Saturday, 7 March 2015

Fed 2 (B4) (ФЭД)

I wanted a Fed camera since I first saw one many years ago. The external design is very much "form follows function" (and I suspect the internals is as well). When I finally bought a Fed, it was a Model 5B which was box-like and anodyne - it also leaked light and I got rid of it after my test film.  This Fed 2 is much better. 

Fed-2 (C) John Margetts

A brief history: the Fed was originally conceived as a training project for boys in a Ukrainian children's home. The idea was to teach the boys basic engineering by making quality cameras - the model selected being the German Leica II. They are often decried as being poor copies of the Leica but I don't think they are either poor or copies. The Fed 1 was essentially a copy of the Leica II redesigned to allow it to be made on less sophisticated machine tools by trainee engineers. The Fed 2 (the camera this blog article is about) is a complete redesign so it is more accurate and meaningful to say that it is inspired by the Leica II rather than a copy of it.

After the Germans destroyed the Fed factory in Kharkov, Ukraine during World War II, production was transferred to the KMZ factory near to Moscow - this resulted in the Zorki-Fed and, ultimately, the Zorki line of cameras. I bought one of these  - a Zorki 4 - and I am very pleased with it. The joint lineage of these two cameras is clear but they are very different.

So - both the Zorki and fed line of cameras are based on the German Leica II. The Fed 2 was made between 1955 and 1970. The Ukrainian seller tells me mine is a Model 2, Type B4 so it was made between 1956 and 1958. The quality of the Soviet engineering is shown by the fact that the camera is working well after 60-odd years.

This camera is a 35mm rangefinder camera. the top plate measures 140 mm by 32 mm. There is a raised "L" shaped hump in the middle of the plate. This houses the rangefinder mechanism. In the front of this are two windows - the viewfinder window and the rangefinder window. They are 67 mm apart which means that the rangefinder will be very accurate - this aspect of the Fed 2 was taken from the Zeiss Ikon Contax camera. The windows on the Leica II are much closer together.

Fed-2 top plate
On the left end of the top plate is the rewind knob. this pulls out to make rewinding the film easier. At the base of the rewind knob is a lever to adjust the dioptre level of the viewfinder. This excellent device means I can use the camera without wearing my glasses.

On the left end of the top plate is the film advance knob. This turns clockwise which I find to be non-intuitive but it works well enough. Beneath the film advance knob is the frame counter. This counts up from zero to a maximum of 36. Beside the film advance is the shutter release. This is towards the back of the top plate which I find to be a less than natural position but, again, it works well enough. The shutter release is threaded for a standard cable release. Around the shutter release is a milled collar. This is the rewind clutch - you press it down and turn it clockwise where it will lock in position while you rewind the film. Once the film is rewound, you must turn the collar anti-clockwise before loading a new film.

Blog (C) John Margetts, 2015

Next along is the speed selector dial. This is set by lifting the dial and rotating to the required speed. There is a central post with an engraved dot to mark the selected speed. This is a big improvement over the usual Soviet system as the shutter on this camera can be set either before or after the film is advanced. The usual advice for Soviet cameras is to only change the shutter speed after winding on the film. Actually, as far as I am concerned, I always advance the film immediately after taking a picture - I do this so that the camera is always ready - so I am always going to set the shutter speed after advancing the film.

Also on the top -plate, in line with the lens, is an accessory shoe. There are no flash contacts here - 1956/8 is much too early - so a 'cold' shoe in flash terms.

The rear of the top plate has the camera serial number. This does not match then usual Soviet system of starting the serial number with the year of manufacture so dating the camera by this number is not straight forward. The front of the top plate is engraved with the model name in Cyrillic - ФЭД-2 or FED-2 in Latin script - and ФЭД is repeated on the top near the rewind knob.

The front of the camera is simple. There is the M39 (also called LTM) lens mount offset to the left of centre. At the top of the mount, the rangefinder cam slightly protrudes. In fact, this is in then way of screwing in the lens and it is essential to set the focus on the lens to its nearest point (1 metre in this case) to make fitting the lens practicable.

To the right of the lens mount is the flash PC socket. In later versions of the Fed -2 this PC socket gets moved onto the top plate - this is one of the ways of determining the type of Fed-2 you have. This camera has no shutter delay lever - again, added to later versions of the Fed-2. What I do appreciate is the presence of a strap lug at either end of the camera.

The base of the camera has a fixing cam at either end. turning both half a turn allows the back/base to be removed to allow fitting and removing of the film. The base also has a tripod bush (the old standard of 3/8 inches Whitworth so none of my tripods will fit unless I 'borrow' a 1/4 inch slug from one of my Zeiss Ikon cameras to fit into the 3/8 inch thread).
Fed -2

The lens that came with this camera is an Industar-26M which is a 50 mm, f/2.8 Tessar type lens. I suspect this is the original lens for the camera - it is certainly of the correct type and date. The lens focusses from 1 m to infinity and has apertures available from f/2.8 to f/22. There is also a depth of field scale which is invaluable if, like me, you use hyperfocal focusing (at f/22, everything from 1.5 m too infinity will be in focus if you set the focus at 3 m). The lens is coated - as is to be expected in the late 1950s - signified by a red п - on the lens bezel.

In use, this is a capable and pleasant camera. The shutter is as quiet and vibration free as a cloth focal plane shutter is going to be and much more gentle than either my Zenit E or Zorki 4. The viewfinder eye-piece is rather small and is surrounded by a milled steel ring which is bad news for modern plastic spectacles. On the plus side, there is a dioptre adjustment for the viewfinder so I can use this camera without wearing my glasses. Also, the viewfinder is not as bright as it could be. It is tinted green/blue to give maximum contrast with the yellow rangefinder spot which is really clear and makes the rangefinder easy to use.

On the negative side, I have had a serious problem with loading the film. On the face of it, loading is really easy - you insert the end of the film beneath a brass strap on the (brass) take-up spool and then wind-on. Unfortunately, my first film slipped out of place after I had replaced the back. When I thought I was advancing the film, the film was winding around the sprocket shaft rather than around the take-up spool Once there was five or six frames around this shaft the camera completely jammed. This was quite easy to sort out but involved opening the back of the camera with the film in place and cost me half a roll of film.

Despite the seller assuring me that the rangefinder had been correctly adjusted prior to sale, it is clearly not. When the lens is focussed at infinity, the rangefinder split image will not coincide.  As adjusting this is fairly simple, I might have a go myself, but I am not really bothered as I usually use hyperfocal focusing rather than precise focusing. On the other hand, it would be nice to have the camera as it should be.

Examples from the test film to follow.

3 April 2015

Test film was a disaster!  One picture from a 24 exposure cassette.  I am hoping that this is me leaving the lens cap on (I certainly did that few some shots) and I am trying a second film with the lens cap left at home.

Fed 2 test film

Apart from the appalling light differences from left to right (entirely down to me) this shot is quite good. Focus is good, contrast is good, exposure is good.  With an older focal plane shutter there is a likelihood of the two shutter curtains not moving smoothly together leaving differently exposed strips.  Hopefully with the second film I will be able to report more thoroughly on this camera.

Second film

This is no better. I am certain the lens cap was not left on as it was left at home.  Three images from 24 frames - not very good and shows that the shutter is not opening most of the time. This is strange, as with no film loaded, and the back removed, the shutter definitely opens every time. My best guess is that the back is either fouling something or is distorting the body.  In addition to the shutter not opening, there are very clear pin-holes in the shutter curtain. This shows up in the black frames below are three bright spots. These are also visible on the three images I got. The camera is useless.

Fed 2 - with three very clear pin-holes

Fed 2 - pin-holes not so clear but still there

Fed 2 - clear pin-holes
Fed 2 - pin-holes with the film not wound on for some time
Fed 2 - pin holes with the film wound on fairly quickly - so smaller spots.