Anybody tried Russian Leica-copy rangefinders?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by Steve Mack, Jun 24, 2009.

  1. Steve Mack

    Steve Mack Member

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    I'm curious about the various Russian (well, actually, UKRAINIAN) Leica copies, and I was wondering what other people's experience with them has been?

    Any praises, pick, or pans?

    Thanks to all who reply.

    With best regards,

    Stephen S. mack:D
     
  2. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    I use several of them (pre-war FED 1d + FED 3a) without major trouble.

    I rebuild the FED 1 shutter and it is now as smooth as butter. The only trouble is with the FED lens which is not at the Leica standard. I had to adjust the body register accordingly which means that I can't swap lens with another camera. But as the finder is built for a std lens, it is not a big deal.

    I bought the FED 3 + its I-26 lens to Adorama for a song. The shutter is maybe a bit slow but it is fully functional.

    I owned before some Kiev 2a cameras. They were also fine but I never felt comfortable with them (pretty weird handling).

    As these cameras are pretty old and have a bad rep, the best is to buy to a reliable vendor. You can find some on E***. Fedka is also a reliable source even if prices are higher; but Yuri has an excellent communication and is very honest.

    Good luck!

    BTW, be careful, addiction is easy...
     
  3. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    I had a Zorki IV and it was an excellent $35 camera. The Russian glass was great as well. Lots of fun to use and great for driving nails and keeping your car from rolling down a hill as well.
     
  4. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    I have a FED 2 with the Industar 61 lanthum lens==a 2.8 Tessar-formula. It cuts a very sharp image.
     
  5. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I have the same set up The camera has clearly seen a lot of use and still works great. From what I've seen, I'd recommend the FED 2 over the newer FEDs. I also use the lens on my Bessa R. I really like the lens.....probably my favorite 50 (except for the the slow speed).
     
  6. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I haven't, since the prices here for Russian RFs is the same as Barnacks. Also I am not a fan of their designs. I have heard and read that some of the Jupiter lenses are excellent, however.

    I also read that the Kiev Hasselblad clones are really, really nice (alas, they are not rangefinders.)
     
  7. pcyco

    pcyco Member

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    hallo

    i use a zorki 4 (im sure) with a jupiter 8 (i think).
    a great kombination for slides. i dont like it so for black and white films.
    the handling is ok. my eos 1v is faster ;-)
    for the prices you can get them you should try them.

    and the big thing is: if something is to repair, the most things you can do by your own (the screws are big enough)

    analog greetings

    thomas
     
  8. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    The earlier Zorkis and Feds are true Leica LTM clones, including bottom loading and separate rangefinder/viewfinders (a disadvantage IMHO).

    Later Zorkis tend to be (sometimes much) better made than Feds. IMHO later Feds are pretty rough, in a way which won't clean up with a CLA. Also, cameras from the 1950's and 60's *tend* to be better made than late 1970's and later cameras.

    In any case, a *good* example, or by now a CLA'd one, can be a very nice and reliable camera.
    Simply buying one from anyone is Russian roulette (pun intended), but a good one is a keeper.

    Later Zorkis are actually Leica LTM improvements, having back loading, bright, combined RF/viewfinders and sometimes other features.
    Favorites: Zorki 3 for looks and feel (though some slow speeds are sytematically inaccurate), Zorki 4 for all-round (later one have painted-on & not stamped & painted shutter speed dials), Zorki 4K for its lever advance (but also known to cause problems), Zorki 5 & 6 for wider rangefinder base, lever advance & hinged back (IIRC) (but missing speeds under 1/30).

    The Jupiter series of lenses are derived from 1930's Zeiss lenses and are still very good today (given a decent sample). The Industars are Elmar-derived and also usually quite good.

    BTW: The Kiev Hasselblad clones are normally extremely shoddy and unreliable unless they have been properly rebuilt. On the other hand the Kiev 60 can be quite good, with a few caveats thrown in.
     
  9. Fred De Van

    Fred De Van Member

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    I used a Fed 1C (I think) for about 6 years with no real complaints. It did what it was supposed to. Images were reliably good.I replaced it with M2, M5 and M4 Leicas. My good experience with the Fed lead me to try others. I also have 4 carefully selected Kiev 4M and 4AM's. They are my carry everywhere cameras. They have not missed a beat either.

    Besides using Hasselblads and Rollei's for 30 years I also use most of the time now 2 Kiev 88CM bodies and 2 Kiev 60MLU cameras. All were purchased new and are of recent manufacture, were breathed on by the best of the specialists who tune big Kievs. (Arsenal is one of the few remaining manufacturers of mechanical medium format film cameras) the lenses which are available are a major pleasure. Save but for one film back which had a counter stop last week these cameras have been flawless. Buy new from a reputable house and they are fine.

    http://www.zavodarsenal.kiev.ua/?lan=e&id=_2_2
    http://kievcamera.net/catalog/ (New hand selected KIEV 60, and Kiev 88 CM cameras)
    http://araxfoto.com/ (New hand selected KIEV 60, and Kiev 88 CM cameras)
    http://haardt.net/kiev88cmreview.htm
    http://www.kievaholic.com/mediumformat.html
    http://forums.delphiforums.com/kievreport/start
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    The Russian cameras are OK, they certainly don't have the silky smoothness of a Leica but they are still capable of producing good images. Don't pay too much for one, there's been a tendency to inflate their value in recent years. I have a FED 2 and used a wonderful Kiev 4a in the past.

    Ian
     
  11. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    I've played around with one-or-two FED's and the Jupiter lenses (The 50mm, f/1.5 copy of the Zeiss Sonnar is very interesting and quite usable). They can give good results with care, just like many older cameras.

    A bit like the old USSR Lada cars, they could be nothing but trouble, but get one made on a good day (or a good garage technician who knew how rectify all the build problems properly :wink: and it would "last for ever".

    Don't pay too much for the Russian/Ukraine equipment, though, don't expect miracles just because they are derived from Leica designs. (Though, as someone says above, I'd agree that they could be addictive and quite collectable.)
     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Only the British made a Leica copy that was better made than the originals, the Reid cameras.

    Ian
     
  13. mablo

    mablo Member

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    If one must have a barnack copy (I certainly do) then I'd recommend Canon III or IV models. A clean Canon equipped with a collapsible Industar 22 is good and economical substitute for the real thing.
     
  14. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    I'd obviously agree about the Reid and the Canons are being of better basic quality than the USSR versions.

    I handled a mint Reid once, it was gorgeous...and way beyond my pocket!

    Referring back to my car analogy....depends what you want, Ladas (like the East German Trabants) could be quirky fun cars for the enthusiast, but you might look elsewhere if you just want good and economic motoring. Maybe the Reid is the Rolls, the Canon the Honda, and the Fed the Lada! All great in their different ways.
     
  15. mabman

    mabman Member

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    Most of the FSU Leica- and/or Contax-alikes are decent copies/derivatives of the originals, however like many things the Soviets put a lot of emphasis on quantity of cameras and not so much on quality control. So, the reliability and fit-and-finish on individual cameras may not always be equal. I have a FED-2, Zorki 4k, and Kiev 4a - the FED was a gift which I had refurbished by the online seller "Fedka" - the shutter is now butter-smooth. The Zorki has some issues with slow speeds - I had a local guy check it, and he said I need to be gentle with the winding stroke. The Kiev 4a has some issues with frame spacing - I suspect the removable take-up spool is slipping, but I haven't had an opportunity to work on that further.

    So, the moral of this story is to buy from a reputable seller (online you can search for Fedka, OKvintagecameras, or sovietcamera.co.ua), but be aware that due to production inconsistencies and/or the age of the cameras they may not be as "polished" as the Leica or Contax originals.
     
  16. Jesper

    Jesper Subscriber

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    I have among others, a FED Ia with a lens with clearly visible bubbles in the glass. Sharpness is bad, and contrast is awful but outdoors in soft light it takes wonderful "vintage" pictures that everyone will guess was taken at least 70 years ago.
    It is not a camera for serious usage, but for the fun of it. Using it to photograph people will put a smile on their faces and it is not in the least as threatening as a F4 with some 2.8 zoom would be.

    Later cameras have diopter correction that is a neat feature, and later optics is not at all bad. Especially the Industar 61L.
    Leaks are common in the old ones so be sure to take a testfilm before you buy (unless it is cheap enough).
     
  17. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    There's a lot of discussion of FSU (Former Soviet Union) cameras on Rangefinder Forum http://www.rangefinderforum.com/ This should give you some information. I notice a lot of APUGers on RFF, so I don't feel bad about mentioning another forum.
     
  18. ricksplace

    ricksplace Member

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    I have a Fed 5B. It is reliable and the lens is tack sharp (lanthanum glass). Feels like the internal machining was done by the Leningrad Locomotive Works.
     
  19. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    I first used a Zorki, and yesterday got my first Barnack/Screwmount Leica. The zorki is pretty good, but does not compare to the Leica at all in terms of quality, sound, and general feel.
     
  20. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    What about the difference between the Jupiter and Industar lenses?
     
  21. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I'm not sure if it's possible to generalise very well about the Jupiter lenses. As far as I know, the Industar-xx lenses are always approximately 50mm (and I think always or nearly always Tessar types), and almost everything else---longer, wider, faster---is a Jupiter. Some are really nice lenses---the 35mm J-12, a copy of the Biogon, particularly so---but as with most things Soviet, quality control varies, and some of the higher-spec Jupiter lenses have a fairly extreme reputation for variation.

    -NT
     
  22. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    The Jupiter 8 lens on my Zorki 4 is much better than the Cintagon lens on my Argus C44. So, if I want to use a cheap fun, kitch camera I pick up the Zorki. The Argus C44 sits on the shelf since getting the Zorki.
     
  23. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    The Cintagon, if I recall correctly, is a triplet.
     
  24. ZorkiKat

    ZorkiKat Member

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    Industars were Tessars. The collapsible LTM Industar were not exactly Elmar copies- only the mount and the barrel was copied. The lens was Tessar (though Elmar were also Tessar copies), but the diaphragm in Industar lenses were located the same place as they were in Tessar: between the middle and last groups. In the Elmar 5cm (though not in the Elmar 90 or 135 -mm), the diaphragm is right behind the first group.

    Jupiter were mostly Sonnars- 6 or 7 elements. The J-12 though was Biogon.

    Quality-wise, it's hard to see which does better when stopped down at f/8. Or when looking at photos at usual print sizes or on screen.

    Tessar Industar tend to be better generally- when manufacturing quality is concerned. Focus issues arising from calibration of lens barrel or camera aren't as serious as with the more complicated wide-aperture Jupiter. Some of the later Industar, like the I-61L/D, give more contrast.