Petri Racer 35mm rangefinder film camera (from 1966)

Petri Racer

I picked up this unusual Petri Racer at my favourite second-hand store in Nelson recently for a couple of dollars. In is unusual in two respects, firstly the shutter release button is on the front of the camera instead of on the top; and secondly, the camera body and lens barrel appear to use quite a bit of alloy resulting is a lighter camera than I expected at 530 gms. Having a slower f2.8 lens equals less glass than a faster lens; which also makes the camera lighter.

My first impression of the Petri Racer was that it was a cheaply made and inferior to the likes of Minolta, Canon, and Olympus of that era. However, I may have been too quick to pass judgement. After having a good play around with it I can see now that it is actually quite a good well-made camera. The lens is nice and tight on the body. The large front-mounted shutter release is light and smooth; the coupled CDS meter is accurate and easy to use, and the rangefinder spot bright and effortless to focus. This thing just seems to work well.

When taking photographs of subjects that are backlit set the meter needle to the notch near the top of the scale.

There is also a more sort after version of the Petri Racer with a faster 45mm f1.8 lens. You see the odd one with this faster f1.8 lens on Ebay, but the majority of Petri Racer cameras appear to have the slower f2.8. The f2.8 version sold in 1968 for $74 while the faster f1.8 lens version sold for $99.95.

Petri also made an auxiliary lens kit containing a short telephoto and a wide angle attachment that screwed on the front of the lens.  There was also a separate viewfinder that pushed onto the flash cold seat on top of the camera to provide the correct field of view with the lens attachments in place. Generally, they are not worth the trouble to use as they tend to degrade the image to some extent.

 

Type: 35mm fixed lens rangefinder film camera.

Lens: Petri 45mm f2.8. Takes 55mm screw-in filter. Nearest focus distance 2.75 feet (0.8 m)

Viewfinder: Green-O-Matic split-image rangefinder. Frame-lined viewfinder without parallax correction – parallax marks only.

Exposure Meter: coupled CdS match-needle metering. CdS exposure meter in the lens barrel. Expose correction mark in the viewfinder for shooting into strong back-light. Cocking the shutter switches on the meter. A red marker appears on the top plate when the shutter is cocked meaning the meter is switched on. Petri called the meter the “Diamatic-Eye.”

Film Speeds: ASA 25, 50, 100, 400, 800

Battery: The Petri Racer originally used a Mercury battery such as a Mallory Px13, RM625. A good replacement is the Varta V625PX. The voltage is slightly different with the original Mercury battery being 1.35 volts and the V625PX  is 1.5 volts. I have checked the Petri Racer meter against several other cameras and light meters, and it seems to be quite accurate.

Manual Control: This is a manual camera with a coupled CdS exposure meter. The camera operates at all speeds and aperture combinations with or without the light meter operating.

Shutter: Petri XV with a built-in self-timer. There are ten speeds running from 1 second to 1/500th plus B. Aperture adjustment ring is step-less from f/2.8 to f/16. Threaded hole for cable-release on the top plate.

Self Timer: Operates by way of a lever on the lens barrel giving a 10-second delay.

Flash Contact: There is a cold shoe on the top plate and an X and M synchronising socket on the lens barrel. For bulbs use M and 1/30th second shutter speed. Electronic flash syncs at all shutter speeds.

Film Advance: Rapid single stroke with a lever on the rear of the camera. Transports film and cocks the shutter with 120-degree rotation.

Film Counter: Automatically resets to zero by opening the camera back.

Size: 125 x 78 x 71.5 mm.

Weight: 530 gm.

Photographs in the gallery below taken with a Petri Racer. All on Fiji ASA 200 negative film. The photographs seem to lack sharpness and colour. I suspect it is the lens but could possibly be the scanning with my Epson 2480 flatbed scanner. Though all the photographs on this site have been scanned with this same scanner.

ProSeal Instructions for Petri Racer Rangefinder

Photographs were taken with the Petri Racer on Tumblr

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Allan Burgess
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