Driving the Petri Racer

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Feb 23, 2011.

  1. Sometimes I come across a camera with so much eye-appeal that I put it on my work desk where I can contemplate it. Just such a camera is the Petri Racer.
  2. Following Gabor Szabo's recent fine post on the Petri 7S, it occurred to me that I'd never put a film through this little Petri rangefinder, despite it having sat in front of me for a couple of months. I dusted it off, loaded it with Fuji Superia 200 and it became my companion camera for a week or so. And good company it was, too. The Petri Racer is a fixed-lens 35mm rangefinder camera manufactured in Japan by the Petri Camera Company Inc., (formerly the Kuribayashi Company), and introduced in 1966/67. It has coupled CdS match-needle metering, and a bright "Green-O-Matic" split-image rangefinder spot in the frame-lined viewfinder. Focusing is quick, with less than 90 degrees of travel in the focusing lever.
    On offer was a choice of two 45mm Petri lenses, either f/1.8 or f2.8. There's not much information available on these lenses, but the f/2.8 appears to be a 4-element design, nicely coated. In the style of the era, auxiliary tele and wide-angle lens attachments were available, along with a cute little viewfinder. From what I've gleaned from some Asian sources, the f/1.8 version has something of a cult following in Japan, by mine is the f/2.8 version. It's the only Racer I've seen down here, Petri cameras being a little few and far between in this part of the planet. It's one of those rare cameras with real "style", with sleek lines, nicely-detailed brushed metal and black finish, and a good big chunky lens barrel for that purposeful look.
  3. The shutter runs from 1 to 1/500th plus B, and apertures from f/2.8 to f/16. The aperture ring move smoothly in a cowl on the lens barrel, the selected aperture visible in a little cutout. The ring has no click stops so it's quite easy to change the aperture setting by accident; I initially considered this a little cheap and nasty but I soon realised that the match-needle exposure meter, visible in the viewfinder, is extremely sensitive, with less than a half-stop adjustment of the aperture taking the needle from top (or bottom) to centre of the scale. So, my guess is that, in the interests of accuracy, the designers decided on a stepless aperture ring. The meter is also visible on the top deck, with an exposure compensation marked for backlit situations, and it's very responsive and accurate. The shutter release, though situated on the front of the camera in a position I usually find awkward, is smooth and sensitive and sensibly large, with a "shutter cocked" indication visible on the top deck. This is a handy feature, since the meter switches on when the shutter is cocked and can be turned off only by firing the shutter. The original battery was a PX-25 mercury cell, but I fitted an alkaline cell and the meter seemed to function just fine.
  4. Overall, the Petri Racer handles very well and was a pleasure to use. The shutter was quiet, and the lens turned in a perfectly acceptable performance. Despite the light-weight alloy used in it's construction, the Racer feels much more durable than most Petri cameras I've handled, with everything still tight and smooth in operation, and an excellent standard of finish. And it's just so pretty....Scans from the Fuji Frontier.
  5. Rick, that's one smart-looking RF. I've been eyeing that model for a month, but the odd shutter release placement makes me hesitant. I'm not too keen on it it - reminds me of the weird ones on 60s Retinettes and Agfa rf's that seem to add to camera shake.
    It's a slick camera and a bit more Mod than the typical Canonet or Hi-Matic.
    Your sample pics are divine. I can just smell the fields in "Crop".
    What do you use, exactly, for monochrome conversion of your scans? A bit of a chocolatey mocha tinge to 'em ( unless my office monitor is screwy) ?
  6. Gabor, you're right about the placement of the shutter release; usually I'd avoid it like the plague but in this case it's actually quite successful, being very smooth and sensitive. The monochromes are converted in Photoshop using the channel mixer, (or a little plugin called Convert to BW Pro); the file remains RGB and can be toned with the addition of a little red and yellow. Please apolgise to your monitor...
  7. Absolutely gorgeous, as usual. If they made that camera, new today, I'd buy it. I wonder what they would charge today.
  8. As usual. A thoroughly enjoyable post. Well done.
  9. Interesting camera. I continue to be impressed with your product photography. I'm not quite sure what you did in the second one -- looks like the camera is resting on plate glass and you've got an upside-down gray-brown garden umbrella underneath, folded out? Or is it simply a composite?
  10. I am impressed with the "Wood pile"; it looks like a nature-made piece of sculputure! Very nice; thanks for sharing. sp.
  11. Now ain't that the cutest little thing! Can't say I've ever seen one before. And a nice series of pics to match! The Last Apple Tree is quite nice. The Woodpile showcases the lens very well. Another great post, Rick. You are tireless!
  12. Does the meter work in it?And if it does what battery does it take?
  13. Thanks, SP, Gene and Michael for your comments. Craig, that second pic was sort of "accidental", in that the camera was sitting on a glass table with four crossover chrome legs, commonly known as a "Chopsticks" construction. The "spoke" formation with the brown carpet beneath caught my eye and I just had to do it...Sometimes it's hell, being a photographer...
    , the original battery was a 1.35v. Mercury PX625 or equivalent, but I popped in an alkaline 1.5v. EPX625G, and the meter seemed to work with acceptable accuracy.Thanks, Louis, I promise to slow down a little after this...
  14. Awesome post Rick, indeed. I love the color on the brazier and the crops shot, such a late summer feel in these, making me wish I was there.
    Your images of the racer are impeccable, and your copy looks much cleaner than mine. Mine had taken some abuse over the years, but it is still in working condition with a few scrapes in the body. There was an unfinished roll on mine, which when processed proved too "x-rated" to post here. Judging from the looks and outfits, the roll had been sitting in camera since late 70s or early 80s at best, and that's my Racer story.
    Thank you for a fine post as always.
  15. My God that is one PRETTY camera! Its just so... pretty! Uhm... ok, I do actually know other words, some of them adjectives too... I just keep typing "pretty" :)
    As usual the presentation of the camera is second only to the shots attached - great work - "Brazier" and "Crop" are absolutely stunning, the composition of both makes the subject matter almost secondary - almost, but not quite - its so strong the images work on a very basic, graphic level and then let you dig in further to enjoy the beautiful execution. Great eye, great work, PRETTY freakin' camera!!!
  16. I promise to slow down a little after this..​
    Oh heavens, I hope not. Rick, I think I speak for many when I say your posts have added considerably to the information content and sheer enjoyment of this forum. The skill, enthusiasm and effort you apply to your posts make them not only fun and visually beautiful, but clearly show your joy of photography, your high standards of graphic excellence and your deep love of these fine vintage tools. Thank you for sharing that joy, love and inspiration with us all and setting a very high mark in not only content but also gentlemanly discourse. We are grateful as will be the untold numbers of readers who will discover your posts in the future.
    If my luck or design, Josh's eye should fall here... this man deserves HERO status as his efforts define the term.
  17. First, I agree with what Louis said. Please don't stop! Aside from being thoroughly enjoyable, Rick, your posts prompt me to get out there and shoot so I can contribute as well.
    Second, thanks for posting this. Lovely camera and lovelier pics. I'd love to visit NZ one of these days, though it might be a little while after this week's tragedy. "Woodpile" and "Crop" are superb. Maybe my monitor is screwy too, but Brazier made me think I was looking at a picture of...erm..."special" cigarettes.
  18. We've got "Art Deco" for 30s industrial/commercial design, but what is the name for this sort of thing? "Moderne"? "Contemporary"?
    Anyhow, interesting work with an interesting camera. You obviously put a lot of effort into shooting these old gems, and it shows in your results. Well done.
  19. Rick,
    I don't know where you find the time. This is another interesting camera. I really like the looks of this camera and the results you have gotten from it.
    I wasn't able to find much information on it. It wasn't until 1968 when Petri got more involved with promoting their cameras in the states.
    Here is a listing from the 1968 Popular Photography Directory.
  20. Here is an over sized ad from August 1968. In some browsers you have to click on the image to enlarge it.
  21. Wow! Many thanks to you all for your kind words; I feel a little humbled. I've had a sort of six-month sabbatical while I wound down some business interests, and put in train a few changes for the near future, such as designing a new home, purpose-built for a contributor to Photo.net, so in the interim time and facilities may become a little rationed.
    I'm pleased you enjoyed the post, Ralf, and thanks for your Racer tale, much "racier" than mine...Peter, I had trouble getting past "pretty", so let's just agree that it is, and thanks for your perceptive comments. Louis, what can I say? Praise from a fellow practioner is always deeply felt, and your words both touched me and affirmed the value of these posts. Thank you..
    Kayam, even in the good ol' days, that would have been quite a pile of you-know-what...Thanks, and keep those posts of yours coming. Good point, JDM; I think there should be a term for this style and era of design, something a little more specific that "Retro". "Moderne", I like....Marc, you've done it again; this post was sort of assembled before I thought of advising you, but you came up with the goods, anyway. Fascinating...
  22. I always love reading your post and seeing your pictures.
    It inspires me to make more photos.
    Please keep doing this.
  23. Nice looking camera and top notch results. I don't think I've ever handled a Petri, but I remember seeing ads for various
    models in some old photo mags. I've always wanted a Petri Color 35, but good ones are pricey. Great post.
  24. My God that is one PRETTY camera! Its just so... pretty!
    I totally agree; that Petri is quite a dish! And a great performer along with its operator.
  25. Camera meter may have a bridge circuit which allows it to function correctly with non mercury batteries. Or it may just read "close enough" for wide latitude modern films. The real test would be with Kodachrome--but of course that's no longer possible.
    Fantastic images!!
  26. Thanks, Marcel and James, I'm pleased you liked the post. Mike, I've been looking around for a Petri Color 35 for ages but they get snapped up at high prices. I don't know if their cult following is quite justified...Thanks, Wayne; the meter read about a half-stop different from my benchmark meters, quite adequate for color neg, as you say.
  27. Well Rick I love your work and have often commented on the hight quality content of both the content and the great product shots! I couldn't agree more with what Louis and Kayam said. I am inspired to go out and try to do my best and your appreciation and enthusiasm for classics is comparable to my own fire. I love your photo aesthetic. Here Crop and Apple tree are outstanding!! My hat is off to you Rick ..I too have noted the Petri Color and wish I had nabbed one when they were around five bucks!!
  28. Thanks, Chuck. As you're a stalwart of the Forum, I always appreciate your comments.
  29. I just saw a Petri repair manual on ebay, #220572796933. It is offered for about 15 USD plus shipping, just in case
    somebody needs it. No, I am not affiliated to the seller.
  30. Rick,
    I collect old film cameras and shoot them. I've been doing it for about a year now. I've learned enough to check out old cameras, load them with film, and test them. So my enjoyment with cameras comes in the areas of both the machinery, the user "interface", and taking decent photos.
    Just wanted you to know that I'm looking at a Petri Racer for sale and that your photos were dazzling. So dazzling in fact that I want to learn how to make my photos as gorgeous. It's just amazing how some people like yourself can take old cameras and take wonderful photos with them.
    Thanks for the inspiration. Keep up the great work.
  31. Thanks, Richard, it's always nice when someone discovers an old thread and expresses their appreciation! I'm pleased you approve of the images; to me these cameras are not really "old" since I've been using them most of my life, but it's great to keep the film aspects of photography alive. Good to hear you're into the old cameras; how about posting some of your work on the Forum? They're such a nice group of people...
  32. Thanks for the wonderful review Richard. I saw one of these cameras advertised at my local photo store, and read your review which convinced me that I wanted on of these cameras. When I went in to enquire (I'm on a first name basis with the manager, much to my wife's annoyance), he looked at me sideways and told me that I was mad to buy one! Unreliable, and poor build quality was his main concerns. After negotiating on a very nice medium format camera, he threw the little Racer in the bag at no cost. I immediately put a roll of Tri-X through it, not expecting much after the bad feedback, and was simply amazed at the results. Such a contrasty lens, and whilst it may not be the sharpest lens, it has such a smooth out of focus rendering. I'm hooked, and have hardly picked up any of my other cameras since.
  33. .......
  34. .........
  35. and...........
  36. Nice images, Ty; it's great to see that these historic threads live on! It's true that Petri cameras don't have a great reputation for reliability and durability, but the Racer is just such a pretty camera that just having it on a shelf gives me pleasure. And, as you say, it's actually a competent little image-maker. I really like that last photograph...Why don't you post a few more on CMC in a fresh thread?
  37. Rick, I think I will do that.

Share This Page