Advantages of an FSU camera

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by Brian Legge, Jun 7, 2010.

  1. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    A while ago, I planned to purchase a FED 2 or perhaps a Zorki 4k. I picked up an Industar 61 L/D here in anticipation of the purchase.

    Since then, I've continued playing with various fixed lens compact rangefinders like the Canonet 17 GIII and the Olympus 35RC/DC.

    I've come to realize that what I like most about rangefinders are their compact size and how quiet the shutters are.

    I now am on the fence about picking up a FSU camera. From what I've seen, they are larger, louder and have harder to use rangefinders. The only advantage over the fixed lens compacts seems to be the ability to change lenses.

    I'm at a crossroad. I recently picked up a Olympus 35RD and SP that are in need of maintenance. Short term, I can't justify paying for a CLA with both of those and purchasing a FED 2.

    So those of you who have used more rangefinders, what are the strengths of the FSU cameras? At least starting with the I64 LD, the lens reach would be the same so there isn't any differentiation there and I don't know how the image quality would compare to the other cameras I've listed.

    From a street photography capability standpoint, the main option I feel like I'm missing is an aperture priority camera (the GX/7sII are definitely outside the price range of what I'd like to pay for at this point). Still, there is so much out there about the FED 2 in particularly that I feel like I'm missing something.
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Some friends of mine (twins) shared a Kiev IVa, that was a camera that turned out astonishingly good quality for it's price and was decently made. I have a FED 2 that O bought off APUG it's OK but not in the same league build wise, perhaps I'm jaundiced because I also have a Leica IIIA (& an M3) it's still a nice camera though.

    I'm still lusting after Bill Spears Zenit C which is a wonderful early Russian SLR based on a Zorki C, essentially an SLR based around a Russian Leica copy. It's the reverse of the Cosina rangefinders which were based on their SLR.

    Ian
     
  3. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    I actually have a dead Contax IIIa (probably needs a new ribbon) with a damaged Sonnar 1.5 I was probably going to put up on Ebay shortly. I'd both for a working camera as neither is usable to me at this point.

    If the build of the Kiev IIa is even in the same ballpark on quality, it must be a great camera. The feel of the Contax is just awesome.
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I looked over one the first Contax's for someone about 3 years ago, it had been his fathers, and the build quality was poor, it was not worth restoring, however II's and II's were a vast improvement, Zeiss had learnt by their mistakes.

    Ian
     
  5. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I'd say that's a fair summary, although the FED-2 (and perhaps one or two other fSU models?) has an RF base that's probably longer than most of the compacts.

    Of course a lot of people just find the fSU cameras pleasant to use, too; their manual controls are designed with the expectation that they'll be used (as opposed to some of the compacts, where things like changing the aperture can feel like they were designed in as afterthoughts), they have a certain mechanical-age feel that newer cameras often lack, and they smell interesting.

    My experience of both (Hi-Matic 7s, FED-2, Mir==Zorki-4 without slow speeds) is that the compact is convenient and reliable but feels weird in use; the focussing throw is too short, the tab is an inconvenient blocky shape, and the shutter release has a strange spongy feeling. By contrast, the commie cameras are capable of misbehaviour, lack modern conveniences like a meter, and require more manual fiddling, but they feel like *proper* *cameras*. None of this is visible in the resulting photos, of course, except when the Mir decides to cap slightly at the very edge of the frame, but it affects what camera I want to use on any given day.

    -NT
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    A few years ago I saw an exhibition of photography by Che Guevara, the American's friend :D all shot with FSU cameras. He was an excellent photographer and the images were superb.

    For easy of use and convenience a modern fixed lens Japanese rangefinder wins hands down, but the FSU cameras are more fun and also more flexible.

    Ian
     
  7. mhcfires

    mhcfires Subscriber

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    I don't like that much adventure when using my camera. :sad:
     
  8. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    This will sound strange, but I prefer my FED2 due to its reliability. Once I found one that worked properly, it proved absolutely reliable. I can't say that of my compact rangefinders.
     
  9. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I've owned and used both and I wouldn't say the FSU cameras where unreliable, although I wore out a Zenit E while still at school :D

    There's a sloppiness in some FSU cameras that you notice in the wind/rewind etc where tolerances aren't good but they still seem to work & last.

    My own Japanese compacts have been fine, but my sisters Yashica GTN fell apart a few days after a service in Australia, it hadn't been put back together properly and the screws all came loose during her flight to Singapore !!!!

    Ian
     
  10. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    I have a FED2, Zorki4, Canon GIII, and Minolta 7s. Advantages of a FSU over a compact RF are:

    Interchangeable lenses (as you stated) - but how many FSU owners have more than 1 lens
    Makes you look like a real photographer - "Is that a Leica?"
    Easy to repair - not only easier but you get more practice
    Better in a street fight - Would you rather be swinging a Zorki or a Canonet?

    I like my FSU cameras, they're fun. But when I brought a camera to a recent wedding for available light b/w, it was my Canon GIII.

    That's not to say you can't get excellent results. Or that some, as Mark says, are very reliable. But, if going with the odds and limited to one camera, I take the Japanese fixed lens RF.
     
  11. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    That is great feedback, thank you everyone.

    I'll probably pick up a FED 2 to try but it will be a lower priority purchase instead of something I go out of my way to buy. I think I was fishing for something that let me justify purchasing one now instead of waiting for one to show up here or on RFF. I seem to be collecting a lot of rangefinders but I want to be sure they're ones I'll use frequently. I'll hold off on buying one until I can also pick up either a J9 or J12.
     
  12. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    ...I just found a reasonable deal on a J12. Opps.
     
  13. Someonenameddavid

    Someonenameddavid Member

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  14. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I think my choice for a street fight would be the Newton Speed-Vue 4x5 I borrowed a few months ago. I wish I'd thought to weigh it while I had it; it's a whopping hunk of cast metal, heavy enough to be uncomfortable to carry around by the convenient built-in handle. Nice camera, on the whole, but it handles like it was built for King Kong's personal use!

    -NT
     
  15. Zuikopath

    Zuikopath Member

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    If it's any help in your quest Brian, I recently picked up a FED 2 for £8 on the bay with a rather used I26m lens. I already had an I61 L/D, J8 and J12 (used with a couple of Zorki 4 bodies) and the FED 2 body worked perfectly.

    They can be picked up occasionally for next to nothing and if you get a dud, just look up another and use the dud for spares.

    I also use a 35RC, 35SP, a variety of Yashica RFs and a Super Isolette but I have a soft spot for the Russians...!
     
  16. Craig Swensson

    Craig Swensson Member

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    Brian, have a look at a Zorki 6 perhaps, lever wind and hinged back, wide base with very good patch.
    Generally i have found the Zorki speed adjustments hard to use compared to either Keiv or Fed. Contax mount lens seem to be lower priced than LTM. Fed2 is generally regarded as one of the most reliable.
    regards
    Craig
     
  17. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

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    I actually looked at the FED 2, Zorki 6, and Zorki 4k. From past experience, I know I am more likely to use smaller cameras (even if the size difference isn't huge ie Canonet QL 17 GIII over the Lynx 14) so I figured the FED 2 was a better bet. I would've considered one of the earlier cameras but didn't really want to deal with bottom loading and the split viewfinder/rangefinder.

    In the end, the FED 2 is the only camera from the line that I've actually held which was also a big factor. I have one on the way now from Bob Eskridge. This will be my first interchangeable lens rangefinder; hopefully the J12/I61 L/D pair will be enough make the camera stand out relative to my other rangefinders.
     
  18. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    I have a FED-2 and a Kiev-IV. While I think the Kiev is a better build camera, I usually default to the FED because I have an Orion-15 28mm lens for it.

    The only Orion-15 in a Kiev mount I've ever seen go by on the bay was too pricey for my taste.
     
  19. zumbido

    zumbido Member

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    I like both FSU and "modern" Japanese RFs. My FED-2 (two of them) have been leagues more reliable. The viewfinder is not as nice as that of a, for example, Minolta Hi-Matic 9... but it's not that much worse. And it doesn't break down on a regular basis, as the fiddly leaf-shutter fixed-lens semi-auto 1970s RFs seem to. The FED-2 has much more natural manual controls than almost all of the fixed-lens options (for me). I also like the rendering of an old Industar better than the various Minolta/Olympus/etc. lenses for most subjects (especially people).
     
  20. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    I have a Zorky4 and 2 or 3 Industars, but I prefer the rendering of my Olympus lenses; even though I like the Rusians too.
     
  21. sangetsu

    sangetsu Member

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    I like the simplicity of the old FSU rangefinders. I have 4 (or 5?, have to check) Zorki and FED 1 type cameras, and all are interesting. Although they all look alike, each one is quite different when handled. Some are easy to wind, and their shutters work silently, others will give you a blister on your thumb after running through a couple of rolls of film, and have shutters which are louder than an SLR.

    If you are mechanically inclined, you can tweak and tune the old FSU cameras to be smoother and quieter. In any case, the camera you buy is probably going to require service or repair of some kind (only 1 of the several cameras I have used was ready-to-use upon arrival), you might want to by a couple. If you are lucky both cameras will work. If you have the same luck everyone else has, neither will work, but between the two cameras you should be able to put together one which will work.

    I prefer the old Elmar copy lenses. They give you very "Leica-like" images, and are reasonably sharp and contrasty. Another benefit to the earlier lenses is their simpler construction, they are quite easy to repair (but their design is sound enough that they seldom require it). Many of the later Jupiter lenses have been tampered with, and the untampered lenses are probably going to require a cleaning and lubrication, which is much more complicated than on the earlier FED/Industar lenses.

    The FSU I'm using currently is the old FED '48 Zorki with a Leica finder on it. The Zorki finder is wider than the 50mm field of view (though nowhere close to the 35mm field of view), the Leica finder allows me to frame my subjects much more precisely.

    You might check out the Zorki 3 camera. These cameras are probably the most attractive-looking of the old FSU's, they are easier to load than the 1 models, and they usually come fitted with a Jupiter lens. They are quite a bit more expensive than the FED2 or 4 models, but I think the Zorki 3 is worth the extra money.
     
  22. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    If you aren't mechanically inclined, and you live in the USA, send it to Eddy Smolov. He's a Ukrainian guy in Brooklyn, NY. Good work, quick turnaround, and inexpensive.

    Google his name and you can find contact info.

    Be warned, if you call him on the phone his eastern European accent is quite thick. As a farm boy from the south it took me a minute to get what he was saying. Of course, he probably wondered, "who is this this country hick?" So my southern accent is no less thick.
     
  23. paulfish4570

    paulfish4570 Member

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    I've got analogue SLRs, fixed-lens Japanese RFs, and a FED-2d. I've three lenses for it: I-61 and 2 I-50s, one black and one aluminum. It has no advantage over the fixed-lens cameras except for that looooooooooooong and very accurate rangefinder base. And for some strange reason, I "see" better photographically through that plain, dead-black bordered viewfinder than through a viewfinder with bright framelines. Heck, really, it's a feel thang ...