original box and was in very good working condition. The second I picked this camera up there no no way it was getting sold, I just loved it!
    Last week I found a Petri 7S also in great condition on Ebay and my bidding fingers went into over drive!
    These are amazing cameras to hold and visually an incredible design! Cant wait for the 7S to arrive – I haven’t put film in the 7 yet so now I have to decide which one to take on an adventure first!

  7. I have this camera (maybe the iteration previous?). I bought it in a junk box for $25 in it’s leather case but with no cap. It worked well from the start but my local camera shop gave it some TLC.

    I think it takes great pictures but I usually use it with expired film or Lomo Redscale. When I look at the lens it looks a bit dusty but you can’t tell on the photos. It works great except in cold weather. Anything below 10 Celsius and it stops working so I nicknamed the camera Granpa Petri.

  8. Pingback: The Thirty Six: Film #11 with Petri 2.8 – View from the Carrot Room

  9. Hi there,

    I’m new to the cult but have just bought a Petri RF that I want t o explore but I can’t find any info at all – let alone a manual on Mike Butkas’s site.

    It’s a Petri Hi-lite which I assume is a fully auto exposure RF?

    I know this is a dead thread and the chances of a reply are slim, but any info would be greatly appreciated.
    (I’ve also applied to join the Facebook Cult of Petri too)

    1. Hi Andrew, I don’t know of anyone who specializes in Petri rangefinders, but a good camera repair shop should be able to handle the job.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top