Fujifilm produced a series of “Clear Shot” cameras during the mid-90’s. Many of them are entry-level 35mm point-ans-shoot cameras priced low enough to be sold on shelves of supermarkets. While these cameras do not provide any advance feature, they are super easy to use and are well suited for people with “techno-gadget-phobia”.
Most of the Clear Shot models, including the Clear Shot Super above, are equipped with Fujifilm patented “Drop-in Loading”. Drop-in Loading is one-step ahead of any 35mm easy-load or quick-load mechanism and is almost fool-proof. In the past, another film giant, Kodak, had tried to overcome the troubles in loading 35mm cartridges by introducing the 126 and 110 format films in 1963 and 1972 respectively. Both formats have feeding reel, taking reel and the film itself totally enclosed in plastic cartridges. While this ease the process of film loading, both formats requie adaptations of new film processing procedures for photofhinishers and cameras need to be extensively redesigned. Moreover, the 13x17mm image area of 110 film is much smaller than the 24x36mm of 35mm film and thus 110 films are mostly associated with poor quality enlargements. The 126 format has an image area of 28x28mm which is about 4/5 of 35mm film but its square format is often less preferred than the retangular format of 35mm, especially for average holiday snap-shooters.
Fujifilm, on the other hand, kept the 35mm format and thus all the advantages of it and invented a new loading mechanism which they called Drop-in Loading. The first two cameras with Drop-in Loading, DL-100 and DL-20, were introduced in 1982. All Fujifilm cameras using this film loading method have a partially openable back like the one of the Clear Shot Super in the photo above. All the user need to do is partially insert the film cartridge into the slot and extend the film tip toward the indicator. The positioning of the cartridge and the film tip is governed by the shape of the back openning as shown above. The user then push in the cartridge and close the back. The film will then advanced either manually (on a few of the very low-end models) or automatically to the first frame. Some models will even pre-wind the whole roll to the taking reel and start shooting from the last frame. By doing this, exposed frames will have been winded back into the cartridge and protected from accidental openning of the camera back.
While the Drop-in Loading of the Fujifilm Clear Shot Super is a neat and uesful feature, its panorama mode is more like a gimmick than a practical function. The panorama mode of Clear Shot Super is nothing more than cropping a central horizontal strip from a regular 24x36mm frame. While the resulting photo gives a “feel” of panorama, in fact it covers exactly the same horizontal field of view of the original “full regular frame”. A typical “true” panoramic fixed-lens medium format camera would have a frame size of 6×17 or even 6×24 with regular medium format frame sizes being 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7, 6×9.
Besides Drop-in Loading and panorama mode, the Clear Shot Super is almost as automatic as you can get. The flash fires automatically in dark situations but there is no forced flash mode and thus there is no way you can do a fill-flash in backlit situations which is a big disadvatage of this little “fool-proof” camera. There is no auto-focus on this camera but there is also no need to focus. Why? The Clear Shot Super uses a fixed-focus lens with a focal length of approximately 30-32mm. The lens is preset at hyper-focal distance and combined with the large depth of field of its wide angle lens, most objects within a photo should be with reasonable sharpness for small prints like a 4×6.
The Story behind my Fujifilm Clear Shot Super…
The camera was bought at only $2CAD and it is in great working condition except for some minor scratches on its body and some dirts in its view-finder. I bought it not just because it is really cheap but also because like the Konica Minolta Zoom 80C, I can share some bits and pieces of the photographic history through it.