FED-4(b) ФЕД-4 1969 to 1976

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. FED-4(b) ФЕД-4
    1969 to 1976
    Kharkov (Kharkiv), Ukraine

    I really started out to do a post on my brand new Argus A. It didn't look as good as the vendor had said, but OK, what can you complain about at less than US$8?

    However, I had noticed that some of the foam had hardened into pumice, but when I loaded film in it, and tried to advance it there was a loud clunk, followed by sounds of something loose on the inside. Sure enough, the pressure plate itself was simply glued onto similar foam, likewise hardened, which had disintegrated from the pull of the film across it. So I decided that it will take a little more work before that Argus A is reanimated.

    However, looking for something different in my holdings, I found a FED-4(b) for which I had paid about the same amount as for the Argus A. I have had it for some time, but these now sell now on eBay from US$4 up to $40, with most at the lower end. Many go unsold starting in the $25-30 range. Despite its undoubted greater sophistication, I stuffed the remaining portion of the Fuji 200 C/N film into it. What follows is some introduction to the camera and a few pictures taken with it.

    There is considerable, if not extensive internet documentation at places like http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/FED_4 . That source explains the difference of the 4(b) model

    "FED 4b (F192, made from 1969-76) has lever wind, and rectangular borders to the rangefinder and viewfinder windows matching the height of the meter window. The viewfinder is larger, and the name is printed on the plate around the rangefinder window; the 4a's strap lugs are omitted. Type b comes in 3 variants each with slight cosmetic changes."​


    "Foto-Quelle sold the FED 4 in Germany as the Revue 4 (F194). Special editions were produced for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, and the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution in 1967."
    Versions were produced (as earlier in the FED lines) in several body leatherette colors including a lovely red.

    As for the company, FED is the lineal descendent of a labor commune at Kharkiv in Ukraine, named after the founder of the Cheka (later > NKVD > KGB), Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FED_%28camera%29 ) Its manager was a well-known advocate of reform in orphan education, Anton Makarenko. By 1932, the success of Alexander Rodchenko, one of the world's great photographers ( http://masters-of-photography.com/R/rodchenko/rodchenko.html ), shooting with a German Leica was famous in the Soviet Union, so it was decided to use the workshops at the orphan's commune to produce a Soviet copy of the Leica. Large scale production started in 1934, and in the same year, what was then the NKVD took over production at the commune. The children (of course, by this point, many were growing into adults) were originally orphans from the great famine of the 20s in Ukraine. I do not know if any of them were the children of enemies of the state (as in the film The Inner Circle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Inner_Circle_%281991_film%29 ). Makarenko was dismissed, but I do not know what happened to him -- to be "dismissed" by the NKVD in 1934 could be fairly serious.

    The commune/factory was destroyed in the Nazi invasion of 1941, but was reestablished in 1946 or so. It is claimed that some of the pre-war production may have actually be labeled with Leitz brands, but many of these old lovelies have been ironically converted into Leicas after 1991. I say "ironically" because it is likely that one of the pre-war FEDs might eventually, perhaps even already, be worth more than the equivalent Leica.

    By the time of the production of the FED-2 in 1955, the FED had many improvements over the early Leica form. If you want to shoot an early "Leica," but one that is easy to load with film and with many little improvements, the FED-2 is an excellent choice. A pleasure to use.

    However, I had sort of wanted to see what had happened to the evolution of the "Leica" under socialist conditions -- a camera produced not for the wealthy elite, but rather for the masses. By the FED-3 ( http://www.mattdentonphoto.com/cameras/fed_3b.html ), the camera no longer looked much like a Leica anymore, and aside from the lenses - derived largely I think from German original designs - and the M39 screw mount, not too "Leicaish," either. The lens is a very nice I-61 (Industar) 52mm f/2.8.

    The big (and I do mean big -- the little rangefinder had grown into a rather massive camera) change in the FED-4 was the addition of an uncoupled selenium meter. On Soviet models like mine, at least, this meter was calibrated in GOST (ГОСТ) units, close to ASA, but not quite the same until a few years later. My ISO 200 film on this camera needs to be metered at 180 GOST. The meter still works well, and the accompanying pictures were all metered with it.

    Anyhow, here is the little Soviet girl, now grown into one of those mighty Soviet Babushkas [бабушка]*, so familiar to us from Soviet film, telling the Red Army soldier where to get off.

    *Please, keep your **** out the wringer, I am having fun and in no way am in the slightest bit disrespectful of Soviet womanhood. Jeesh, some people have no ability to distinguish well-meaning irony.
  2. When I got this for next to nothing, I also got the original documentation of the camera. This was in its original box, had the "passport" for both the camera and lens, the bill of sale, the warranty and various other documentation, and of course, the owner's manual in Russian.

    Here is some of the "paper" work that came with the camera (not all to same scale). First the box:
  3. The "passports" for the lens and camera, and other notices:
  4. I think the demand for a Russian-language manual is probably too low for me to post it, but if you need one for some reason, if you contact me in the next couple of months from this posting with your e-mail address, I will send you a 440K pdf of the original manual. Butkus has an English version on his marvelous website ( http://www.butkus.org/chinon/russian/fed_4/fed_4.htm ).
    However, there is one little trick you need to know, even if you're the sort who never cracks a manual-- you really, really do need to put the lens cap on the camera before rewinding the film. It is very easy on this camera to have an incomplete advance at the end of the film, and I think what happens is the shutter is left open. Whatever, I learned some time ago that this is not some joke, You can ruin the whole roll if you don't obey orders.

    Here are the manual pages in both Russian and English emphasizing this point (which is also true of some other Soviet cameras, by the way).
  5. Ok, here are some shots taken with this camera, as I said, on Fuji 200 C/N.

    Top - the back entrance to my sports collective. Paid for with student fees, but faculty can buy memberships.
    Bottom: Other universities may have swimming pools, but ours, please The Boss, is a "natatorium".
  6. We have great equipment, for the most part.
    Top: Everybody calls it the "Weight Room" but again I see that the actual name is the Saluki Strength Room -- in a different world with a real Leica, we might call it the "Strength through Joy" Room.

    I want to brag, so I'll tell you I'm up to 210 lbs (95.5 Kg) on the lateral pull-down. I love the look on the "cadets'" (ROTC) faces when they see how much the "old guy" is doing. :)

    The bottom picture is the Nautilus Room. I started on these and still use some of the machines. Treadmills and the like are scattered throughout. There is also a indoor quartermile track, ball courts, racquet ball courts, and much more. Very sweet. I've been doing this pretty much ever since I retired from teaching.
  7. To get a feeling for the interior of the building, I show you this.
    It is, like much of our architecture after Modernism was abandoned, fairly brutalist in style. Exposed concrete (think Brasilia) and brightly colored, exposed air passages.

    Here's some of the latter in what I call the "Pompy-doo Center"
  8. All in all, pretty nice work for a nearly 40-year old camera. If the Argus C-3 didn't already have the name, I'd call it the Soviet Brick, some do.
    Clear and easy to use viewfinder and rangefiner (together) . The only awkward thing about it is that the focus ring for the lens is right up against the body and hard for stubby fingers to use.
    That's it <giggle>
  9. Above, I say that some of the FEDs "have been converted" -- I should rather have said "may have been converted".
    The Leica "re-brands" I know are made from Zorki copies of the Leica.
    I merely speculate that an early FED marked Leica could have later been renamed long after it was made,* so the existence of FED(-1) "Leicas" would have to be verified as having been made that way in the 30s.
    * Especially given the considerable skill of some of these 'converters'. One should also note that they have a considerable sense of humor, although not perhaps to the taste of collectors of the "real thing". :)
  10. Nice post. Lens looks sharp and clean. Nice to see the paperwork that came with the camera. I like these old Russian rangefinders.
  11. Thanks for the review, JDM. What do you think about the film rewind scrollwheel? Was it usable without a special training?
  12. I think the scroll wheel rewind was not a good idea. The roll I had in it was only some 20 pictures after losing the original leader in the Argus A, but it seemed to take forever and a day to get it all rewound. What does require special training, of course, is the collar rewind release -- obvious to those who know, hard to get adult fingers around on this one even if you know already. The page from the manual given above describes the process for both the release and the rewind dial.
    Interestingly, it looks to me like despite the warning about the lens cap, in the illustrations, the camera is being rewound without the lens cap on.
  13. My FED-2 will not accept my 35mm Jupiter 12 without modification.
    My FED-4B body weighs in at 660 grams, only gets an uncoupled meter compared to my Zorki-1 at 410 grams.
    Zorki users of all lands unite, they are better than FEDs.
  14. I like my FED 3 but I have a Zorki as well. The FED3 is easier to load than the bottom loading Zorki. I like the look of the Zorki more though.
  15. "strength through joy" lol - nice :D
  16. Well when it comes to Soviet rangefinder cameras, my all time favorite is the Kiev 35mm RF camera. But then in the 1930s I would have preferred a Contax to a Leica, too.
    For those of you who love the bottom loaders, definitely do check out http://jay.fedka.com/index_files/Page345.htm . I prefer the removable back on the FED-2, myself.
  17. This FED-4b has different markings to that shown earlier,one of the variations.It is probably an export model as it is marked "Made in USSR"
  18. Nice review JDM, the shots of the Sports complex have something a Soviet feel to them. "Strength through joy" indeed, "Tovarish!"
    I have not had the pleasure owning or shooting a FED, but at the prices you mentioned for the FED-4 types I wouldn't be surprised if one shows up in the future (can't say 'near future', I'm still paying off a recently purchase Leica IIIa ;) )
    And I still have to put my LTM Industar-61 through it's paces.
  19. Rick:
    The FED-1s would even fit into your time frame, if you can find one, although I doubt anybody would flinch at a very 30s looking FED 2.
    That's an interesting one. Strange that the export model would have only a Cyrillic name. Mine does not have a "made in USSR" label that I can find, but does have both Cyrillic and Roman letters on the name 'plate'. Everything else from the 'B' for rewind to the ГОСТ on the lightmeter is strictly Russian (the camera was made in Ukraine, but at this time in the CCCP, Russian was pushed over the local languages/dialects).
  20. Much later,
    I was able to find out what happened to Anton Makarenko:
    Soon he became the victim of a political denunciation. Makarenko was accused of criticism of Stalin and support of the Ukrainian opposition. But he had a chance to justify himself and successfully avoided arrest. However, Makarenko was forced to leave Kiev and move to Moscow where he would be “under special supervision.” Makarenko continued writing his novels and plays and in 1937 he created his well known “The Book for Parents” followed by “Flags on Towers” in 1938, in which he further elaborated his pedagogical ideas.

    Lucky man with adroit political skills...

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