Camera Crazy? Fujica DL-100

It follows the pattern: When I get into something, I get into something. I don’t get one of something, I’ll get two. This has happened before. In November of 2010 I bought a Worksman Low-Gravity Bike, then a month later obtained my Raleigh Wayfarer three-speed. (And this was when I was getting the idea of the cross-country trip, yeesh. You’d think the last thing I should do is buy a bike, let alone two.)

I got the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s in my hands on January 9th. It is a beautiful machine, a quality range finder with manual control, the camera that’d hopefully help me on my journey into rediscovering film and to becoming a better photographer. And the photos I got back were good, too.

So why get another camera so soon?

Well, there’s no real logical reason, as one “real” camera plus iPhone should suffice. But I started to think of scenarios where another film camera would be a good idea. The big scenario would be going on a bike tour or backpacking trip.

Despite having another camera, I’ve done pretty much all my tour photography with my smartphone over the past couple years. The big issue with using the phone is battery life. There’ll be times on a tour where I might not have a chance to recharge for a day or two. Battery packs go so far, and while I can charge from the dynohub on the Bantam, it’s better at keeping what power I have already on the phone topped off, vs. fully charging. The best way to save battery life is to not use the phone as much. Having a dedicated camera would take some of the burden off.

Now you may be asking: why didn’t I just keep my digital compact camera for that? There are two reasons: Spiritually, it wasn’t causing me any joy. Logistically, it was the battery, as most digital cameras use a special proprietary rechargeable battery. It’s easy to forget that charger (I’ve done it on more than one occasion.) That’s not so bad if you have a second battery as back-up. But since I hardly used my old Lumix camera, I could never justify the high price for buying another one.

And yes, I can bring the Hi-Matic with me on a tour, but it’s a bit bulky. If I’m concerned about space, I’d want something smaller. Something I’d feel less worried about tossing in a bag.

Self-Portrait, 3 Feb 2020

It seemed like the logical thing would be to look for a compact auto-focus point and shoot from the 1980’s to early 2000’s. There were a lot of them made, some can be gotten for cheap. After reading a bunch of stuff on the internet, I steered myself towards a fixed, prime lens, one without a zoom. These ones were mostly from the 80’s, around the time auto-focus became a thing. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of these ones have become more desirable over the past few years. All the likely subjects, the ones mentioned most often, again commanded prices higher than $50 for tested models. I didn’t want to take a chance on the “parts only” cameras, so again I looked for a sleeper, and one that was in working condition.

Eventually I found one: A Fujica DL-100. Fuji is best known for its film, but they did make cameras, too. They just weren’t as well-known in the Western World. The DL-100 is an autofocus camera with auto-loading and rewinding, debuting in 1983. Interestingly, the camera was designed by Italian architect/designer Mario Bellini.

Not much is written about it on the internets (at least in English). But I did find a few good things said. Most importantly, the seller said the camera worked, and had some photos he took with it in the listing. That’s always a good sign. So I put in an offer of $10 (plus shipping), and got it in my hands on it on Monday February 3rd.

Of course, I got all neurotic about it when it arrived. I had taken four rolls with the Hi-Matic 7s (one I botched in the rewinding). It took good pictures, and I was finally getting the hang of exposure values, settings, framing. It felt good to be in full control of the result, even if I wasn’t doing it right all the time. And now I got an auto-focus camera, albeit a film one? It almost felt like I was cheating on a lover.*

I felt a bit embarrassed and ashamed. I just bought my first film camera in forever, now I bought another so soon? Am I really going to be one of those compulsive film nerds, buying every camera possible? I calmed down after I remembered how inexpensive this camera was, and how much money I’ve spent on bike stuff. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that bad.

The Fujica DL-100 was definitely bulkier than I thought it was. It weighed in at a pound. It was smaller than the Hi-Matic, for sure, but not by much. And while the Hi-Matic had that classic mid-century camera design, the DL-100 definitely looked “eighties”, Italian designer or not. What was I getting myself into?

I plopped in the batteries (two AAs, thankfully very common), loaded a roll of film** (very easy since it’s automatic), and took some test shots. And after a few shots, I was charmed by this bulky beast from the ’80’s. Yes, the motor winding the film is noticeable, (most reviews mention this). But it sounds like all of the auto-wind cameras of this era has this same issue. I found it cute.

The flash is a pop-up and only comes up if you want it (there’s a low-light warning in the viewfinder to tell you to do so.) Nice, as many of these 80’s point-and-shoots either had flash-all-the-time or the flash was harder to disable. I don’t intend to use the flash that much, but it’s nice to have.

I spent a few days and shot a test roll. The camera was dead easy to use, but that was to be expected. Point, compose, shoot. The film advances automatically. No big decisions to make other than “flash or no?” I did my 24 shots and sent it off for developing.

I got them back on February 14th, and was pretty underwhelmed. The pictures were OK for the most part, but didn’t seem to have that “magic” I felt with the Hi-Matic shots. And most disappointing: There’s a light leak on the left side of many of the photos. Not on all of them, however. And it varies in intensity.

So now I don’t know what to do. Light leaks are not the end of the world, they can be repaired (theoretically), But I don’t know if I want to go through the trouble. I can just leave the leaks to give off a “Lomo” vibe, but that’s not what I was looking for with this camera. I was hoping for a camera that would be the “throw in the bag and go on tour” machine. Even without the light leaks, this camera is a bit too bulky, too cumbersome for that to be the case.

So I’ll think about it. And if you are interested in this camera, I’d be willing to sell it for just the shipping price (which would be $8-16, depending on where you live.) Update: This camera is long gone.

Here are some of the best shots from the camera. Most of them were cropped to remove the light leaks.

*At least, that’s what I think cheating would feel like, since I have never cheated on a lover, nor don’t intend to.

**Fuji Superia Xtra 400, because it felt wrong using Kodak!

9 thoughts on “Camera Crazy? Fujica DL-100

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  1. What is it that makes so many people who love old bikes love old cameras? Even I had to get a Holga. Might be worthy of a philosophical post… glad you are enjoying your new treasures, mate. Cheers!

  2. Do you use Blue Moon Camera in St. Johns? It’s my favorite lap and camera store (no digital cameras!) … although it’s unfortunate Patty’s Home Plate is no longer a block away.

    Unsurprisingly Portland is a good place for film photography, records and used books, in addition to bikes.

    I had a Leica M4 with me on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route* this summer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way (well, maybe my fancy Lomo LC-A+?). I used my favorite cheap print film: Fuji Xtra Superia 400 (3 pack of 36-exposure rolls for like $11). While not a pocket-sized camera, it is fairly compact and durable.

    The Olympus XA you had yesterday is possibly the most bestest adventure camera, mostly. I had one for a while recently until I sold it. (Maybe I should have kept it? Maybe I was smart in selling it?) The metering is oddly right on with the aperture priority AE being especially good. That tiny rangefinder was accurate, if not difficult to use. The diminutive size and pocket-friendly shape are perfect — what I would design myself. I did have an issue with the overly sensitive shutter button, which was balanced with the instantaneous and silent shutter.

    Here are some pictures from it (some shot on Fuji Velvia 50, some on the Fuji Xtra, some on Fuji Provia 100f … probably some other film also: https://www.flickr.com/photos/brianmcgloin/albums/72157699669114565

    *I’m still finishing my blog post about the ride and I somehow haven’t gotten to loading pictures on Flickr and my website

    1. Hey Brian-
      I use Citizens Photo on NE Sandy. I heard that Blue Moon is cool, but St. Johns is so far away, whereas Citizens is two miles.

      Some good thoughts and perspectives you got there. I like the Slow Food analogy.

      Oh—I have an Olympus XA2, the little brother to the XA. No rangefinder or aperture control, instead just zone focusing. Yesterday was the test roll, so let’s see how they turn out!

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