which FSU rangefinder is easiest to repair and most reliable?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by q_x, May 17, 2013.

  1. q_x

    q_x Member

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    Hello!
    It's been a while...

    I'm living in Poland, it's FSU territory. I walk a lot, I'm a long-distance hiker (by Polish measure), so I've figured I can shoot some nice, proper landscapes while hiking. I hike in winter too, I need something that won't just freeze and give up. I've just sold almost all I've got to get the second-hand Pentax gear and a semi-decent tripod. There's finally some peace and freedom on my shelves, used to be cluttered with manual lenses and strange cameras.

    I was wondering if I could maybe invest in FSU M39 rangefinder. It should still produce professioanl results, but since it's the lens to do the job... I can't afford any original Leica, not even a lens cap, but we're flooded with Feds and Zorkis, so pretty much every popular model there was, is available, at least from time to time. This is now, in 20 years it may be different, that's why I'm careful and asking folks overseas, as you're short on parts already.

    My question is: which of lighter, older FSU Leica-like model is both reliable and easy to repair or rebuild? All aspects count here: manuals/tutorials available, tools/skills needed and camera complexity. Apart from making photos, I'd be glad to learn how to service those cameras.

    Additional factors:
    Weight is really important, I'll be carrying the gear for days on my neck.
    I wear glasses, I don't want to scratch it, and I need to compose my image accurately. With -4 d I just need to wear glasses while working. Diopter adjustment won't help that much (it will help a bit though)
    I don't need slow shutter speeds that much, I'd trade those for reliability. I'll shoot 1/8s and longer with a cable release, no problem not to have 1/15, even if the shutter sound on slow speeds is therapeutic for me.
    I'm fine with single 50mm or 35mm (or 28mm) lens alone. It's not that hard to get Jupiter-8 here, and it's good enough, I reckon.
    Ease of adjustments to the rangefinder and/or lens base plate is what I value a lot, cause FSU lenses (as well, as bodies) are all over the place with their dimensions and build quality.

    I'm currently looking at Zorki 4, due to it's popularity, but models without flash sync are much smaller, I could as well have one of those oldies.
    The camera needs to be "pocketable", I'm thinking even of taking one with one of those pesky Tessar-like lenses that fold in (or maybe I'll sell my soul for an old Elmar?).

    I don't want anything fancier, than a tank. I'm fine with what those cameras are, and are not. As long, as the film is not being scratched inside, it's a valuable tool for me. I've been shooting with Zenit E SLR for a decade, I know the limits of crude hardware. I like to stop, look around, measure the light, decide where to set up a tripod, set it all manually on a camera, check and recheck if the camera is placed 100% horizontally. It's all part of the same process, the same routine, that walking for days is (you can call it pain, I'm calling it holidays :D). I don't want advanced compact with fast AF, neither Olympus XA, Canonet or Hexar RF. Just plain, cheap, dependable, lightweight, 100% mechanical camera with broad range of Leica-compatible lenses available.

    I have Kiev 4 AM with excellent Helios 103 lens already, with a leather case. I like it a lot, but it's heavy for what it is.
    For really light stuff, Minolta Hi-Matic CS is on it's way, should arrive on Monday - but without manual controls it's not always good and I wouldn't call it a "reliable camera". I'm pretty much sure I'll paint liliac, add a fake moustache on the front of it, and sell it away soon.
    Moskva-5 is on it's way too, I hope for working or "almost working" condition in this case (cause I've sold my old Pentacon Six for this and a tripod, and I've sold my Voigtlander Bessa for this last purchase I'm asking you about, I'm without any medium format at this moment).

    Feel free to chime in with some strange answers, like "for sketching you'll get along with your Kiev, just flex your muscles a bit. Be sure to just try this old Canon digital P&S camera you can buy for 20 bucks, you'll get RAW images with the strange firmware they've made recently". If it's valuable and reasonable rant, that would let me think, just write it.
     
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  2. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    If I knew what F.S.U. was, I may be able to suggest something.
     
  3. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    FSU= Former Soviet Union

    I have a Kiev 4 that leaks light :smile:
    Gave up and picked up a Contax II
     
  4. Overkill-F2

    Overkill-F2 Member

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    Former Soviet Union
     
  5. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    soviet union or russia , 90000 nuclear bombs pointed to your potato head to fry. did you remember something ?
     
  6. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I think trading slow speeds for reliability is a good call. The FED/Zorki cameras all, as far as I know, have similar fast-speed shutter mechanisms that are reasonably simple, and there are multiple sets of repair instructions online---the slow-speed escapements seem to be where most of the complexity is and where serious problems are most likely. That criterion would militate for a FED-2, Mir, or Zorki-6 if you can find one (+FED-1 or Zorki-1 if you don't mind the separate rangefinder window and bottom loading).

    I have a FED-2 and a Mir, and they're pretty similar in form factor. I wouldn't quite call either one pocketable unless your pockets are very large, but the weight on a strap is nothing to be concerned about. The FED has a longer rangefinder base, but otherwise the two are very, very similar cameras functionally. They do have that "Soviet-industrial" feel about them, as if they might have been made in a converted tractor factory, and that bothers some people---I find it sort of likable.

    Somewhere, I found little adhesive rings of soft material that fit over the eyepiece---before that, they scratched my glasses to hell. I think all the fSU Leica-mount cameras have this problem. Unfortunately I can't remember now what the source of the rings was.

    -NT
     
  7. pstake

    pstake Member

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    The FED-2 is pretty, like a Leica III ... but not the most user friendly. I had one and sold it (to someone on APUG, in fact). I now have a MIR, which is essentially a Zorki 4 but without the slow speed escapement (is this the correct word?) — it doesn't have the junk inside that goes bad most often, and consequently doesn't have speeds available below 1/30. It has a bigger viewfinder than the Fed-2, as well.

    All of this said, an early Kiev is a fine camera — in a league above the Mir or Fed or anything else FSU.

    Just my two cents.

     
  8. randy6

    randy6 Member

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    I think the zorki 5 and 6 are the better one's. I placed a leica summarit 5cm on my zorki 6. I had some bad luck with some F.S.U lenes. The summarit has very shallow depth of field so the wide rangefinder base worked well for me. One of my other favorite russian camera's would be the mockba 5 or moscow 5 a copy of a 6x9cm ziess ikonta I've had both and can't tell the difference between the photo's taken with these 2 camera's
     
  9. wiedzmin

    wiedzmin Subscriber

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    Regarding F.S.U. - Poland was not a part of U.S.S.R. (Soviet Union) but Warsaw Pact http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Pact

    Try to say to somebody in Poland that it was a Soviet Union and see what happens... I would not try however...
     
  10. limnidytis

    limnidytis Member

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    I have some Zorki 1 and C's and FED 3's - I like the Zorki's better - smaller, and the collapsible lens is actually a good lens - it makes the camera small enough to fit in my pocket and it is reasonably sharp. The Zorki's are bottom loading cameras but once you learn how to load, it's not that much of an issue. On all of the cameras I have even after cleaning and lubing the camera the measured shutter speed is about 1/2 of the dial setting - I guess you can't expect too much from a 50 year old camera. The Zorki's (at least the ones I have) have amazingly bright rangefinder patches - much easier to see than most modern rangefinders. The movable image is slightly yellow - so it's easier to pick out in a busy image. I don't know if this was an intentional design or if it is an artifact of aging but I find it easier to use than a modern rangefinder.
     
  11. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    hi q-x

    i hate to suggest this, because i know you specifically asked for advice for 35mm rangefinders with a m39 sort of situation ..
    BUT if you can swing it, why not look for some sort of in expensive folding press sort of 4x5 camera? the lenses are just as inexpensive
    in the FSU as they are everywhere else ... instead of 28,50, 135 you go 90, 150, 210 ... its easy as pie, AND
    instead of film you can shoot cheap photo PAPER. easy to process ( even in instant coffee easy ) and make contact prints or those other thingys with a gizmo. ... if you find a speed graphic or similar, you can use ANYTHING for a lens seeing there is a shutter in the camera ... talk about cheap :smile:
    the only set back is it is about 3x ( maybe more ! ) the size of a 35mm camera and then you need film/paper holders.

    good luck with your conundrum !
    john
     
  12. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    That seems shockingly bad to me. A full stop off? Mine both came to me after a CLA (Oleg Khalyavin) and the speeds were spot on. No reason for them not to be, as far as I can tell; the timing mechanism for the fast speeds is really simple, so if they're severely off, either the shutter tension isn't even between the curtains (which would make for uneven exposures across the frame) or something is seriously interfering with the shutter speed rod.

    Did you do your own CLA? If so, I'm curious if you have any guesses as to where the timing problem is coming from.

    I agree---I've always wondered why the rest of the world didn't learn from their design in this respect. The fSU combined rangefinder-viewfinder was an original design rather than "borrowed", wasn't it?

    -NT
     
  13. q_x

    q_x Member

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    Thanks Folks!

    There's one question still haunting me: is the lever or the knob more prone to a major breakage?
    My Zenit 3M often skips frames, and I've had Zenit E transport serviced, both seem to be related to lever mechanism. But I've never had a camera with a knob. I guess (but only guess) less parts is better again, am I right?

    Black yarn may be the solution, or plumbing the rangefinder.

    I don't mind!
    In fact, I have three cameras here without slow speeds (Zenits), all working for years now, all with 1/30 as the slowest speed. The one I like most is Zenit 3M, which is in fact based on those rangefinders.

    The cheap solution to scratched glasses is a rubber o-ring, I guess. I'll work it out somehow.
    I don't mind having no removable back.
    Zorki 6 is 650g
    Fed 2 is slightly under 600g, it's not that important, but I like the look better. Diopter adjustment would be possible :smile:.
    Mir is hard to find here (strange, but true), which is a bad sign as far as parts go.
    Zorki 1 is 520g plus 100-130g of lens, Fed-1 is only 10g heavier

    Kiev 4AM is 750g, 100 g of a difference is a lot here. My backpack weights 90g (about 3 oz.). But I love it's brass curtains too!

    Randy, Moskva is on it's way! Cheers!
    Zorki 5 - tiny bit over 600g, still close to the rest.

    Wiedzmin - let's not get into politics, it's not the point. For me we were under occupation till 89, behind iron curtain, with Soviet army all over the place and people running away from here in every imaginable way. I'm trying to make PhD together with history students here, we're sort of sharing the view.

    limnidytis - I guess it's one more point for Zorki 1 :smile:

    John, those are really expensive. Never mind "per click" cost, I can make less photos with those. The gear to start is 10-20x the price of a rangefinder. I even thought of building 4x5 myself some years ago, and now I'm starting to think again. It can't be that hard to make a point and click camera if I have lens, shutter and film holder made for me :D

    Today I'm all-in for Zorki 1C or 2 and Fed 2, 1C seems to be the most popular Zorki 1 variant. If you have anything better, please tell me what and why.

    Edit: also Zorkis 5 and 6 have only slower speeds, I'm not sure about how rigid those models are

    Thanks again, you're really helpful!
     
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  15. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    q_
    unfortunately a simple yarn/Yak job hasn't been able to conquer it.
    I've been inside there 3-4 times and a now deceased respected FSU repairman couldn't fix it either.

    It's the dreaded advance spool sprocket problem... I have tried the Kiev Survival page that deals with this problem specifically to no avail.
    It's really a shame because the shutter is good and rest of the camera is in nice shape.
    No leak in subdued light but get out in some harsh sun and you're baked. Same spot in the middle, bottom of the frame every time. Anywhere from a slight flare to a full blown starburst effect emanating from the bottom of the frame (top when in camera)
    I gave up.
     
  16. sangetsu

    sangetsu Member

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    An honorable mention is the Zorki 2. Not so many of these were made, but I have been able to find a cheap, working camera from time to time. The Zorki 2 has a much-improved shutter mechanism, and still retains the apearance and pocketability of the original Barnack Leica. Other good features are strap lugs and a self timer. The last one I bought even had a flash synch.
     
  17. q_x

    q_x Member

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    Seems like there's no point in trying more indeed. Either you could do it, or not.
    My bet is you'd have parts donor, but since Contax are great cameras...

    I have some 2C available here, still waiting for reply if those are complete and in serviceable condition.
    It looks like those brands were only gaining weight with time, and I wonder where to stop, looks like Zorki and Fed 1 or 2 now.
     
  18. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    I undoubtedly will try again in 6 or 8 months after the winter comes again.
    I know where it is coming in so I hate to let it "get" me.
    Like I said the camera is nice in subdued light hahaha.
     
  19. q_x

    q_x Member

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    Winter months are busy for me TBH, winter is incredibly photogenic and days are short. I can't stop myself from going out. Days are short, but if the sun shines, for 100% of the time it's the right light to take photos, at least at my lattitude. Last winter was over 6 months long, warm at first and incredibly cold by the finish. One of those years when one could buy ice cream and eat it by a frozen lake, or cool down his or her forehead with some snow that's about to melt.

    Sure, I still have two stoves to hmm... be fed. Zorki C it'll be, dated 1957. Bought it already (not cheaply), and now I'm done. It fits somewhere between models 1 and 2, it has flash sync and dual rangefinder/viewfinder and a collapsible lens, It was as close to mint condition, as humanly possible. The inferior camera with appropriate lens.

    Once again, thanks for your input everyone!
     
  20. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    I lived in Poland and it is true that for 50-100 PLN you can get FSU rangefinder with 50mm lens. My experience: zorki 4 sometimes eats film, kiev sometimes shutter does not work. Lenses are very good. For same money on allegro site you can get some olympus rangefinder like mju or RC series. You can not change lenses, but it is much more user friendly and less chance that you get semi functional example.

    @desertratt: comment about UK - Mustafa was for sure joking :smile: , no real racism was there.
     
  21. q_x

    q_x Member

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    Darko,
    I'm waiting for Minolta Hi-matic CS to arrive - in terms of cheap rangefinders with good lens it's about as cheap, as I could go.
    I've just sold Oly mju III without many regrets for about the price of this Minolta. It made good photos, but it wasn't what I was looking for.
    We have many cheap rangefinders available in questionable state, most of those are more expensive, than the Zorki was. And for some part of those there's extra problem with mercury cells, that are no longer manufactured. For mint condition or "tested and will work" state the price goes up.

    My students have about 1/4 failure rate due to power problems in their cameras, they either have to charge batteries or lend a camera from their mates - that's within 90 minutes of classes. On a multiday trip I'd rather take what will work without electricity or something weather-sealed, like first Oly AF model, but with a battery easy to purchase on the trail - even fairly modest CR2 is not one of those (though LR44 cell is).

    Now, I spent 25 euros for the camera. It's about half the price they want for Oly XA, Oly mju II or Canonets, and it's not what I'd take with me anyway. Minolta was about half the money. Plasticky, automatic, toy-like. And if it'll break I can't buy crappy part donor, start learning, take it apart and fix. It's broken.

    I have some Japanese gear and I adore it. It is reliable, dependable, but not quite as hardy or serviceable, as FSU rangefinders. Plus still, I can sell my soul for top notch Leica lenses and produce proper results with it.
    Cheers!
     
  22. pstake

    pstake Member

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    Q ... can I recommend that you look at a Minolta Freedom-Tele (aka Minolta Tele AF Super in Europe).

    It does require a CR44 battery and it's autofocus, but it's stupid-cheap and has a phenomenal lens. I got three of them in working order for $20.

    Very simple to use as well, so good for students.

     
  23. q_x

    q_x Member

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    pstake I've been trying Oly mju III 80 last winter. It's "wearther-sealed", smaller, lighter and better equipped than the Minolta (though mine has a bit dimmer lens, not sure about the quality): 11 field AF, AFAIK two separate exposure metering units, spot metering with af lock etc. All I could wish for is better sharpness at the edges and less vignetting, it still beats tessars, but what doesn't nowadays... I've sold it.
     
  24. limnidytis

    limnidytis Member

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  25. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I measured the speed---actually this thread inspired me to dig out my FED-2 and do it again, and even though I'd thought the shutter was messed up after my efforts to adjust the tension, the times were excellent. The thing is, the timing mechanism is just the position of a release pawl on the shutter speed rod, if I remember correctly---the only things that really *can* go wrong (other than pieces being broken off) are shutter tension, rotational speed of that rod, and shutter obstructions. But it sounds like...

    ...that might have to do with the tensioning mechanism itself. I don't know what the travel time specs are---all I've ever done is fiddle with them until the capping problem went away.

    -NT
     
  26. q_x

    q_x Member

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    Regarding slow speed - if it's repeatable, and the frames are exposed without any problems, I wouldn't consider it to be a bad thing. A feature. I'd just measure the exposure time precisely...

    After the ohter thread I've started, I consider this to be really wise advice. Thanks a bunch! Graflex may be something in my range, again, in "sort of working condition" :D

    Cheers!