Which is the best Russian copy of Leica?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by stradibarrius, Jun 26, 2009.

  1. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    I am curious which of the FSU Leica copies is considered the best?
    I am seeing tons of them on the auction site and most are in Russia.

    Their feedback is very good but I have never bought anything from the FSU.

    Do some of our US members mind sharing your experience. Were there any import duties to be paid?
     
  2. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    No duties. But you are really playing Russian (or Ukrainian) roulette. My suggestion is to buy one in the CONUS from someone who checks them out; or if you insist on dealing there, at least try one of the established resellers/dealers/repairers like ARAX--which has a very good reputation and who, in my experience, has been excellent.
    *********
    I have a Fed 2 which is a decent camera; and the Industar 61L lens (a Tessar formula with lanthum glass) is excellent. If you go the Fed 2 route, try to get a variation that has the strap lugs on it. With shipping it set me back about 35 bucks; but the diopter corrector on the viewfinder does not work. "Russian" roulette!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 26, 2009
  3. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I live in the US (in Rhode Island) and I've ordered several items from FSU eBay sellers. I've never gotten hit with import duties. I don't know if I've been lucky or if they just don't bother with this nickel-and-dime stuff. (I don't think I've ever bought more than about $150 worth of stuff at once.) I've found that FSU sellers, as a class, are more honest than US-based sellers. Maybe I've just been lucky, though.

    As to FSU Leica copies, I own a FED 2 and a FED 5. The FED 5 was new in box, but old stock, when I bought it. It had a couple of problems: Some lightproofing felt cast a shadow on the film (easily corrected with some small scissors) and the lens focus ring is very stiff (I believe the lubricant has stiffened). I tried disassembling the lens to replace the lubricant, but I didn't get too far, since one of the screws holding it together wouldn't come out, and I fear I stripped the head.

    The FED 2 is old enough that it's more of a challenge to use -- it requires a separate hand-held meter, it has no hot shoe, it has fewer shutter speeds, etc. Its rangefinder also displays an image that's off vertically, so that even when the images line up, they don't form a single image. It's still possible to focus like this, but it's a bit awkward. The accessory shoe is also dented, so it's impossible to fit a flash or auxiliary finder firmly on the camera. I expect these are age-related quirks, though, not design flaws.

    If I had to use just one of these cameras for a month, it'd probably be the FED 5; however, I'm more of an SLR guy than a rangefinder guy. I like to change lenses frequently, and that's just unspeakably awkward with an LTM39 system with a viewfinder that shows nothing but a 50mm view.
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Depends hoe pure a copy you want. Only the early FSU models were copies after that they redesigned them.

    I doubt buying one from the highly dubiously named ConUs organisation is any better than buying from the UK/EU or FSU. There's a good reason why most are in Russia/Ukraine and it's simple, at that time few in the Soviet Union had access to buying cameras from the West so they bought the locally produced cameras.

    It's quite probable that the best cameras were exported, they were readily available in the UK, most will have never needed servicing so it's mainly trust whether you buy from ConUs, Canada, US, UK, EU or FSU.

    Ian
     
  5. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Given the cost of the cameras, paying to get a CLA done still results in a pretty cheap camera. That having been said, there are a few sellers (primarily in the FSU) that do that prior to selling cameras. Their prices are (understandably) higher as a result.

    I have a bunch of these cameras and all but two have been CLA'd. The two came from reputable dealers. I'm quite happy with all of them (given the price that I paid for them). They are quirky and prone to problems, but a good one can be a very capable shooter.

    Fed and Zorki cameras are Leica screw mount, and Kievs are Contax rangefinder mount. I prefer the Feds and Zorkis as users, but some prefer the Kievs.

    I have a Fed 2b, 3a, 3b, and 5c; Zorki 4 and 4K, and a Kiev 4a. My favourites are the Fed 2b and 3a as well as the Zorki 4. (I like knob wind; I can't explain why. It fits the character of these cameras better than lever wind.)
     
  6. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    I you mean Leica copies, apart from FED and Zorki 1, I don't see. Other types are improved versions from these Leica copies but they don't compare to the Leica III for instance.

    My advice would be to buy both post-war camera and lens as they usully fit the Leica standard (28.80 mm register distance): useful if you plan to get several lenses.

    Among the "recent" variations, I would favor the Mir which is a simplified version of the Zorki 4: no unreliable slow speeds, a removable back for an easy loading and a very good finder, large and bright (with a diopter adjustement). As a standard lens, you have a large choice among Industar (22, 26, 50 & 61) and Jupiter (3 & 8) lines. Industar are Tessar type lenses and Jupiter are Sonnar copies.

    Hope it helps!
     
  7. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    What about Fedka.com in NYC.
    I have never used them but stumbled across them online.
     
  8. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I've never bought a body from them, but did buy a lens and finder. I found the guy to be extremely communicative, and he went out of his way to let me know that there was a potential cosmetic issue with the finder (it turned out to be a benefit; it had been filed to fit on a Fed-2, which happens to be one of the cameras I wanted it for), gave me a small refund when the shipping was cheaper than expected, and in general just came off as a very professional, likable person to work with.

    I'm nursing a case of GAS at the moment and I'm pretty sure I'll turn to Fedka for treatment when it gets bad enough.

    Disclaimer: No involvement beyond that revealed above, anecdote is not the singular of data, past performance is no guarantee of future results, and your mileage may vary.

    -NT
     
  9. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

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    I confirm. I dealt several times with Yuri (Fedka) and never had any bad surprise. Communication is excellent and even if prices are higher than on E***, the overall quality of what he offers is higher.
     
  10. Fred De Van

    Fred De Van Member

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    I and my friends have done dozens if not hundreds of successful transactions with FSU sellers, some amounting to hundreds of dollars at a pop. I too, will also recommend FedKa. Yuri simply does it right.

    I will wholeheartedly recommend CUPOG in Slovakia, who may be the finest seller, of any kind, on Ebay. When he says a camera has been CLA'd it has been and he tells you with a sticker inside the camera when and by whom and CUPOG stands behind it. His offerings have been varying widely but his quality is always as he clearly states. Best possible service and communications. A true gentleman.

    Arax (Ukraine) and Kiev Camera (US) have been perfect for me also, but most of my purchases from them have been superbly tuned and adjusted new items. I buy mostly new stuff. and in the FSU 15 year old New-Old Stock happens often, but most of what buy is still in production. It is not impossible to find NOS Kiev 4x cameras and lenses. During the transition in the late 90's and early 2000's many bills were paid with warehouses full of cameras and other items which were manufactured to production quotas instead of consumer demand.

    True Leica copies ended decades ago but there is a huge supply, and in almost every case the "improved" models are mechanically much better, even though the later cameras such as the Fed 5 look awkward, ungainly and starkly ugly, they do work as competent photographic devices.

    I have had good results with a few others as well.

    Since I, by choice, (I do have others) use KIEV MF cameras for professional projects there is no room for problems. Gevorg (Arax) and Michael (Kiev Camera) are two I can depend on if there should be a problem. Mike is in the US and both are easily reachable. ARAX even posts their hours and notifies about holidays and vacations by e-mail.

    There is even a reliable (and very affordable) repair service in Brooklyn NY. Eddie Smoloff, 718-622-5373 originally worked for Arsenal (KIEV) factory. Others in New Jersey, Holland and Germany.


    Two terriffc resources are:http://forums.delphiforums.com/kievreport/start
    and
    http://www.kievaholic.com/
    Both are heavily skewed toward the Medium Format cameras but 35mm is there, just look for it.

    For research on all things FSU, Nathan Dayton's Commie Camera site

    Fred
     
  11. leicavit

    leicavit Member

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    Depends on if you mean strictly the Leica II copies,(which I prefer). Any of the 1950s FED's or Zorki's that are in GWO - good working order - are good choices.
    In particular, the later versions of the FED 1 or the Zorki model 1 or 2.
    Most of these cameras came with the Industar 10 or Industar 22 lens. A collapsable 50mm that is a copy of the Leitz Elmar. I personally don't like these lense because the only hoods that fit are the two original Leitz hoods. More expensive than the camera itself.
    Better, sharper lense are the Industar 50, 46M, or 61 models. Rigid mount and use 1950s standard size hoods.
    Main thing is checking the condition of camera. If you're buying mail order/internet get a return privilege.
    A good Zorki/FED will be ALMOST the camera a prewar Leica is.
    Rangefinder should be bright/constrasty. Viewfinder clear. Shutter snappy at all speeds. Shutter curtains can have marks, but not dry spots or repairs. MOST important , the film wind should be smooth and easy. Beware those that are not.
    Hope this helps.
     
  12. ZorkiKat

    ZorkiKat Member

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    Prewar FED-1 are nice, if found clean and working. They average more than 70 years in age, and even if they've had repairs sometime, they may have been stored too long to work properly without a fair amount of servicing.

    They also don't have proper the LTM focus register and lens mount. They have varying flange-to-focal distances (usually shorter or longer than 28.8mm)- variations by as little as 0.01 mm are enough to cause focus errors). And each camera has a matched lens and body, which when 'divorced' and rematched with others, will almost guarantee wild focusing.

    The lens mount thread is also different. The prewar FED had a metric thread pitch- Leica used the English pitch. This could cause threads on either lens or camera to strip.

    Speaking of compatibility, even the later FED or Zorki don't necessarily allow easy mounting of non-FSU lenses. The entry / park points of the threads in FSU Leica copies aren't standard. Some may allow correct mounting. Many won't- at best the distance/f-stop scales of the lens will be read from the side or the bottom instead of the top. At worst, lenses with 'tongue-shaped' cams will mesh with the camera's rf follower.

    One thing about FSU Leica copies that I noticed to be unique is their bright and contrasty rangefinders. Most of the Leica or Canon I've seen have either weak or faded rangefinder patches. This is rare with FED or Zorki. They almost always have contrasty RF- even the 70 year old ones have surprisingly snappy patches.
     
  13. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Well I bought a FED2 w/I28 and a Zorki4 w/J8. They are both invery ggod condition and eveything seems to work smoothly. I am shooting a test roll in the Zorki4 first.
     
  14. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    After all the good information I got here as I said I was able to pick up a Zorki4 w J8 and a FED2 w/ I26.

    Here are some of the test shots from the Zorki 4 with KodakBW400CN. I shot these without my handheld meter. I just guessed at the exposure starting at the sunny 16 rule.
     

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