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Fujifilm's history: mastering the entire photography industry

Fujifilm is one of the few companies that has managed to master almost all areas of the photographic industry: from the production of photographic films, paper and mini-laboratories to the production of cameras and professional optics. And its sensitivity 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 sensors.

Fuji is a famous volcano on the Japanese island of Honshu, a sacred mountain that the Japanese treat with no less reverence than the rising sun or cherry blossoms. In 1934, a film production facility began operations in Ashigara, near Fuji. The company was named Fuji PhotoFilm Co.

The company's products were not of high quality - the film was extremely fragile, and the emulsion behaved completely unpredictably, causing many problems for cameramen. To remedy the situation, one of the best specialists in photographic emulsion of that time, Dr. Emil Mayerhoff, was discharged from Germany to the company. As a result, already in 1936 the company released high-quality black-and-white film, by the beginning of the 1940s it had established the mass production of 35-mm photographic film, 16-mm film, X-ray film, dry offset plates and photographic paper, and in 1944 acquired a plant for the production of Optics Enomoto Kogaku Seiki Manufacturing Co., Ltd, intending to launch photography and cine lenses. True, the Second World War made some adjustments, and until the fall of 1945, optics were produced at the plant for not at all peaceful purposes.

After the war, taking advantage of the fact that almost all German industry had come to a standstill, Fuji PhotoFilm launched Fujinon lenses for format cameras. Japanese engineers took only famous German models as samples, making improvements where possible, thanks to which the new lenses quickly gained recognition from professional photographers.

In 1948, the company released its first camera - a medium format "clamshell" with retractable mech and 6 x 6 aspect ratio. The device was named Fujica Six IA. The name was formed from the abbreviated phrase Fuji Camera - the names for Leica and Yashica cameras were chosen according to the same principle.

In 1957, the company released the unusual Fujipet rangefinder medium format camera with a built-in exposure meter. As soon as the photographer chose the correct exposure pair, a special light came on in the camera's viewfinder. Their ease of operation, their relatively compact size and the excellent quality of prints that could be obtained from medium format shots made these machines extremely popular with Japanese amateur photographers. In the future, the company continued to develop a unique genre of medium format "soap dish".

But the most famous medium format devices of the company were the rangefinder models of the G series with a frame format of 6 x 9 cm, the first of which, the Fujica G690, was introduced in 1969. The cameras worked with interchangeable Fujinon optics and were distinguished by their extreme compactness and "inconspicuous" laconic design, for which they fell in love with travel-photographers.

While developing new medium format cameras, Fuji PhotoFilm specialists could not ignore the increasing popularity of 35mm format cameras. By the end of the 1950s, the company released several 35-mm rangefinders, and in 1971, the Fujica ST701, the company's first 35-mm SLR, was released. In the mid-1980s, the corporation, by then already renamed Fujifilm, was actively involved in the development of fully automatic compact 35 mm cameras for the mass consumer. Special among Fujifilm cameras are professional panoramic models: 35 mm Fujifilm TX-I and TX-II and medium format Fujifilm GX 617 Professional with interchangeable lenses. The latter, with an aspect ratio of 6 x 17 cm for 120 or 220 types of film, remains one of the most popular panoramic solutions today.

The first company logo, which appeared in 1934 on tin boxes with film, was, like the film itself, black and white and consisted of an image of a sacred volcano and an ornate Fuji inscription inscribed in a circle. In 1960, the logo lost its national symbols, except for the dominant color of the "rising sun", against which the Fuji Film inscription appeared - then still separately. Two decades later, the word Fuji was enclosed either in a film frame, or in a viewfinder frame, while the red font began to clearly resemble Arabic script. The full name of the Fujifilm company was later added to this version, which from 1992 began to be written together.

While actively developing photographic equipment, Fujifilm did not forget about its main "mission" - film production. In 1948, the company was the first in Japan to release color photographic film, and in 1951, the first Japanese color film, Carmen Returns Home, was shot on Fuji film.

In 1976, the firm introduced the world's first 400 ISO color negative film. Considering that the average sensitivity of color films was then equal to the value of 25-50 ISO, then overcoming the 400 ISO boundary seemed an incredible achievement. By the late 1970s, Fujifilm had a ton of negative films in all possible formats, including format camera sheets, and Fujichrome positive films (slides) became the standard in landscape and interior professional photography.

Back to cameras, in 1985 the Fuji ES-1 camera was introduced, equipped with a 2/3 ”CCD-matrix with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. Photos with such a low resolution could not be printed, but could be viewed on a TV screen, so such devices were called still video cameras.

Three years later, Fujifilm introduced the Fuji DS-1P digital camera, in which photographs were recorded not on a magnetic disk, but on a miniature memory card developed by Toshiba. In other words, it was the world's first fully digital camera, because it used an electronic device as a storage medium, and not a traditional magnetic tape. However, the solution turned out to be quite expensive, so in the same year the company released two more "floppy" 400-pixel digital cameras - Fuji ES-20 and Fuji ES-30TW. The latter cost about $ 720, thereby breaking the "moral line" of $ 1000, which means it had every chance of commercial success.

In the early 1990s, two giants of the photography industry - Fujifilm and Nikon - began joint development of digital SLR cameras. The first result of the collaboration was the Nikon E2 professional 1.3-megapixel DSLR camera equipped with a 2/3 ”CCD sensor and a Fujifilm processor, as indicated by the Fujix lettering on the body. It was the first professional DSLR under $ 20,000.

Two years later, an improved Nikon E3 model with a 1.4-megapixel high-sensitivity matrix appeared, and in 2000 Fujifilm presented its own development - the 6-megapixel Fujifilm S1 Pro camera. True, the body of a semi-professional Nikon film SLR with a native F mount was still used as a carrier of the electronic "filling". But the main part of this camera was an unusual proprietary Super CCD sensor, which significantly differed from matrices of other manufacturers.

The first cameras with Super CCD matrices were advertised as "a breakthrough in digital shooting technology", but as such they did not make a breakthrough - the pictures were good, but by no means revolutionary. Perhaps it was the software of the cameras, or the analog-to-digital converter of the matrix, it turned out to be to blame, but the color rendition and dynamic range remained almost at the usual level.

Super CCD technology took several "rebirths" before the fourth generation of matrices based on it could show truly unique results. So, professional SLR cameras Fujifilm S5 Pro with Super CCD SR II matrices can work in the extended dynamic range mode, that is, they cope better with high-contrast scenes in which both very light and dark, almost black areas are present. These cameras also feature excellent color reproduction, which, together with simulation modes for various types of Fujifilm film, such as the Fujichrome Velvia slide, opens up a lot of new possibilities for photographers. All Fujifilm Super CCDs of the latest fourth generation are divided into two types: HR and SR. The HR elements are focused on high resolution and are designed for Fujifilm compact and DSLR cameras. SR sensors, featuring a high dynamic range, are currently only installed on Fujifilm S-series professional SLR cameras.

Today, the scientific and industrial holding Fujifilm produces photosensitive matrices for many other manufacturers of photographic equipment, being one of the world's largest developers of these devices. At the same time, the company is in no hurry to part with analog technologies: it still produces negative and positive film of all imaginable formats, as well as a dozen varieties of negative and positive film, among whose adherents, for example, director Steven Spielberg.

Continuing close cooperation with Xerox, the company develops printing devices and consumables for them, as well as printing and medical equipment. Fujifilm panoramic and medium format film cameras are still being produced, however, mainly for the Japanese market. In addition to a variety of lenses for medium and large format cameras, Fujifilm also produces about 50% of all lenses for professional TV cameras. That is, it is a rare example of a company whose authority is equally high in traditional film photography, and in the field of video and film technologies, and in the field of digital development.
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