Got a 90's Foto Flame? They may be the brunt of jokes, but the bottom line is these MIJ's were assembled with some decent quality. I find myself gravitating back towards them. Whether it is a real flame top or a thin photographic film... when you find a guitar that feels like no other... that's all that matters.
One thing is for sure, their's nothing 'plain Jane' about these guitars. For those of you who don't know about "Foto-Flame" Fenders, they are unique. These Fenders are made of basswood and have a maple or alder cap. Whatever folks think, these Japanese Fenders were extremely well made at the Fuji-gen Plant. I traded emails with a few Foto-Flame owners, and they said they would never sell them. Made in Japan in 1994-95, the finish is a photographic film re-creation of wood flame (thus the name Foto) which is laminated on the body and neck. According to Jeff at xhefri's Guitars, Fender worked in connection with some photographic corporation. "I have heard both Polaroid and Kodak, but most likely Fuji"
Many people think the Foto finish is "cheap," but most guitar finishes are sprayed on, anyway. It makes the guitar appear as if it had high-end matchbook, figured Maple. The way they shrink wrapped this film around the guitar is amazing, and it is hard not to think it is real wood. In fact, it was Dan Smith, who said, when talking to Guitarist magazine about the Fender MIJ (Made in Japan) Photofinish Strat Reissue in 1994… “I’ve got three or four hanging in my office. When real guitar experts walk in they’ll say: ‘God, where did you get that beautiful piece of maple?’ They’ll pick it up and wax enthusiastically about it for 20 minutes before I have to break their bubble!”
Other than the fact that the Foto Flame ’57 and ’62 Stratocaster Reissues had maverick, custom finishes, they were just the same as the regular MIJ ’57 and ’62 Reissues. They were built the same, they felt the same, and they sounded the same.
According to Bob Leggit of Planet Botch, The PhotoFinish Reissues were announced as retailing at “no extra cost over a normal reissue” upon launch in 1993, but establishing what the list price actually was could prove difficult, as supposed RRPs cited in the literature of the period could vary by over £100. However, when reviewed by Guitarist magazine in ’94, the Flame '62 Strat Reissue was documented with a list price of £381. That seemed about right, given that the guitars were available in the shops for moderately less. But Fender’s UK list prices were pretty meaningless in the early to mid ‘90s anyway, as many bore no relation to dealer prices. It often seemed that what Fender thought the guitars were worth, and what customers thought they were worth, was an entirely different matter – and the customer was always right.
In the shops, some dealers had in the first instance added a premium to the price of the ‘Foto Flames’. If you see one of these knocking about on the secondhand market in good, original condition, there’s very little doubt that it’ll provide an extremely good, exciting playing experience, whilst looking like a very fetching investment. Okay, so it’s not going to fool anyone into thinking it’s a real ’57 or ’62 Strat, but in truth neither will the regular finish models. If, like me, if you’re a vintage guitar ‘trainspotter’, you probably will want one.