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  1. #1
    stradibarrius's Avatar
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    Which is the best Russian copy of Leica?

    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?
    "Generalizations are made because they are generally true"
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    Barry
    Monroe, GA

  2. #2
    Anscojohn's Avatar
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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 Anscojohn; 06-26-2009 at 03:35 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: add info
    John, Mount Vernon, Virginia USA

  3. #3

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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. #4
    Ian Grant's Avatar
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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. #5
    PhotoJim's Avatar
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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.)
    Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada

    A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.

    Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?

  6. #6

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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. #7
    Jeff L's Avatar
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    What about Fedka.com in NYC.
    I have never used them but stumbled across them online.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff L View Post
    What about Fedka.com in NYC.
    I have never used them but stumbled across them online.
    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
    Nathan Tenny
    San Diego, CA, USA

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  9. #9

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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. #10

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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

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