Which FED should I buy?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by timothyirobertson, Nov 16, 2010.

  1. I'm thinking of buying my first rangefinder. I don't have any experience with a rangefinder, so I'm looking for a inexpensive one to play around with. On this forum and other sites, I've read a bit about the Russian FEDs as decent copycat Leicas with a low pricetag.
    My question: which one should I get?
    For the past 15 years I've been using an Olympus OM-2 my great uncle gave me. I love how relatively small it is. I do mostly street shooting and tend toward wide angle (I mostly use 50mm and 28mm with my Olympus).
    Ironically, it's the work I've been doing with toy/plastic cameras that got me thinking about a rangefinder. Specifically, my Vivitar UWS. The camera is so unassuming and the shutter is so quiet (for a little piece of plastic) that no one ever pays any attention to the fact that I'm photographing them. I started thinking about the advantages of a quiet shutter which could actually perform in low-light situations and started reading up on rangefinders.
    It sounds like the focusing and pre-shot adjustments might be streamlined with a rangefinder.
    So, basically, I'm looking for a FED with a wide, fast lens and one that I'll be able to figure out how to use effectively as a newbie to the rangefinder world. When I started reading up on FEDs I got overwhelmed with the options 1-5 and all the variations in between.
    I live in Cambodia, so there aren't any camera shops or labs that can be of much assistance to me on technical camera problems etc. especially with a rangefinder, so I guess reasonable reliability is a factor too.
    Tall order? I appreciate any advice or recommendations you can send my way!
  2. AFAIK all FEDs (and all other rangefinders from the former Soviet Union - a.k.a. FSU) only have built-in viewfinders designed for 50mm lenses - not terribly wide. So, if you want a wider lens like a Jupiter-12 (35mm, f/2.8) you will need an auxiliary viewfinder mounted in the shoe, and focus separately.
    That said, having owned one I'd say avoid the FED-5 - heavy, with a dim viewfinder. I like the FED-2 ergonomically (other than the smallish viewfinder), but it's older and not for everyone. Some prefer the Zorki 4(k) or 6 instead - I own a 4K and like it a lot.
    As for quality - that's the rub with all rangefinders from the FSU. Quality control was not their strong point. Good samples can be found from reputable sellers at a bit of a premium, however - I've bought from Fedka and I hear good things about Oleg Khalyavin.
    Good hunting!
  3. It sounds like you might be a good candidate for a Bessa R4A or R4M. They are lower-cost rangefinders made by Cosina in Japan. They going to be better made and more reliable than the feds, and they have a wide angle viewfinder with built-in frames for lenses all the way down to 21mm. They are more modern cameras in every way (price included...), but they will be better daily users and more reminiscent of what you are used to in the OM-2.
  4. I just got a Kiev 4, it's great. I have an old Fed 2 that is in a display on my mantle, the Kiev is much easier to focus and I really like it.
  5. The FED-2 may be the best choice. Its utter simplicity makes it reliable, its back comes off for easy loading, and its range-finder has the widest base of all (for accurate focussing). As said, you will need an auxiliary finder for any focal length other than 50mm. The Bessa R4x, on the other hand, has frame lines for wide angle lenses, and it has a meter: but you'd need much spare cash for it to be considered an "inexpensive one to play around with".
  6. If you're going to use a J12, you'll need an external finder, so choose based on whether you want lever wind or knob wind, size etc.
    I'd go for an early FED. The FED 2 isn't too big and the back comes off.
  7. I've had and used most of the usual FSU suspects. There are two models that I like particularly. My favourite must be the FED-1 or the equivalent Zorki-1. Both are straight copies of Leica II. They are much rougher than a Leica naturally but the size and handling is just as great and fast once you get used to it. Not easy to find in top notch condition but relatively easy to service even by oneself. My second fave must be the Zorki-4 or 4k. The latter has a winding lever instead of a knob. Zorki-4 is a largish rangefinder camera, about the size of a Yashica GSN. All FSU rangefinders are built for 50mm lens. If you want to use 35mm only you better look elsewhere. My recommendation would be the Canon P which takes same LTM lenses as the FSU cameras. Not a lot more expensive but much much more refined and a classy street shooter.
  8. If small size is a priority get a Zorki-1 with a collapsible Industar-22 (50mm). That combination will fit readily in your pocket. If you want to use a 35 mm lens like the Jupiter 12 you can get an external 35mm viewfinder which attaches to the flash shoe. Since I normally have my light meter, a VC meter, in that location, I have learned to estimate increased field of view for the wider lens.
    Zorki-1's are more common and less expensive than FED-1's. FED-2's are a bit less expensive than the Zorki-1's, but they are larger and a bit heavier.
  9. FED 3. Well, 2 or 3, depending on your style of shooting. The FED 3 incorporates slow speeds, and on a single dial to boot. I've opened mine to service it, it's a reasonably well-built and easy to adjust camera. Not the brightest of viewfinders, but it does the job. From their design, they all tend to accumulate gunk in the bottom of the roller blind assembly, and require periodic cleaning if you actually use them.
    A little joke on Russian cameras: In Soviet Union, camera sets the speed, not you. Don't expect things like 'accuracy' (you might find one where the speeds are accurate, but that will be more of an accident than anything else). You work with what the camera is capable of doing. As I said, I did adjust mine, but it was more to get even exposures across the frame and I made no effort at timing said exposures.
    ] likes this.
  10. Again, my Kiev 4 has accurate shutter speeds. It's easy to focus as well, my fed 2 is very difficult.
    Get a Kiev.
  11. Avoid the Fed 4 - the light meters get really gunky and nasty so it's just a big extra dead piece of metal to cary around.
    Fed 3 is nice - sleek and feels good to your hand.That's the one I would buy again given the choice.

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