FED Zarya (ФЭД Заря)

This is a Soviet camera that was made in Ukraine by FED. It is a FED 2 without the rangefinder and (as far as I can tell) only made for the home (Soviet) market. As the camera was made for the home market, all the writing on the camera is in Cyrillic, not that there is much writing. There is the maker’s name – ФЭД – the model name – Заря – the advance or rewind options – п and с – and the lens name – ИНДУСТАР-26м (Industar-26M) together with П which indicates that the lens is coated. The Zarya was made between 1958 and 1959 or between 1959 and 1961 – it depends on which bit of the Interweb you read! It would seem that 141,228 Zarya cameras were made and mine is #47,339 so about 1/3 of the way through the production run.

  • lens: Industar-26M
  • focal length: 5 cm
  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 1 m to infinity
  • lens fitting: M39
  • shutter: cloth focal plane
  • speeds: 1/30 s to 1/500 s
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

This camera measures 140 by 80 by 32 mm. It weighs xg. The top plate is lower than on the parent FED 2 as it does not need to accommodate the rangefinder mechanism. Height apart, the controls are identical to the FED 2. This is because the internal mechanism is identical. On the far right is the film advance knob. This has a different machining to the FED 2 version (or, at least, than my FED 2 but not necessarily than all FED 2s). It turns clockwise.

On the top is a memo for the type of film in use. There are three options for film – B&W, Daylight and Artificial light. These can each be set to one of four film speeds – 22, 45, 90, and 180. These are in GOST, the Soviet standard for film speeds. The engraving on the memo is in Cyrillic and looks to say roct – it is actually гост or GOST. GOST film speeds are much the same as ASA and ISO but slightly lower. 22 GOST is 25 ASA/ISO, 45 GOST is 50 ASA/ISO, 90 GOST is 100 ASA/ISO and 180 GOST is 200 ASA/ISO. At some point in the late 20th century (well after the date of this camera) GOST film speeds were aligned with ISO. Also incorporated into the film advance knob is the frame counter. This counts up from zero and needs to be set to zero by hand when loading a new film.

Next to the film advance knob, and almost touching it, is the shutter release button. This positioning of the button is a relic of the Leica II camera that the FED 2 (and this Zarya) are copies of. It is an awkward position – while useable, it means the photographer’s index finger must curl over the top of the film advance knob. This shutter release button is threaded for a standard cable release. Around the button is a collar with a milled top. This collar is used to disengage the film advance mechanism to allow the film to be rewound. This is supposed to work by pressing the collar down and turning it clockwise in the direction of the Cyrillic п (or ‘p’ in the Latin alphabet). This locks into place and allows the sprocket shaft to turn in both directions. With my camera, the collar will press down but will not lock into place meaning that the collar must be manually held down while rewinding.

The third control on the right of the viewfinder is the shutter speed selector. This works by lifting and turning. Available speeds are spares but useable: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500 seconds plus B. It is well known that with early Leicas and their derivatives you must advance the film (and hence return the shutter blinds) before you change shutter speeds or risk damaging the mechanism. With the introduction of the FED 2, the film speeds selector was modified so this restriction no longer applies. As this Zarya is a modified FED 2, it does not apply with this camera either and it is safe to change shutter speeds either before or after advancing the film.

If you compare the shutter speed selector with other FED models or Zorki models you can see the difference. On my FED 4 and Zorki 4, the set shutter speed appears to alter after the shutter is fired. if I set my FED 4 shutter to 1/125 and fire the shutter, the shutter speed index will point to 1/15 and returns to 1/125 as I advance the film. With this Zarya (and my FED 2), if I set the shutter to 1/125 and fire the shutter, the speed index remains on 1/125.

Just left of centre is the viewfinder. This rises up above the top plate by 10 mm. the front viewfinder window is 15 by 11 mm which tells me it is an early Zarya – the later models had viewfinder windows measuring 15 by 9 mm. The viewfinder eyepiece is circular and measures 15 mm diameter. It is surrounded by a circular milled ring which is harsh on modern plastic spectacles. it is a reverse Galilean finder – what you see is slightly smaller than life size. There are no framing lines of any sort and as this is can entirely manual camera there is no exposure information in the viewfinder. On top of the viewfinder is a Barnack type accessory shoe – no electrical contacts. In front of the accessory shoe is the model name in Cyrillic script – Заря. It only has four letters but this transliterates to Zarya (or Zaria) in the Latin script.

Left of the viewfinder is the rewind knob. This is large – 22 mm in diameter – and has an arrow engraved on top to indicate the direction of turn.

The front of the top plate has a PC socket for connecting a flash gun. On the FED 2, this PC socket is on the front face of the body but on the Zarya it has been moved onto the top plate, presumably for ease of manufacture. The other thing on the front of the camera is the lens mount. This is the M39 thread mount – also known as LTM or Leica Thread Mount. This is the mount used by FED, Zorki, Canon and Cosina and other rangefinder cameras from the 1930s to the 21st century. There are a vast range of lenses that a will fit this Zarya camera. The M39 lenses have a focus cam connected to the focus ring to actuate the rangefinder in the camera. This Zarya has no rangefinder so it has no cam follower to read the focus position of the lens.

The base and back of the camera come away in one piece. I have never understood this as changing the film in the field is rendered awkward by needing to put the base/back down somewhere while fiddling with the film. To release the base/back, you need to first turn the keys at either end of the base. These turn through 180º.

The base has a tripod socket in line with the lens. This is the 3/8 inch Whitworth thread standard – the modern 1/4 inch UNC thread was still a long way in the future. Before 1945, this 3/8 Whitworth thread was almost ubiquitous and after 1945 became increasingly rare. FED were copying a 1930s German camera and had clearly not taken much notice of the then current international trends. This camera can still be used on a modern tripod by inserting a 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch conversion slug into the tripod socket. The inside of the back has a rather small sprung pressure plate.

The inside of the two catches in the base have lugs which locate over lugs on the camera body which firmly holds the base/back in place. Above the lugs on the base/back there is a cut-away portion facing the back. If you are using Kodak style cassettes (the common, commercial ones) and the removable take-up spool, this cut-away does nothing. However, FED produced their own reusable film cassettes modelled on the Leica film cassettes. If you use a FED cassette (filled with film from a bulk loader), this cut-away portion locates a pin on then FED cassette. As you lock the base/back, the light tight FED cassette opens to allow the film to move without scratching and when you unlock the base/back at the end of the film, the FED cassette closes again to be light tight.

The take-up spool is brass and is removable – this is so you can replace it with a second FED cassette which removes the need to rewind the film. Several camera marques offered this – the Exacta Varex IIb even has an inbuilt knife to cut the film – but I have never seen the advantage.

The film gate is, as always, in the middle between the film cassette and take-up spool. The shutter curtains move horizontally and are made from light-proof fabric. On my camera, the opaque rubbery coating of the fabric has degraded and I can actually see through the first shutter curtain. This camera does not warrant the cost of having new curtains fitted so I am going to try painting the fabric with black acrylic artist’s paint (courtesy of Bestbeloved) in the hope that it is both opaque enough and flexible enough. We shall see!

The supplied lens is an Industar-26M which is a clone of the Carl Zeiss Tessar lens (as this camera is ultimately a copy of a Leica, it is probably a copy of the Leica Elmar lens, but that was a rework of the Tessar). This Industar seems to have been the go-to lens for Soviet camera makers. The lens has four glass elements in three groups and has a focal length of 5 cm. The focal length stated on the lens is in cm which was a bit old-fashioned by the late 1950s. Generally, pre-1945 lenses are in cm and post-1945 lenses are in mm.

The maximum aperture is ƒ/2.8 and the minimum aperture is ƒ/22 – this is a good range of apertures. Tessar type lenses are never very fast and ƒ/2.8 is plenty wide enough for most situations. The lens is coated, as we would expect by the late 1950s and this fact is denoted by a red П on the lens bezel.The focus range is from one metre to infinity. The focus ring is right by the mounting thread – this is necessary as turning the focus ring moves the rangefinder cam in and out (even though this camera has no rangefinder, the lens was designed for cameras that did). The aperture ring is at the front of the lens. This has a smooth motion with no click-stops. So, intermediate apertures can be easily set but with the downside that the ring is easy to move accidentally.

The housing for the lens is made from an aluminium alloy which is left bright. The markings for the aperture, depth of field scale and focus distance are engraved (later versions had the marking screen printed and were prone to wear off). The focus ring has heavy knurling making it easy to find by touch. The aperture ring has finer milling.

Test Film

I have run a test film – Agfa Vista – through this camera and I am delighted with the results. As I mentioned above, the first shutter curtain was nearly transparent and I have given it a good coat of black acrylic artist’s paint on either surface. This has worked very well – surprisingly well. There are indications of light leaks on a couple of frames, but most frames were fine. Exposure of each frame is even indicating that the shutter curtains are moving smoothly, which is not a given seeing as I have both thickened and stiffened one of the curtains. Exposure times are close to the designed times as each frame on the negatives have the level of image density I would want and expect. The lens is fine, the aperture setting being about right and focus is good. The camera back is not leaking light – as a copy of a German camera, there are no foam light seals, light tightness being achieved with flanges.

Sowing some light leak
Another light leak


  1. Try using black t shirt paint on the shutter curtains, which is very flexible and sticks well.
    I’ve successfully used this both for shutter curtains and spotting onto small light leaks in camera bellows.


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