FED Zarya (ФЭД Заря)

Soviet Zarya camera based on the FED 2,

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

Fed 4 (ФЭД 4)

This Soviet Feed 4 is a camera with an impressive pedigree. The original design was by Oskar Barnack and the Leica 1 introduced in 1926 by E.Leitz (Leica =  LEItz CAmera). An orphanage in Karkiv, Ukraine set up a workshop to produce copies of the Leica II as a training exercise for teenage boys. This copy was sold as the Fed (named after the head of the NKVD). In time, this changed from a training exercise to full-bloodied commercial production.

During WWII, the factory was destroyed and after the war ended, production was temporarily moved to the Krasnogorskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod factory outside Moscow. When the Fed factory was rebuilt, production was moved back but the Krasnogorskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod factory also continued production with cameras now called Zorki.

I already have in my collection, Fed 2, Fed 5 and Zorki 4. The Fed 2 and Zorki 4 only differ in details, the main one being the extended rangefinder base of the Fed 2.
Fed 2, Fed 4 and Zorki 4
The Fed 4 is a further refinement which embodies an uncoupled light meter.
So, a description:

The overall shape of the camera is a rectangular ‘brick’ with rounded ends. The ‘brickiness’ is broken up by the film advance being in a lowered section of the top plate.

The film advance is a lever. This is slightly curved and is quite comfortable to use. The travel of the lever is just over 180 degrees and easy to do in one motion. The lever is on a ratchet and it is possible to advance the film with several shorter motions.
ab9e3-fed2b4_0603_edited-1
rear and top plate
The central boss of the film advance has the frame counter. This needs to be set to zero manually and counts up. If you are lazy like me, you can ignore this completely and continue to use the camera until you cannot advance the film anymore. The counter counts up to 39. Right in the centre of the frame counter is a reminder for film type. There are three settings: sun, light bulb and circle. With colour film, each brand would come in two versions, one colour balanced for sunlight and one colour balanced for artificial light. The circle position is intended to represent black and white film. This is merely a reminder has has no effect on the operation of the camera.
Nestling in the corner of the film advance is the shutter release. This is chrome plated steel and is threaded for a standard cable release. Around the shutter release button is a milled collar. This has two positions marked B and C (in Cyrillic – V and S in the Latin alphabet). This is depressed and turned to allow rewinding of the film. This is very fiddly to get at and turn.
Next to the shutter release, on the raised portion of the top plate, is the shutter speed selector. This is used by lifting and turning to the required speed – indicated by a red arrow. In common with the other Leica derived cameras (Zorki, Zenith and other Fed models) it is important to do this only after advancing the film. Speeds available are the standard range from 1 second to 1/500 seconds.
Next along is the accessory shoe. No electrical contacts here so a cold shoe.
On the left hand end of the top plate are the light meter controls. This is a selenium meter and so does no require a battery. Looking at Interweb articles, you could gain the impression that selenium meters eventually deteriorate and lose their sensitivity and so should be avoided. I have selenium meters that are over 55 years years old and still agree with my modern digital camera.
This is a match-needle type meter – you turn the outer ring on the controls until the red needle is over the white needle. At this point, you can read the correct exposure from the black scales. Before this, of course, you need to tell the meter the speed of your film. This is in ASA but the range offered is rather strange: 20, 40, 80, 160, 320. The reason for this (my guess here!) is that it is translated from the German DIN scale, being centred on DIN 20 (=ASA 80). Assuming this makes setting the camera easier: ASA 100 = DIN 21 = one division past ASA 80. ASA 200 = DIN 24 = four divisions past ASA 80 or ASA 160 plus one division.
Front of camera with no lens
The front of the camera is in two parts. At the top is a deep, chrome top plate. This contains a square viewfinder window, a small, round rangefinder window hiding by the ФЭД-4 logo and a square light meter window. By the corner of the light meter window is a PC (Prontor Compur – named after the two German shutter makers, both owned by the Carl Zeiss Foundation) connector for flash. This will be X synch for electronic flash at this date.
At the left hand end of the top plate is a milled wheel protruding from the side of the top plate. This is for rewinding the film. It also acts as a visual check that the film is advancing correctly.
On the back of the top plate is a small round viewfinder eyepiece which has a milled surround – guaranteed to scratch modern plastic spectacle lenses. This milled surround can be rotated to adjust the eyepiece for spectacle wearers so there is no need to wear glasses when using this camera which obviates scratching the lenses. There is also an embossed ФЭД logo and the legend “MADE IN USSR” indicating that this camera was made for export.
Beneath the deep top plate, the camera is covered with a black plastic ‘leatherette’.
On the front, below the ФЭД-4 logo, is the lens mount. As this camera derives from the Leica II, the lens mount is LTM or M39 (Leica Thread Mount which is 39 mm diameter and 1 mm pitch). Just inside the lens mount, at the top, can be seen the focusing cam. As the lens is focused towards infinity, the lens pushes this cam inwards which in turn moves the rangefinder image. Around the lens mount are four chrome screws which I assume hold the internal shutter crate in place. To the right of the lens mount (left, when looking at the camera rather than using it) is the self delay lever. This rotates through 180 degrees to wind up the mechanism – it is activated by pressing a small chrome button just below the top plate.
Lens mount with focus cam at top.
The base of the camera has a tripod boss just below the lens (1/4 inch UNC), next to which is the serial number. On many Soviet cameras, the first two digits of the serial number are the production year but not here. The number is 097010 – I do not yet know which year this is.

 

On either end of the base plate are a folding cam. These are lifted and turned half a turn to release the base and back in one piece to allow access to the inside of the camera. Inside the camera, the film cassette fits on the left. On the right is a removable take-up spool. These frequently get lost, unfortunately, and when buying a Soviet camera it is worth confirming that the take-up spool is included. The idea behind the removable spool is that it can be replaced with an empty Leica cassette (not the modern Kodak cassette) removing the need to rewind the film. The take-up spool rotates ‘backwards’ and winds the film emulsion side outwards.
Loose spool having been removed

 

The lens supplied with the my camera is the Industar-61 which is a Carl Zeiss Tessar design.  The lens has a focal length of 53 mm and an aperture range from f/2.8 to f/16 with click stops (it would seem that many Industar-61 lenses go to f/22 but not this one). There were a number of optical factories making lenses in the Soviet Union with differing reputations. This lens was made in the Fed factory in 1989 – whether that is a good thing or not, I don’t know but the lens certainly performs well enough.
Industar-61 lens

Industar-61 lens facia

My test film.

The negatives are exposed well showing the light meter is OK. There are no light leaks and the shutter curtains are moving smoothly enough to give an even exposure.  The only camera fault is the level of flare in one (just one) frame – see below. I had a fault in that the viewfinder is always in focus and a couple of times I forgot to focus the camera. If I was using this camera all the time, that would become second nature. I am pleased to report that I did not fire off half a dozen shots with the lens cap on – which I did with my Fed-2. I did a rangefinder test by focusing on a steel fence. I focused on the first ‘silver’ finial which should have been in sharp focus but it is barely in focus at all.  See below.

The pictures:

The frame with lens flare
One I forgot to focus
Rangefinder test – the first finial should be in focus.
Steep Hill, Lincoln

 

Remains of a public tap, Lincoln

 

Steep Hill, Lincoln

 

The Strait, Lincoln
Broadgate, Lincoln and the cathedral.
My usual photo of the abandoned bicycle.

 

Fed 2 (B4) (ФЭД)

I wanted a Fed camera since I first saw one many years ago. The external design is very much "form follows function" (and I suspect the internals is as well). When I finally bought a Fed, it was a Model 5B which was box-like and anodyne - it also leaked light and I got rid of it after my test film.  This Fed 2 is much better.
Fed-2 (C) John Margetts

A brief history: the Fed was originally conceived as a training project for boys in a Ukrainian children's home. The idea was to teach the boys basic engineering by making quality cameras - the model selected being the German Leica II. They are often decried as being poor copies of the Leica but I don't think they are either poor or copies. The Fed 1 was essentially a copy of the Leica II redesigned to allow it to be made on less sophisticated machine tools by trainee engineers. The Fed 2 (the camera this blog article is about) is a complete redesign so it is more accurate and meaningful to say that it is inspired by the Leica II rather than a copy of it.

After the Germans destroyed the Fed factory in Kharkov, Ukraine during World War II, production was transferred to the KMZ factory near to Moscow - this resulted in the Zorki-Fed and, ultimately, the Zorki line of cameras. I bought one of these  - a Zorki 4 - and I am very pleased with it. The joint lineage of these two cameras is clear but they are very different.
So - both the Zorki and Fed line of cameras are based on the German Leica II. The Fed 2 was made between 1955 and 1970. The Ukrainian seller tells me mine is a Model 2, Type B4 so it was made between 1956 and 1958. The quality of the Soviet engineering is shown by the fact that the camera is working well after 60-odd years.
In 1963, Wallace Heaton (a retailer in London) was offering the Fed 2 for £23-19-6 which is 6d short of £24-0-0. In modern decimal money, this is £23.975 and at todays values would be around £750 or so.
This camera is a 35mm rangefinder camera. the top plate measures 140 mm by 32 mm. There is a raised "L" shaped hump in the middle of the plate. This houses the rangefinder mechanism. In the front of this are two windows - the viewfinder window and the rangefinder window. They are 67 mm apart which means that the rangefinder will be very accurate - this aspect of the Fed 2 was taken from the Zeiss Ikon Contax camera. The rangefinder windows on the Leica II are much closer together.
Fed-2 top plate

On the left end of the top plate is the rewind knob. This pulls out to make rewinding the film easier. At the base of the rewind knob is a lever to adjust the diopter level of the viewfinder. This excellent device means I can use the camera without wearing my glasses.

On the left end of the top plate is the film advance knob. This turns clockwise which I find to be non-intuitive but it works well enough. Beneath the film advance knob is the frame counter. This counts up from zero to a maximum of 36. Beside the film advance is the shutter release. This is towards the back of the top plate which I find to be a less than natural position but, again, it works well enough. The shutter release is threaded for a standard cable release. Around the shutter release is a milled collar. This is the rewind clutch - you press it down and turn it clockwise where it will lock in position while you rewind the film. Once the film is rewound, you must turn the collar anti-clockwise before loading a new film.

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Blog (C) John Margetts, 2015
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Next along is the speed selector dial. This is set by lifting the dial and rotating to the required speed. There is a central post with an engraved dot to mark the selected speed. This is a big improvement over the usual Soviet system as the shutter on this camera can be set either before or after the film is advanced. The usual advice for Soviet cameras is to only change the shutter speed after winding on the film. Actually, as far as I am concerned, I always advance the film immediately after taking a picture - I do this so that the camera is always ready - so I am always going to set the shutter speed after advancing the film.

Also on the top-plate, in line with the lens, is an accessory shoe. There are no flash contacts here - 1956/8 is much too early - so a 'cold' shoe in flash terms.

The rear of the top plate has the camera serial number. This does not match the usual Soviet system of starting the serial number with the year of manufacture so dating the camera by this number is not straight forward. The front of the top plate is engraved with the model name in Cyrillic - ФЭД-2 or FED-2 in Latin script - and ФЭД is repeated on the top near the rewind knob.

Fed-2

The front of the camera is simple. There is the M39 (also called LTM) lens mount offset to the left of centre. At the top of the mount, the rangefinder cam slightly protrudes. In fact, this is in the way of screwing in the lens and it is essential to set the focus on the lens to its nearest point (1 metre in this case) to make fitting the lens practicable.

To the right of the lens mount is the flash PC socket. In later versions of the Fed -2 this PC socket gets moved onto the top plate - this is one of the ways of determining the type of Fed-2 you have. This camera has no shutter delay lever - again, added to later versions of the Fed-2. What I do appreciate is the presence of a strap lug at either end of the camera.

The base of the camera has a fixing cam at either end. Turning both half a turn allows the back/base to be removed to allow fitting and removing of the film. The base also has a tripod bush (the old standard of 3/8 inches Whitworth so none of my tripods will fit unless I 'borrow' a 1/4 inch slug from one of my Zeiss Ikon cameras to fit into the 3/8 inch thread).

Fed -2

The lens that came with this camera is an Industar-26M which is a 50 mm, f/2.8 Tessar type lens. I suspect this is the original lens for the camera - it is certainly of the correct type and date. The lens focusses from 1 m to infinity and has apertures available from f/2.8 to f/22. There is also a depth of field scale which is invaluable if, like me, you use hyperfocal focusing (at f/22, everything from 1.5 m too infinity will be in focus if you set the focus at 3 m). The lens is coated - as is to be expected in the late 1950s - signified by a red п - on the lens bezel.

In use, this is a capable and pleasant camera. The shutter is as quiet and vibration free as a cloth focal plane shutter is going to be and much more gentle than either my Zenit E or Zorki 4. The viewfinder eye-piece is rather small and is surrounded by a milled steel ring which is bad news for modern plastic spectacles. On the plus side, there is a dioptre adjustment for the viewfinder so I can use this camera without wearing my glasses. Also, the viewfinder is not as bright as it could be. It is tinted green/blue to give maximum contrast with the yellow rangefinder spot which is really clear and makes the rangefinder easy to use.

On the negative side, I have had a serious problem with loading the film. On the face of it, loading is really easy - you insert the end of the film beneath a brass strap on the (brass) take-up spool and then wind-on. Unfortunately, my first film slipped out of place after I had replaced the back. When I thought I was advancing the film, the film was winding around the sprocket shaft rather than around the take-up spool Once there was five or six frames around this shaft the camera completely jammed. This was quite easy to sort out but involved opening the back of the camera with the film in place and cost me half a roll of film.

Despite the seller assuring me that the rangefinder had been correctly adjusted prior to sale, it is clearly not. When the lens is focussed at infinity, the rangefinder split image will not coincide.  As adjusting this is fairly simple, I might have a go myself, but I am not really bothered as I usually use hyperfocal focusing rather than precise focusing. On the other hand, it would be nice to have the camera as it should be.

Examples from the test film to follow.

3 April 2015

Test film was a disaster!  One picture from a 24 exposure cassette.  I am hoping that this is me leaving the lens cap on (I certainly did that for some shots) and I am trying a second film with the lens cap left at home.

Fed 2 test film

Apart from the appalling light differences from left to right (entirely down to me) this shot is quite good. Focus is good, contrast is good, exposure is good.  With an older focal plane shutter there is a likelihood of the two shutter curtains not moving smoothly together leaving differently exposed strips.  Hopefully with the second film I will be able to report more thoroughly on this camera.

 Second film

This is no better. I am certain the lens cap was not left on as it was left at home.  Three images from 24 frames - not very good and shows that the shutter is not opening most of the time. This is strange, as with no film loaded, and the back removed, the shutter definitely opens every time. My best guess is that the back is either fouling something or is distorting the body.  In addition to the shutter not opening, there are very clear pin-holes in the shutter curtain. This shows up in the black frames below are three bright spots. These are also visible on the three images I got. The camera is useless.

 

Fed 2 - with three very clear pin-holes
Fed 2 - pin-holes not so clear but still there

 

Fed 2 - clear pin-holes
Fed 2 - pin-holes with the film not wound on for some time
Fed 2 - pin holes with the film wound on fairly quickly - so smaller spots.

Fed 5 (ФЭД 5)

This is a very sturdy camera. It is black, square, solid with no frills or cosmetics. Fed cameras started off as copies of German Leica cameras and while the design of a Fed might be identical to a 1930s Leica, manufacturing standards are certainly not.

As I am being fairly negative here, I would like to point out that I do not have experience of Fed cameras in general, merely of my own Fed 5B. (since writing this article, I have bought two more Feds – Fed 2 and Fed 4 – which articles see).

Actually, the camera works very well. Setting the exposure using my trusty Leningrad light meter, all the images in my test film were exposed as I would wish – good blacks, clear whites and a usable range of greys in between. This means that both the shutter and the aperture settings are at least reasonable. I have no means of testing shutter speeds, but they are clearly close to nominal. The aperture has six blades giving a hexagonal aperture – for those concerned with bokeh, this should bode well.

The lens is much better than adequate. Scanning the film taken with this camera and enlarging to full screen on my fifteen inch monitor gave an image that was still sharp with no visible vignetting or barrel/pin cushion distortion. The only problem optically is light leakage from a poorly fitting back.

The controls are “firm” – that is to say, definite effort is required to make this camera do any thing. I find focussing difficult as the focussing ring is close to the camera body and is stiffish to turn. This stiffness seems to be entirely in the lens assembly as the rangefinder mechanism in the camera is quite free and requires very little effort to move. Advice on the Internet is to dismantle the lens, remove the Soviet grease and replace with modern light grease. It seems that the Soviet grease hardens with time and stops the lens turning freely. Actually, this is not confined to Soviet cameras – all old cameras suffer from this to a degree and Agfa camera are notorious for it. The plus side here is that the whole lens mount moves to focus, not just the front element which means that image quality is not sacrificed in order to make a cheaper lens. As this is a rangefinder camera, focussing is easy and accurate – a simple matter of aligning the two images in the centre of the viewfinder. If this is inaccurate, it can be adjusted by focussing on a clear vertical at infinity (i.e. anything over 40 feet or so away) and turning the adjusting screw until the images coincide.

To load a film, the back and base are removed in one piece – much like a Contax. This makes it easy for large fingers to access they film chamber and fit the new film. on my specimen, the cams that hold the back in place are badly made and the back does not quite fit snuggly. This allows light to leak into the camera and fog the film. This is easily obviated by applying black plastic tape to the joins after loading with film – not a really satisfactory technique but it does allow the camera to be used.

Care must be taken when buying second hand FSU (Former Soviet Union) cameras. If the writing is in Cyrillic and the camera is pristine, it most likely has never been used as it was seriously flawed from new. Buying a camera with clear and definite signs of use means that the camera, at the least, has worked well at some point. Dating Fed cameras is easy – the first two digits of the serial number are the year of manufacture. My FED5 body has the serial number 849211 and so was made in 1984. On the other hand, the lens I have has the serial number 9249524 and so was made in 1992. This means that the body/lens combination is not original – not that it really matters.

 

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