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  1. #11

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    Some basic background on these cameras: The Soviets cloned the Leica II several times, but the two lines that "took" are the FED and the Zorki. The first iterations of these are virtually identical, and AFAIK there's not much reason to prefer a 1st-generation FED vs. a 1st-generation Zorki. Each line then evolved more-or-less independently.

    If you want something that's very old-fashioned, then a FED 1, FED 2, Zorki 1, or Zorki 2 will probably fit the bill, and all will be pretty similar, with the big caveat that cameras of this age will all have their quirks (on top of the substantial sample-to-sample variability out of the factory). The Commie Cameras site referenced above will give you some basic information on the model-to-model differences. FWIW, I own a FED 2 with a collapsible lens that I use as a take-anywhere camera, since it can fit in a jacket pocket (but not in jeans pockets). It works reasonably well in this respect, and I've taken a few decent photos with it. Its rangefinder image is displaced vertically, which makes focusing a bit weird, since the images line up correctly horizontally but not vertically, but otherwise it works just fine.

    If you want something more sophisticated (with a built-in meter, for instance), a more recent model may be in order. I've got a FED 5 that's a capable camera, and the Industar 61L/D lens is pretty sharp. (My sample is very stiff, though; it needs a CLA, but I've never gotten around to doing one.) The FED 5 has a built-in selenium light meter, which works like many hand-held selenium meters, but doesn't require an extra pocket to hold it. It's bulkier than my FED 2, so it's not really a pocketable camera like the FED 2.

    Note that some of the older models, particularly in the Zorki line, are bottom-loaders. This design can be a bit awkward, particularly if you want to load film in the field, since it requires extra-long leaders. Cutting a new leader isn't that hard, but you'll either need to do so at home and take pre-cut film with you or take scissors or a knife with you to do it just before loading the camera. Both my FEDs are back-loaders, like most 35mm cameras (although the backs come off entirely). I think the FED 1 was a bottom-loader. I'm not sure when Zorkis changed from bottom- to back-loading.

  2. #12

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    It seems like the FED-2 and Zorki-4 are widely liked, but given the uneven quality control and varied histories of these cameras, it's probably generally true that the best Soviet camera is the one that's been recently CLAd by someone competent, rather than any particular model.

    Both have combination view-/rangefinder windows, which IIRC the Leica II didn't, so if you're set on duplicating that aspect of the "real thing" you'll want one of the earlier models. The original FED-1 and Zorki-1 are the closest clones of the Leica II, AFAIK.

    -NT


    -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_

  3. #13
    nicefor88's Avatar
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    I agree with 2F/2F, why not save a bit and get the real deal. Leica are so nice so why bother looking for make-believe from the Cold War and poorly engineered in the counterfeit paradise?

  4. #14

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    From an Engineer's POV:

    I have owned Zorkii-1, Zorkii-3S, Zorkii-4K, Fed-2 and Fed-3.

    Fed-2 is my favorite, small size, long RF base, simple mechanism (no slow speed beyond 1/30, which is ok). It is easy to fix and can take a far amount of abuse.

    I always think of it as the AK-47 of rangefinder. Get the older ones without timer or "mushroom film advance" and they are almost indestructible if reassembled and lubricated correctly.

    Mine is always good-to-go with some occasional maintenance and adjustment.

  5. #15
    Erik Petersson's Avatar
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    My favourite among Russian rangefinders is Ukrainian - the Kiev 4. Pretty well made contax copies. But only buy one that has been fixed in beforehand, as the general advice here is. Mine is fine, but will strangely enough not wind correctly beyond 24 frames.

  6. #16

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    Good advice. My Kiev-4 looked georgeous, but made awful grinding noises when the film was wound and soon stopped working altogether. The repair cost almost as much as buying a CLA'd one from as US dealer.

  7. #17
    RPippin's Avatar
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    I've bought two Zorki 4K's and love both of them. If you have a good pro photo shop close by, they can do the service work, if not contact Pro Photo in Charlottesville Virginia. Otherwise FEDKA.COM is the place for good user cameras. I have been very happy with both the reliability and smoothness of mine and take them with me everywhere for those moments when I don't have a medium format or large format with me.

  8. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by nicefor88 View Post
    I agree with 2F/2F, why not save a bit and get the real deal. Leica are so nice so why bother looking for make-believe from the Cold War and poorly engineered in the counterfeit paradise?
    They're hardly "poorly engineered"---it's the build quality that can be an issue, not the design. No argument, the quality control was dubious and there are a lot of Soviet-made cameras out there with problems---but the good ones are perfectly good.

    Personally, I quite like my Soviet rangefinders on their own merits, apart from notional comparisons to Leicae (or anything else). I don't view them as "make-believe" cameras; they have an amusing history as Leica copies, but you can't actually see that amusing history in the pictures that come out of them, I find.

    -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_

  9. #19

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    One real downside of the finish on some the eyepieces. This is something to consider if you shoot wearing glasses, particularly those with plastic lenses.
    Charles
    Last edited by C A Sugg; 05-05-2009 at 11:28 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  10. #20

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    I have done the whole russian rangefinder thing, and have come the conclusion that variation in sample is everything. I have a zorki 1 that honestly, is every bit as smooth and nice as an old screw mount leica111 I once owned.
    I have had some that were junk.

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