The Hunt for Red October

(or, how I finally got a FED)

For the last year or two I found myself slowly turning into a collector of old cameras. Well, not exactly a collector - more of a user/collector, since I like to shoot "old style" and "exercise" my cameras every once in a while. And I like the distinctive "look" of the photos I get from some of the old shooters I have.
I particularly enjoy using my Rolleiflex T with Tessar 75/3.5 - which I got a few months ago, in almost mint condition. Although I have several Nikons, for the last year or so, they've mostly been gathering dust (figuratively, not literally!), apart from the super-duper whiz-bang AF Nikon F80, which I use to take photos of my two boys, aged 5 and 3.
Since my eyesight is not as sharp as it used to be, I find the only way to take a sharp photo of the kids (who just won't stand still when you want them to) is to use AF. And F80 is an excellent tool for that. However, it just doesn't have that elusive "something" which I like - it's just too computerized and too "modern" for the type of shooting I prefer - slow, deliberate and "traditional".
And I've learned to appreciate the "slow" shooting style ever since I got a Speed Graphic Pacemaker in 2x3 (i.e. 6x9 in Eurospeak) format. Now, that's a SLOOW shooter! :-)

Anyway, I live in Croatia, where the "ancient" photo gear is 90% Russian, since during the Fifties and Sixties you couldn't buy anything else here.
Later, during Seventies and early Eighties, the gear sold here way mostly East German (Prakticas). So, old Kievs, Zorkis, Beirettes and Prakticas are pretty easy to come by - and it was only logical that, once I discovered the joys of using a rangefinder, I'd turn to "Russians", which are cheap and plentiful here.

I already have a Zorki 4 with Jupiter 8 (50/2) in decent condition, and a very nice Kiev 4A with Jupiter 8 and Jupiter 12 (35/2.8) lens I acquired recently.
Now, my Kiev is quite a decent shooter, and I was really amazed at the quality of some photos I got from that marvel of German/Russian technology.

But, I've also read a lot about FEDs, and everyone in the "Russian gang" of collectors/users on the Net seemed to rave about them. So I thought, I must get me one of them sleek FED 2's just to see what it's all about.

The Hunt

A warm July Sunday morning is a perfect time to go treasure hunting at the local flea market.
The one I visited is held every Sunday morning in Zagreb, Croatia, and a couple of times I've been there I either arrived a bit late, or the weather was not particularly good (meaning not many sellers were there), and the offerings of old Russian camera gear were not really abundant.
However, I did notice that a decent Kiev 4 or 4M could be had for about $15-$25 in local currency. So, the next time I arrived early, and prepared.
I came with a friend who also likes these "excursions", but isn't really that interested in Russian gear. Well, what can you expect from someone who shoots Nikon F5 with the very expensive 2.8 / 80-200 zoom? Not exactly appreciation for fine Russian craftsmanship :-)

Anyway, I had my Yashica Lynx 14E with me, so it was also the opportunity to exercise its shutter, leaving some documentary shots for the posterity.

Flea market1

The flea market (Taken with Yashica Lynx)

The flea market is the usual variety - where you can find all kinds of old junk - from old pottery, plastic kitschy decorations, chandeliers, old books, to numismatic collections of dubious value.

Flea market 2

Old junk (Taken with Yashica Lynx)

And of course, the inevitable remains of the Communist era, like the once ever-present and now discarded portraits of the dignitaries and other paraphernalia of those times.
BTW, does anyone remember who the guy in the painting below was?

Communist Iconography (Taken with Yashica Lynx)

Just a hint, he was known as Tito, and he was quite famous once.
Seems to be all but forgotten nowadays.

After elbowing my way around and spotting an odd Kiev or Zorki here and there, I finally found a stall which immediately got my attention - you can't miss the distinctive look of old Russian leather "everready" camera cases.

The Russians!

The Russian Heap (Taken with Yashica Lynx)

There they were - squeezed between some old pottery and moldy books.
A real treasure trove for a true Russian gear hunter.
After carefully examining the whole batch, I decided for a FED 2 and a FED 3 - both acceptable in appearance and with shutters that seemed to work OK. Each was about $15, complete with the smelly leather case.

Excited about a new purchase, we went for a drink at the nearest café, and I immediately loaded some long expired TMAX 100 in the FED2, and took a few shots.

That's me looking through the squinty FED's viewfinder :-)


How small you look! (Taken with Yashica Lynx)

But, wait - the rangefinder seems to be off! It doesn't align on infinity! What the heck, I'll just use the engraved distance scale and guesstimate the focus. Hmm...I'll just squeeze off a few shots...

How do I focus this?

Wait, it's off! (Taken with Yashica Lynx)

(Note: all of the above shots taken with Yashica Lynx, on expired TMAX 100 film)

Back Home

So, here's the result of the "Russian camera hunt":


The FEDs(Taken with Yashica Lynx)

Anyway, after coming home, I developed both rolls (from the Yashica and FED2), and here's how the FED shots came out:

Looking through Yashica Lynx

Not bad, this Yashica (Taken with FED2)

Say cheese!

Say "Cheese"! (Taken with FED2)

Some flare, a bit soft, but definitely has a "character".

Here's me aiming the Yashica (taken with FED2, my friend guesstimated the distance):

The FED 2 shot

Aiming the Yashica (Taken with FED2)

Much better, and I must say I like how the Industar on the FED2 renders the OOF areas in the above photo.

After that, I went on with careful examination of my new purchases - the FED 2 definitely looks more appealing, and I went on to test the shutter speeds.
I was a bit disappointed when I saw that the super quiet and soft shutter was due to speeds being off - about a full stop slower than they should be, meaning that 1/100 was something like 1/50, etc.
FED 3, on the other hand, although not as sleek, had shutter speeds within tolerances.

The Horror!

Well, time to revisit some of those FED repair pages I bookmarked, just in case I got a FED.
First stop - " FED-2 Shutter Repair" - complete with detailed photos!
Just what the doctor ordered...

Another VERY good site is " FED-1 & Zorkij-1 survival site"

Anyway, I wasn't very careful in reading those pages, and I tensioned the curtain rollers on my FED2 just a bit too much - which resulted in a separated curtain!

I rendered the camera inoperable!

Well, after so much tinkering with old cameras in the last few months, I've learned a lot, and with the illustrations on Web pages above, I thought it was time to take apart my first camera.
At $15, even if I do render it totally useless, it won't be much of a loss.
And since FED2 really isn't an irreplaceable original Barnack Leica, I thought I might try it.

Armed with a digigizmo I use for taking quick photos of my old-timers, I was set to document the process in case anything goes wrong. I managed to disassemble the camera totally without much trouble, following the guidelines on the "FED-2 Shutter Repair" page. I found the problem immediately: one of the curtain ribbons was detached from its lath.

Fed2 curtain

Detached curtain ribbon (upper)

Some patience and a few minutes later, it was re-glued and refastened.

Curtain 2

Curtain ribbon reglued

Now for the more difficult part - putting it back together again. Rather scary stuff, I must admit, if you take a look at the photo below:

In pieces

FED 2 in a bucket

Well, not exactly in a bucket, but a plastic tray with high sides - I wouldn't want to have one of those tiny screws on the floor.

However, after several hours(!), I managed to put it back - and it works!
The most difficult part was putting the curtain/roller assembly housing back on the body. You have to find the correct position of the spring drum and curtains, and then insert them back. See the " FED-1 & Zorkij-1 survival site" for detailed info.
Phew! That took the better part of those several hours :-(

Anyway, after I managed that, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to also relube the Industar lens. The focusing ring was somewhat difficult to turn. No problem - see "Matt's pages" on how to do that.

All's Well that Ends Well

Finally, I have a quite nice FED2, with smooth focussing lens, and with shutter speeds within 10-15% of the specs. Well, at least those speeds which count :-)

The higher speeds (1/250, 1/500) were never close, I guess, even when new. I'm also aware that those highest speeds are usually off even in much more expensive cameras, so there was nothing new there, and the camera is still quite usable, even if 1/500 is really closer to 1/300.


So, a quite nice and inexpensive "street shooter". And also the first camera I stripped down completely - and successfully put together again.
And now it looks and works better then when I got it - and that's what counts.

As a final note, I'd just like to add that I use the term "Russians" in a good-hearted and affectionate manner, meaning no disrespect whatsoever. I know that some of the cameras mentioned above were not made in Russia, but in Ukraine (e.g. Kiev) - I use the affectionate term "Russian" for all FSU-made gear.
The tone of the article above was meant to be somewhat humorous and entertaining - no disrespect or offence is ever attempted.

July, 2004

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