History of Fujifilm: mastering the entire photo industry
Fujifilm is one of the few companies that has managed to master almost all areas of the photo industry: from the production of film, paper and mini-laboratories to the production of cameras and professional optics. And susceptibility to new technologies allowed Fujifilm not only to fit into the digital age, but to become one of the world leaders in the development of photosensitive matrices.
Fuji or Fuji – the famous volcano on the Japanese island of Honshu, a sacred mountain to which the Japanese relate with no less reverence than the rising sun or flowering sakura. It is not surprising that during the industrial boom of the 1900s, many Japanese entrepreneurs wanted to perpetuate the national symbol in the name of their plants or the products they produce. Among these traditionalist industrialists was Mokichi Morita, president of Dainippon Celluloid, a celluloid company.
Cinema became more and more popular in the Japanese islands, and the government, which decided to take up the production of propaganda films, to its shame, discovered that the country still has not set up production of not only complex movie cameras, but even films. It was decided to urgently correct the situation, a competition was announced, the winner of which was Morita. His new venture, which began work in the town of Ashigara near Fuji, was called Fuji PhotoFilm Co.
Not only film
Despite the big name, the company’s products were not of high quality – the film was extremely fragile, and the emulsion behaved completely unpredictably, causing a lot of problems for cameramen. To rectify the situation, Morita did not spare money and wrote out from Germany one of the best specialists in emulsion at that time – Dr. Emil Maierhoff. As a result, already in 1936, the company released a high-quality black-and-white film, by the beginning of the 1940s it launched mass production of 35 mm film, 16 mm film, X-ray film, dry offset plates and photo paper, and in 1944 acquired a factory for the production of Optics Enomoto Kogaku Seiki Manufacturing Co., Ltd, intending to start production of photo and film lenses. True, the Second World War made some adjustments, and until the autumn of 1945, optics of far from peaceful purposes were produced at the factory.
After the war, taking advantage of the fact that almost all German industry stopped, Fuji PhotoFilm launched the release of Fujinon lenses for format cameras. Japanese engineers took only eminent German models as samples, making improvements where possible, thanks to which new lenses quickly gained recognition from professional photographers.
In 1948, the company released its first camera – a medium-sized “clamshell” with retractable fur and a 6 x 6 aspect ratio. The device was called Fujica Six IA. The name was formed from the abbreviated phrase Fuji Camera – according to the same principle, the names for Leica and Yashica cameras were chosen at one time.
In 1950, an improved Super Fujica Six model appeared, equipped with a Fujinar 75 mm f / 3.5 lens and a very convenient viewfinder. And in 1957, the company released an unusual rangefinder medium format Fujipet camera with a built-in exposure meter. As soon as the photographer chose the right exposure pair, a special light came on in the viewfinder of the camera. Due to the ease of operation, the relatively compact size and excellent quality of prints that could be obtained from medium format frames, these devices were extremely popular with Japanese amateur photographers. In the future, the company continued to develop a unique genre of medium-format “soap dishes”, equipping its cameras with more modern light meters, film rewinding motors, built-in flashes, autofocus systems and, finally, electronically controlled zoom lenses.
But the company’s most famous medium-format devices were the G-series rangefinder with a 6 x 9 cm frame format, the first of which, Fujica G690, was introduced in 1969. The cameras worked with interchangeable Fujinon optics and were extremely compact and “inconspicuous” laconic design, for which travel photographers fell in love.
The Fujica Z5-mm DSLRs are not widely used. Beginning in 1971, their production was curtailed in 1980.
Developing new medium-format cameras, Fuji PhotoFilm specialists could not ignore the growing popularity of 35-mm format cameras. By the end of the 1950s, the company released several 35-mm rangefinders, and in 1971 the Fujica ST701, the first 35-mm SLR of the company, was released. It was a simple, unremarkable camera with a fully mechanical shutter and TTL exposure meter, designed for optics with M42 thread. It came with Fujinon 50 mm f / 1.4 or 55 mm f / 1.8 lenses, which supported shooting in aperture priority mode. In total, the company managed to present a dozen mirror models and several lenses with fixed and variable focal lengths before turning this direction by 1980.