Fujica AX-3, 35mm Film SLR

This beautiful Fujica AX-3 with X-Fujinon FM 50mm F1.9 lens showed up at one of my local Goodwill stores in quite nice condition (although it badly needed new light seals). It took me about 30 seconds of handling it to know this was designed for the true photographer. There are just several features which any camera nut looks for in an older manual SLR - features that you expect to find on the higher end SLR bodies, but which you've also come to accept that one or more of them are usually missing on the lower end cameras. Read on below...

Fujica AX-3 with X-Fujinon FM 50mm F1.9 lens

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I'm not sure where this AX-3 body sat in the marketplace in terms of entry level versus higher end, but I quickly saw that this body had hit all those features without missing a single beat! I'm talking about depth of field preview, F-stop visible in the viewfinder, exposure compensation dial (smartly combined with the ASA setting dial - why more camera companies didn't figure that one out I'll never know), and even a viewfinder curtain that blocks out the viewfinder for when you're shooting on a tripod. The only high-end feature missing would be mirror lock-up.

LIKES: relatively lightweight camera, yet feels solid and well-made; nice "AE-1 style" battery compartment on the front of the camera with easy to open cover; takes commonly available battery; exposure compensation feature smartly incorporated into film speed dial; f-stop setting visible in viewfinder; depth-of-field preview button (although poorly placed at least for me); built-in eyepiece shutter curtain (wicked nice, only really high end cameras typically give you one of these).

DISLIKES: placement of depth-of-field preview button is uncomfortable for my large hands (although this is a really common place for it, and I suppose it works fine for most people); shutter release has a bit of a "ding" sound to it - something I've noticed in two other Fujica SLRs I've encountered - so I guess that's typical of Fujica bodies - not terribly loud, so just takes one off guard at first (but not great for stealth photogs); no mirror lock-up (not sure why they left this important feature off when they provided all other features you expect in a high-end body).

Gallery of sample photos from a Fujica AX-3, click to view images...

Above: Forest Paper Company remains on Factory Island in Yarmouth, Maine. Photo taken with a Fujica AX-3 and X-Fujinon FM 50mm F1.9 lens using Fujicolor 200 color print film.

View gallery of Fujica AX-3 sample photos

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~ SPECS (w/Commentary) ~
Camera type: Auto exposure 35mm Single Lens Reflex with focal plane shutter
Exposure Modes: Aperture priority and full metered manual
Picture Size: 24 x 36mm (standard 35mm size)
Interchangeable Lenses: X-Fujinon DM lenses; X-Fujinon lenses; Fujinon lenses (capable of auto exposure when used with Fujica Mount Adapter X-S)
Standard Lenses: X-Fujinon 50mm F1.6 DM (6 elements in 6 groups)
EBC X-Fujinon 50mm F1.6 DM (6 elements in 6 groups)
EBC X-Fujinon 50mm F1.2 DM (7 elements in 7 groups)
X-Fujinon Z 43-75mm F3.5-4.5 DM (7 elements in 7 groups)
(mine came to me with an X-Fujinon 50mm F1.9 FM lens, not listed in the manual specs - perhaps released later?)
Lens Mount: Fujica X Mount (bayonet); 43.5mm flange back
Viewfinder: Silvered pentaprism eye-level type; 92% coverage, 0.86X magnification with 50mm lens set to infinity (this viewfinder is fantastic - appears to my eye to be a smidge larger and brighter than the viewfinder on my F3, and I had a slightly faster 50/1.8 lens on the F3 when I compared them).
Focusing: Ground glass screen with split-image and microprism collar
Viewfinder: Info includes LED shutter speed indication, aperture number (projected optically from aperture ring on lens), over and underexposure warning, battery check signal; info display activated when camera is turned on and shutter release is pressed half way down; built-in eyepiece shutter to prevent extranious light from entering through viewfinder
Light Metering: Silicon photocells, center-weighted averaging system; Range: ISO/ASA 100: EV 0 - 19 (F1.4 2 sec. - F22 1/1000 sec.); ISO/ASA 12-3200, 1/3 step, provision for locking
Exposure Compensation: +/- 1 full stop in 1/3 stop increments (incorporated into ASA dial surrounding film rewind knob on top of camera - works great)
AE Lock: Exposure setting is locked by setting shutter speed selector dial to AEL and pressing the shutter release button half way down and holding.
Depth of Field Preview: Yes, via pushbutton (alongside lens mount, in same position as Minolta SRT series)
Manual Exposure Setting: Achieved by checking the manually set shutter speed against the meter-set shutter speed (both indicated by LEDs) and making proper adjustments (manually set shutter speed is shown with solid red LED, meter suggested shutter speed shown with rapid blinking red LED, match them up for proper exposure according to the meter).
Shutter: Cloth focal plane, electronically controlled from 2 seconds to 1/1000 second in 1/4 steps (digital control); oilless metal.
Shutter Speed Selector Settings: B, AEL, AE, 2S, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000.
Power Source: 6V silver-oxide battery (4SR44), alkaline-manganese battery (4LR44) or lithium battery.
Battery Check Signal Blinking red LED in viewfinder opposite "B" on shutter speed scale.
Main Switch: On/Off lever on top of camera, also serves as self timer switch.
Shutter Release: Two-step electromagnetic release; first step activates light meter and viewfinder info; second step completes exposure; provided with cable release socket (in English, press half way to meter scene, press all the way down to take photo; cable release socket takes the standard mechanical release - good stuf - I hate it when you have to buy a proprietary release).
Multiple Exposure: Achieved by winding the film while pressing and holding in the film rewind button (this is the way you can do it with most manual wind film cameras, but at least the AX-3 has the rewind button on the top of the camera right next to the wind lever - makes it a bit easier).
Self-timer: Electronically controlled; trips shutter in 12 seconds; audible signal (beeping) keeps you alert until shutter trips (unfortunately the beeping can't be silenced and there's no blinking indication anyway - I prefer the blinking rather than beeping approach to this; also, it would have been great if they incorporated mirror lock-up with self timer at least as there's no dedicated mirror lock-up feature on this otherwise rather advanced camera - but I'm not sure any camera maker had yet come up with the idea of mirror lock-up and 2 second timer).
Sync Contact: X-contact, 1/60-sec. hotshoe; special contacts for exclusive flashes; provided with sync terminal (blah, blah, yada, yada, I hate flash, but respect those who are into it, so there you have it :)
Auto Flash System: Automatic shutter speed setting with exclusive flashes; automatic flash exposure (more blah blah, see above snide remark :)
Camera Back: Opened by pulling up on the film rewind crank; can be removed and replaced with a data back (Fujica Photo Recorser, optional) for printing data on film.
Film Loading: Manual film loading, multiple-slit take-up spool for easy loading.
Film Advance: Single-stroke lever on camera top; provision for advancing film in small increments; 144 degree winding angle, 25 degree stand off.
Exposure Counter: Automatic reset (when film back opened); additive; counts backward during film rewind, remains still during multiple exposure.
Film Rewind: Rewind button and crank; button automatically returns to normal position when crank is wound.
Dimensions: Body: 135 x 86 x 54 mm (5.3 x 3.4 x 2.1 in.)
With 50/1.6 lens: 135 x 86 x 87 mm (5.3 x 3.4 x 3.4 in.)
Weight: Body: 520 g (18.3 oz.)
With 50/1.6 lens: 690 g (24.3 oz.)
Included Accessories: Hard case, carrying strap, front lens cap; rubber lens hood (dang, my nice old used one didn't come with any of that stuff! :)