Shoot indoors, at night, with no flash! Nighttime photography with ambient light! Stealth photography—street scenes grabbed without flash! Really, it sounds too good to be true…and the write-up on the Fuji Natura Classica is a little duh!
I mean, read their copy: “Equipped with the NP (‘natural photo’) mode which calculates the subject’s brightness and adjusts the exposure according to the available light…” Um, am I stupid—but isn’t that exactly what happens every time I pull out my Gossen LunaPro or shoot with my Lomo LCA-A+? So what makes this camera different?
I belong to the San Francisco Toy Camera Meet-up Group and our next photowalk was to be at the new California Academy of Science. You know—low lighting, spotlit displays, restrictions on flash use, too congested for tripod use… The Fuji Natura had been tempting me for a while: I was curious about its low light capability, it seemed a very attractive and compact point and shoot camera, plus I’m a camera nut. I found one used at a good price and bought it.
The camera is very attractive: it has a very simple and almost retro shape, none of the curves and swoops and eye-catching graphics of modern cameras—it has a simple refined shape that would be comfortable in the presence of a classic German rangefinder. It has a nice easy-to-grip rubberized leatherette skin and an attractive charcoal metallic-looking plastic body. On looks alone, this camera is a winner! It is also very compact. It is only marginally larger than the Minox 35 series cameras; which are generally considered the smallest full-frame 35mm cameras ever made, and is slightly smaller than the Lomo LC-A+.
How does it work? This camera is an oddity in that it was never released outside of Japan, at least until Lomography started selling them, and there still isn’t an Operating Manual published in any language except Japanese. On most cameras the various buttons are labeled in Nihongo (Japanese script) but those from Lomography are in English. (Are there really only two languages in the world?) The Natura Classica has a small zoom lens from 28mm to 56mm which is slightly wider angle than most point and shoots with an aperture range of 2.8 to 5.6. Now I don’t know about you, but for me, f/2.8 is only marginally appropriate for low-light photography and f/5.6 isn’t even close. (There was an earlier version of the Natura called the Natura Black; which had a fixed 24mm f/1.9 lens. If you can find one—buy it. Better yet; send me the address so I can buy it.) What distinguishes this camera is that it was designed to use high speed films; from 800 ISO to 3200 ISO and, (I think) an extended EV range. The so-called “Natural Photo” mode is activated only with film with ISOs greater the 800ISO. It is auto focus, auto exposure, auto advance, and auto rewind .
On the top deck are the shutter release button with zoom lever, the data screen, and 4 function buttons. The red one, to the lower right is the on/off button, directly to its left is the menu button, above that is the arrow button and to its right is the enter button. If you are familiar with modern PAS film or digital cameras you should be able to figure this out pretty easily, if not, there’s on-line help (or get in touch with me).
These were the first shots I took using the camera. It was at a friends gallery opening for his lo-fi photography. It was a reasonably well lit gallery using Fuji Superia 1600 film. (Fuji Naturia 1600 film for which this camera was designed isn’t available outside of Japan. Fuji Superia is reported to be the same film.) I think they are well exposed, if somewhat grainy—but what you expect with 1600 ISO?
Conclusions: I love this camera: it is easy to hold, compact, and versatile. It has a crisp and contrasty lens producing super-saturated images like we’ve come to expect from the Lomo LC-A+ in a compact and auto-focusing package. It has become my carry camera of choice because of its size and versatility.
Do I recommend it? Yes, with conditions. For those of you who don’t have an LC-A+, get the LC-A+ first. Load it with 1600 ISO film and it will do anything the Fuji camera will.
written by kdstevens on 2011-03-28 #gear #review #available-light-photography-low-light-photography-high-iso-high-speed-film-point-and-shoot