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  1. #1
    q_x
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    which FSU rangefinder is easiest to repair and most reliable?

    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 ). 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.
    Last edited by q_x; 05-17-2013 at 04:24 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Use the Force, Luke!

  2. #2
    benjiboy's Avatar
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    If I knew what F.S.U. was, I may be able to suggest something.
    Ben

  3. #3
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    FSU= Former Soviet Union

    I have a Kiev 4 that leaks light
    Gave up and picked up a Contax II

  4. #4
    Overkill-F2's Avatar
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    Former Soviet Union

  5. #5
    Mustafa Umut Sarac's Avatar
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    soviet union or russia , 90000 nuclear bombs pointed to your potato head to fry. did you remember something ?

  6. #6

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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
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

    The lady of the house has to be a pretty swell sort of person to put up with the annoyance of a photographer.
    -The Little Technical Library, _Developing, Printing, And Enlarging_

  7. #7
    pstake's Avatar
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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.

    Quote Originally Posted by ntenny View Post
    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

  8. #8

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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. #9

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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. #10
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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.

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