Petri 1.9 Super Color Corrected Rangefinder

Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super 35 mm rangefinder

Purchase Price: 3000 yen
Mechanisms still operating, lens a bit dusty with maybe some small mold dots. Leather case with Petri logo embossed on it. NO lens cap.
Lens: fixed Petri orikkor 1: 1.9 f=4.5cm Shutter Type: Copal-SV
Shutter Speeds: B, 1s-1/500
Aperture Settings: F1.9-F16 in whole stop increments All the F-stops are in green numbering except F-11 (Why?)(I notice that the camera doesn’t always click into a stop so it seems I can get half stops?)
Flash: mount and flash outlet on the lens, M and X settings (not sure what they are)
Timer lever (I haven’t tried it because why tempt fate?)

The Story
In 2010 I bought a vintage rangefinder camera on a whim at an antique market at Aka Renga Soko in Yokohama, Japan. A table selling watches and parts caught my eye. I noticed a cardboard box on the floor full of old junk cameras.

I’d been looking for a cheap camera to do Lomography-style photos. I wanted some old thing to modify without feeling guilty. I wanted something authentically retro rather than plastic made to look retro. The Diana or Holga are pricey in Japan. A Holga usually costs about ¥8000.

The box contained a bunch of Canon A-F and Contax SLR bodies without lenses or covers. The innards open to the ravages of dust and time. One camera still had a leather case. It was a Petri 1.9 Color Corrected Super, 35mm rangefinder. Petri? Never heard of it. After playing around, it seemed like the shutter still worked.

I asked the dealer about the camera. He opened it up and found a roll of film inside. We closed it up, clicked a few frames and advanced the film.  He wanted 5000 yen. The lens had a lot of dust and looked a bit moldy. Velvet lining the case was dusty and smelly. We negotiated for ¥3000. If worse came to worse, I had a neat-looking retro decoration.

Anxious to try it, I ran to next door to World Porters which, at that time, had a branch of Popeye Camera. Popeye Camera does a great job of promoting analog photography and joshi-photo (women’s photography). The staff are familiar with old cameras. A friendly employee taught me how to open the camera, and how to load and remove film. This old camera was getting a new life!

I purchased a roll of Solaris 800 because it was almost sunset. The camera has no automatic settings and the light-meter didn’t work because it required an out-of-production battery. I made wild guesses for exposure settings on that first roll.

I find all rangefinders hard to focus. Compared to a Mamiya 6 the prism in the Petri was more difficult to use. This might be a dirt issue but since I was going Lomo-style I didn’t worry too much about it.

The first test roll didn’t go so well. I forgot the clerk’s instructions on how to use the camera. I almost broke it trying to rewind it and opened the back before completely rewinding the film. In my defence, it’s a bit tricky. You have to press a tiny button at the bottom of the camera while rewinding. It took some getting used to.

On the way home, I stopped at Bic Camera for 1-hour film development. Despite the exposure issues and untimely opening of the camera, I ended up with 32 prints. The print machine compensated for poor exposures so some frames were pure grain. Most of the photos were surprisingly sharp and without observable effect from dust or mold on the lens. I couldn’t believe my luck!

The only thing marring my joy with this camera is the smell. It smells kinda funky. The inside of the camera looked dusty and a bit moldy maybe. The kind folks at National Photo cleaned the camera. I Fabreezed the case within an inch of it’s life, but it still smells a bit. Maybe it will smell less after I clean it and let it sit in open air.

If you have a Petri 1.9 and are looking for a manual, try this site:
If you are interested in the camera maker Petri/Kuribayashi, this book (which I bought) is very thorough:
This website has (as of Nov. 1, 2012) a listing of Petri Cameras for sale:

REVIEW 2 (a few years later)

I still enjoy using this camera. The case still smells and has been relegatedto a place it can do no harm. The pictures still come out sharp.

I’ve christened the camera Grampa Petri after a November trip to Seoul. In cold weather, not freezing or below zero, but in cold and windy weather the camera stops working. I almost tossed the camera figuring that I’d been lucky to get any rolls of film at all. I decided to keepit because it would make a cute shelf decoration.

During a break at a teahouse, I fiddled around with the camera. Once it warmed upI heard the sweet sound of the shutter click. Because it doesn’t work in cold weather, like an old man, I named it Grampa Petri.

It’s a heavy camera but I like it. The photos seem to have a richer color than expected. The fast lens is great for shooting at night.


4 thoughts on “Petri 1.9 Super Color Corrected Rangefinder”

  1. I’m glad you found the information useful. Tag me when you take some photos. I’d love to see them.

    As I wrote, this camera is not happy in the cold. I almost chucked it when it stopped working but decided to keep it for decoration. Then I toyed with taking it apart while sitting at a cafe. The camera had warmed up and it started working!

    I love this camera for night photography and high speed film.

    Good luck and I look forward to see your Petri 1.9 adventures!


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