Soviet/Russian rangefinders - brightest viewfinder/rangefinder?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by glenn_mabbutt, Oct 22, 2006.

  1. I recently picked up a refurbed FED-5. Having never used a rangefinder
    before, after my first roll of film's been developed, I'm now hooked
    (especially on the crispness of the Industar 61 L/D lens).

    The camera itself is great, but I've noticed the viewfinder/rangefinder
    becomes fairly unusable in lower-light situations (very dim), which is one of
    the situations I think I'll find myself in quite a bit.

    So, I'd like to get people's practical experiences on which Soviet/Russian
    rangefinder performs well in lower-light.

    I've done some searching, and several people seem to indicate the Zorki-4k's
    viewfinder is pretty bright (and it has a faster shutter, which is also
    attractive). I've also seen some comments that the Kiev-4's is pretty good,
    as well.

    Opinions welcomed :)
  2. This site probably has a lot of what you want to know:

    The Kiev 4 is a genuine German designed (Zeiss) camera, modified slightly and built in the Soviet Union in the original factory, which was dismantled after the war and taken to Kiev in Ukraine. The Fed and Zorki cameras are mainly copies of Leica II that were both designed and built in the Soviet Union. As I understand it, most people who have tried a Kiev (in good condition) prefer to use one instead of a Leica copy, because the Kiev is essentially a Zeiss, especially the earlier ones. That said, in addition to your comments,the Zorki 4K also has a film advance lever (instead of a knob that has to be rotated) and is a nice user camera for LTM lenses (if you can't afford a Bessa). Regards, Ross
  3. I know what you mean by dim finders. Except for the Leica M series and the newer Cosina/Voigtlander Bessas - classic 35mm rangefinders generally seem to have either a dim RF patch or dark viewfinders which make the RF patch appear brighter.

    I have FED 2 - It is still one of my favorite classic Soviet shooter, dim VF and all. The rangefinder patch is a small circle when viewed throught the VF - but it is fairly bright. In low light, I use an external bright-line finder.

    The Kievs are the creme de creme of Soviet 35mm rangefinders. That said, its VF is also a bit dim, but its RF patch is bright and rather large. The bright rangefinder patch is useable in dim light, and a shoe mounted turret VF makes composition much easier.

    The main attraction of the Kiev is as a camera system it is better executed than the Soviet LTM rangefinders. By this I mean the interchangeable lenses for the Contax/Kiev mount are usually better calibrated for this mount than for the Soviet LTM.

    The Kievs also have the widest RF base in Soviet rangefinderdom. Focusing is dead-on accurate.

    That said - the Kiev is a quirky beast. I found the last version the Kiev 4AM the easiest to shoot with as it has a fixed film take-up spool, larger wind knob and a rewind crank.

    The Zorki 6 is the best compromise in the Soviet LTM with its fairly bright VF and a wide RF base. There are no slow shutter speeds. Unfortunately, most of examples of this camera could use a CLA to loosen up the winding action which is lever wind and make the camera smoother over all. Again, let me emphasize its wide RF base.

    The Zorki 3 and its successors that include - the 3C, 4 and 4K, as well as the Mir - have large bright viewfinders with rf patches that appear dimmer than the Kiev or Zorki 6. The big Zorksters have a rather narrow RF base when compared to the Kiev, FED 2 and Zorki 6.

    When shooting a Jupiter 3, Jupiter 8 or Jupiter 9 wide open, trust me - you'll want a camera with a wide RF base. That leaves means you'll be best off with either a FED2, Kiev or a Zorki 6.
  4. "...The Fed and Zorki cameras are mainly copies of Leica II..."

    Later model Feds (Fed-3 and up) are NOT Leica copies, it's a myth. They're Soviet-designed.
  5. Also, the M39 thread mount on the Soviet cameras it a bit different in its film to outer flange registry from the Leica original LTM.
  6. I own a Kiev 4, I like it, viewfinder is much brighter than in FEDs, I cannot compare to Zorki though.
  7. I have a Mir (a Zorki-4 variant without slow speeds) that was CLA'd by the famous Oleg several years ago; it returned with a significantly brighter viewfinder than it had when it left, so I'd imagine that (as with Kalart rangefinders on various press cameras) cleaning the mirror and prism might help a bit. If not, Rick Oleson has a webpage somewhere with a nifty way of "magically" making pretty much any rangefinder seem contrastier - tape or paint over the part of the viewfinder window that corresponds to where the rangefinder circle is, and voila, the moving image is much easier to see. I've done this to a Fed-2, with a little dot of paint, and have much enjoyed the results.

    I'd use the Fed-2 more, but I don't have a flash that fits on it's accessory shoe (which is kind of recessed into the top of the camera), and using an accessory flash bracket isn't as fun with a little rangefinder as it is with a medium-format camera. The Mir has it's accessory shoe right on top of the body, and while some larger flashes make the shutter speed dial inaccessible, none I've found actually interfere with the dial itself.
  8. A little searching around and I found this - thanks, Michael, it's cheap and reversible, so I'll give it a shot.
    I got the camera from Fedka, so given his reputation I don't think it's a dirt issue (and there was a touch of residual grease on the removable back cover, it looks like it was definitely CLA'd).
    Based on what I've read here so far, I'm inclining towards a Kiev, although as the FED is LTM, to a degree it might make sense to go with the Zorki as I already have a (spare) lens...
    Then again, neither are huge investments, so I may just end up with both :)
    Thanks for the advice - any more is welcome :)
  9. Hi, Glenn. I own FED 5B, FED 5C, Zorki 4 and Zorki 4K. I think that the finder of the Zorkie are better then finder of the FEDs, generally. However, the quality building of the sovietics/russians stuff is widely variable, between the various models.
  10. I've never had a Kiev with a viewfinder as bright as the finders in the FED 3 and above of the Zorki 3 or above. Of course that may be because I always had a finger in front of RF on the Kiev because I hate the "Contax Grip."
  11. Hello, I have a FED 5 C and one Zorki 6, (both MTL 39mm) the viewfinder of the Zorki is but clear much that the one of the FED. The Industar 61 L/D is wonderful allows to take very sharp shots. For my the ideal combination is Zorki 6 with Industar 61 L/D - original in the FED. Greetings
  12. A method to avoid the "Contax Grip" is to put a small piece of hard plastic,or something similar, underneath the pointed projection next to the lens mount,so as to effectively cancel the infinity lock. You could put a spot of glue on it to fix it. Then the Kiev could be held as an ordinary camera,and focussing would be done as normal. Cyril Lowe
  13. One error that is constantly repeated via camera quests site and others is about the Zorki 6's rangefinder. It DOES have a wider baseline in millimeters, BUT the magnification is less, so its real overall accuracy is the same as the Zorki 3c or 4 series. The rangefinder baseline multiplied by the magnification is about the same product. This error is now almost 1 decade old.<BR><BR>The brightness of the patch and finders depends on if the camera is clean, often cameras are ruined due to improper cleaning

Share This Page