Advantages of an FSU camera
A while ago, I planned to purchase a FED 2 or perhaps a Zorki 4k. I picked up an Industar 61 L/D here in anticipation of the purchase.
Since then, I've continued playing with various fixed lens compact rangefinders like the Canonet 17 GIII and the Olympus 35RC/DC.
I've come to realize that what I like most about rangefinders are their compact size and how quiet the shutters are.
I now am on the fence about picking up a FSU camera. From what I've seen, they are larger, louder and have harder to use rangefinders. The only advantage over the fixed lens compacts seems to be the ability to change lenses.
I'm at a crossroad. I recently picked up a Olympus 35RD and SP that are in need of maintenance. Short term, I can't justify paying for a CLA with both of those and purchasing a FED 2.
So those of you who have used more rangefinders, what are the strengths of the FSU cameras? At least starting with the I64 LD, the lens reach would be the same so there isn't any differentiation there and I don't know how the image quality would compare to the other cameras I've listed.
From a street photography capability standpoint, the main option I feel like I'm missing is an aperture priority camera (the GX/7sII are definitely outside the price range of what I'd like to pay for at this point). Still, there is so much out there about the FED 2 in particularly that I feel like I'm missing something.
Some friends of mine (twins) shared a Kiev IVa, that was a camera that turned out astonishingly good quality for it's price and was decently made. I have a FED 2 that O bought off APUG it's OK but not in the same league build wise, perhaps I'm jaundiced because I also have a Leica IIIA (& an M3) it's still a nice camera though.
I'm still lusting after Bill Spears Zenit C which is a wonderful early Russian SLR based on a Zorki C, essentially an SLR based around a Russian Leica copy. It's the reverse of the Cosina rangefinders which were based on their SLR.
I actually have a dead Contax IIIa (probably needs a new ribbon) with a damaged Sonnar 1.5 I was probably going to put up on Ebay shortly. I'd both for a working camera as neither is usable to me at this point.
If the build of the Kiev IIa is even in the same ballpark on quality, it must be a great camera. The feel of the Contax is just awesome.
I looked over one the first Contax's for someone about 3 years ago, it had been his fathers, and the build quality was poor, it was not worth restoring, however II's and II's were a vast improvement, Zeiss had learnt by their mistakes.
I'd say that's a fair summary, although the FED-2 (and perhaps one or two other fSU models?) has an RF base that's probably longer than most of the compacts.
Originally Posted by Brian Legge
Of course a lot of people just find the fSU cameras pleasant to use, too; their manual controls are designed with the expectation that they'll be used (as opposed to some of the compacts, where things like changing the aperture can feel like they were designed in as afterthoughts), they have a certain mechanical-age feel that newer cameras often lack, and they smell interesting.
My experience of both (Hi-Matic 7s, FED-2, Mir==Zorki-4 without slow speeds) is that the compact is convenient and reliable but feels weird in use; the focussing throw is too short, the tab is an inconvenient blocky shape, and the shutter release has a strange spongy feeling. By contrast, the commie cameras are capable of misbehaviour, lack modern conveniences like a meter, and require more manual fiddling, but they feel like *proper* *cameras*. None of this is visible in the resulting photos, of course, except when the Mir decides to cap slightly at the very edge of the frame, but it affects what camera I want to use on any given day.
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A few years ago I saw an exhibition of photography by Che Guevara, the American's friend all shot with FSU cameras. He was an excellent photographer and the images were superb.
For easy of use and convenience a modern fixed lens Japanese rangefinder wins hands down, but the FSU cameras are more fun and also more flexible.
I don't like that much adventure when using my camera.
Originally Posted by Ian Grant
If you don't want to stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them.
This will sound strange, but I prefer my FED2 due to its reliability. Once I found one that worked properly, it proved absolutely reliable. I can't say that of my compact rangefinders.
I've owned and used both and I wouldn't say the FSU cameras where unreliable, although I wore out a Zenit E while still at school
Originally Posted by Mark Fisher
There's a sloppiness in some FSU cameras that you notice in the wind/rewind etc where tolerances aren't good but they still seem to work & last.
My own Japanese compacts have been fine, but my sisters Yashica GTN fell apart a few days after a service in Australia, it hadn't been put back together properly and the screws all came loose during her flight to Singapore !!!!
I have a FED2, Zorki4, Canon GIII, and Minolta 7s. Advantages of a FSU over a compact RF are:
Interchangeable lenses (as you stated) - but how many FSU owners have more than 1 lens
Makes you look like a real photographer - "Is that a Leica?"
Easy to repair - not only easier but you get more practice
Better in a street fight - Would you rather be swinging a Zorki or a Canonet?
I like my FSU cameras, they're fun. But when I brought a camera to a recent wedding for available light b/w, it was my Canon GIII.
That's not to say you can't get excellent results. Or that some, as Mark says, are very reliable. But, if going with the odds and limited to one camera, I take the Japanese fixed lens RF.
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