An epic battle between two premium and compact all stars: the Fujifilm Klasse and the Fujifilm Klasse S! How much would you pay for a premium compact camera? $200? $500? $1000? Last year I bought not one, but two premium compact cameras, both made by the same manufacturer in the 21st century.

I am of course talking about the Fujifilm Klasse and the Fujifilm Klasse S. I shot two rolls of film side by side with these cameras to see if there was any difference in image quality. The biggest differences between the two cameras is actually the cost and the feature set. Which one is right for you?

Two premium point and shoot cameras made in the 21st century – the Fujifilm Klasse S and Fujifilm Klasse cameras. Note the dials beside the lenses perform different tasks – exposure compensation and manual focus distance respectively.

Fujifilm Klasse

The original Fujifilm Klasse was released in 2001 exclusively in Japan.

In Europe and the US, a virtually identical camera made by Fujifilm was sold under a different name and marketed under a different brand – it was called the Rollei AFM 35.

Essentially it was a white label version of the Fujifilm Klasse that was for sale under the Rollei name in those markets.

Fujifilm Klasse specifications

Now if you’re thinking that 2001 was a strange time for Fujifilm to bring out a new camera, just when digital cameras were becoming more and more affordable, just a reminder that 2001 was the peak of demand for colour film sales according to Fujifilm,

In 2001, film still offered much better quality than digital. For example, Nikon’s flagship camera released in 2001 was the Nikon D1X which featured a 5.4 megapixel sensor.

Film sales didn’t start falling significantly until 2004 and 2005, and then from 2006 to 2010 film sales were in free-fall.

Fujifilm Klasse: designed for slide film

What I find interesting in Fujifilm’s documentation is that there are two mentions of reversal film:

Fujifilm colour reversal films (slide films)

Fujifilm was the manufacturer of some classic reversal films including:

  • Sensia: general purpose consumer, daylight-type colour reversal film with faithful colour reproduction and fine grain.
  • Provia: professional-quality, medium-speed, daylight-type colour reversal film with ultrafine grain, designed to provide medium colour saturation and contrast.
  • Astia: provides softer, subdued colours for portraits and fashion.
  • Velvia: a quality, medium-speed, daylight-type colour reversal film with ultrafine grain, designed to produce high-contrast images with the highest colour saturation among 100F series films for landscape, nature, commercial, food, and interior applications.
  • Fortia: thought to be a variation of Velvia released for cherry blossom season in Japan.

By 2004 the original Klasse camera was discontinued and consumers were finding them hard to find second hand.

Klasse (original) photographed by the Klasse S / Kodak Gold 200

Second coming: the Fujifilm Klasse S and Fujifilm Klasse W

Premium compact camera fans didn’t have to wait long for the second coming of the Fujifilm Klasse. They were delighted with not one, but two new Klasse cameras featuring a range of improvements.

The first new model was called the Fujifilm Klasse S: S denoting the standard 38mm lens
The second new model was the Fujifilm Klasse W – w standing for wide with a 28mm lens
original cost of the camera was 89000 yen around 800 USD

In his video review of the Fujifilm Klasse S, photographer Kirk Mastin stated that only around 8000 were made.

Why buy a Fujifilm Klasse S or W?

Launched in 2007, the Fujifilm Klasse S and W are the newest premium compact point and shoot cameras you can buy.

In contrast, Kyocera ended production of the Contax T range in 2002 – five years before the Klasse S and W were released. The much sought after Contax T2 started production in 1990, meaning that if you pick one up today, it could be up to 30 years old.

Looking back at the Fujifilm colour film sales chart, by 2011 demand was less than 20% of what it was in 2001, and so the Klasse S and W were discontinued in 2012.

Klasse S photographed by the Klasse (original) / Kodak Gold 200

What are the similarities between the Fujifilm Klasse and the Fujifilm Klasse S?

  • Advanced 35mm compact cameras manufactured by Fujifilm.
  • Film format: 135 35mm
  • Autofocus: 0.4m to infinity
  • Manual focus: with both cameras you can set the focusing distance manually
    • original dial on the front
    • Klasse S, in the menu system
  • The Finder: field of view: 85%
  • Aperture: dial with Program, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16.
  • Power: 1x 3v lithium CR2
  • Almost identical in size and weight
  • Shooting modes: Program AE, AE Aperture Priority
  • Film speed: Auto DX, ISO25-3200
  • Metering for both is courtesy of a CdS element with a range of 4 to 16EV (ISO 100)

What are the differences between the Fujifilm Klasse and the Fujifilm Klasse S?

  • Lens: although they have the same lens, the original Klasse is a f2.6 lens, and the Klasse S is an f2.8 lens. The difference is due to the different aperture design in the S making it 2.8 rather than 2.6. I’m not sure you’d be able to tell the difference in photos
  • The Fujifilm Klasse is 15 grams (half an ounce) lighter than the Klasse S
  • The shutter speeds available are slightly different:
    • Fujifilm Klasse S: shutter speeds: Bulb, 1/2s to 1/500s at f2.8 and up to 1/1000s at f16.
    • Fujifilm Klasse: the top shutter speed at the widest aperture f2.6 is 1/290s.
  • The dial on the front of the camera to the left of the lens performs different tasks. On the Klasse, it sets the manual focus distance. On the Klasse S and W, it sets exposure compensation.
  • Fujifilm NP mode

Fujifilm’s Natural Photo mode

This can be activated in the menu with films from ISO  800 to ISO 3200. NP mode generates “natural” photos with non-flash shooting. The camera detects the brightness of the subject, and matches the aperture (from 0 to +2EV) according to the brightness.

Should I buy the Klasse or Klasse S / Klasse W?

All three cameras are fantastic, but which one should you buy?

Buy the Klasse if:

  • If you prefer to manually set your focus distance – this is easier with the original Klasse.
  • If you want to save some money – it’s more or less the same lens after all.

Buy the Klasse S if:

  • If you like to change exposure compensation often – this is easier with the Klasse S. In contrast, changing the focusing distance manually can only be achieved via the menu system.
  • You want a self timer – choose either 2 or 10 seconds with the Klasse S.
  • You need to use a cable release – there’s a socket on the side of the Klasse S.
  • You want to use Fujifilm’s natural photo (NP) mode.
  • You want to set the film ISO speed manually.
  • You like shooting in program mode – with the original Klasse, you have no idea which aperture was used in program mode. With the Klasse S/W, it will actually show you on the LED on top of the camera which aperture it used.
  • You want the film leader to be left out when the camera rewinds the film. Pretty cool huh? You can set this up from the menu.
  • You like to shoot without flash – the Klasse S remembers your flash settings when it turns off – the original does not.
  • In terms of looks and build quality, the Klasse S looks and feels more premium than the original, a bit more special.
  • The Klasse S also has a small petal lens hood available for it – these alone fetch around 100usd on eBay.

What’s are the Klasse cameras like to use?

I really enjoyed using both cameras. They are very compact and light in your pocket. My natural way of shooting is in aperture priority mode, so given my love of point and shoots, the Klasse cameras are perfect.

Set your aperture on the top dial, then shoot. The shutter speed tops out at 1/500 second which isn’t fast enough in some lighting conditions – if that’s the case the shutter speed will flash when you try to take a photo. It won’t prevent you from taking a shot, but bear in mind it might be overexposed.

The only small issue is that there feels like there is a slight shutter lag when you press the button, it doesn’t feel quite as responsive as other cameras I’ve used.

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