A few weeks ago a friend let me borrow his FED 5 camera when he heard I was into photography. Apparently he’d had it around but never used it. I’d read about old Soviet/Russian rangefinders but hadn’t actually held one. So here was my chance to see one up close.
Before I get into details, let me first say that the Internet is awesome. I learned so much about this camera from various sites. My favorite one about FEDs turned out to be the rangefinders section of Matt’s Cameras. Wonderful site, especially for classic rangefinder enthusiasts like myself. I also loved the section on folders (don’t have a folder yet but maybe someday a Kodak Retina I…). I also got some very helpful tips and suggestions from a RF list, especially from one guy in particular (I’ll call him RFguy), who helped me solve most of the problems I encountered with the camera.
The camera itself was/is pretty clean, with the case in good condition as well. This is a FED 5, not a 5b or 5c. First thing I noticed about this one: the rangefinder wasn’t working. Turns out that the arm had gotten stuck and turning the focusing ring on the lens didn’t do anything. So thanks to a tip from the RF list, I simply removed the lens, wiggled the arm and it popped out. This seems to be a common problem (i.e. the arm getting stuck) because I’ve had to pull it out every so often.
Other noticeable problems: the rangefinger wasn’t aligned correctly — both vertically and horizontally; the pressure plate was scratched; there were no foam or felt light seals. Otherwise everything seemed fine: shutter fired at all speeds, film winder worked smoothly, self-timer was functional, even the selenium meter was operational. The Industar-61 L/D lens looked very clean.
Adjusting the rangefinger was the toughest part. I had a lot of trouble opening the front panel, but apparently all I needed was to pry the thing open with a fingernail. I had been too careful in not wanting to scratch or somehow move the viewfinder glass…but it’s more secure than it looks. The collar around the rangefinger window was just as secure, because after removing the plate, I couldn’t turn it to correct azimuth. It just wouldn’t budge, no matter what tool I tried. So thanks to RFguy’s suggestion I dug out a pair of small scissors from a portable first aid kit. The ends of the scissor points weren’t even — one was a bit too large to fit into the ring, but after a few misses, I was able to successfully turn the ring loose of the paint and adjust azimuth! Let me say, this was my first time working on camera repairs and it’s kind of scary poking around a rangfinder window with scissors! Certainly, being careful is key. The horizontal correction was a piece of cake, since the screw for that is easily accessible.
I worked on the light seals earlier today. I wasn’t sure there would be light leaks but with the whole removeable back coming off the way it does, it wouldn’t surprise me if the camera leaked. I could have put some film in it, left the camera in bright light and then checked for light contamination, but I figured I’d just be cautious and install some foam anyway. All it took was a couple of thin strips of 2mm-thick black foam (available in 9″ x 12″ sheets from any crafts store and some drug stores). I just used a metal straight-edge, scissors, a metal-tipped mechanical pencil (with the lead recessed) and a stick of acid-free glue. The only strip of foam I had to glue was for the bottom of the camera back — everything else (both side-edges of the camera and the alley running above the shutter curtain on the camera body) I just nudged into place using the pencil tip. Reattaching the back is a much tighter squeeze now, but it’s still fairly easy to lock into place.
As for the scratched pressure plate: it was a long jagged scratch running down the plate. On a whim, I rolled up a piece of leftover foam strip and tried cleaning the entire plate. It took a little while, but I was able to buff out the scratch! Now the plate is much smoother with only faint signs of the scratch.
So, a roll of Superia is now in the camera and I hope to get the test roll finished soon. The flash sync/hotshoe works fine. Still need to test all apertures and shutter speeds. Hoping for: no light leaks, accurate rangefinder and proof of what’s supposed to be a great lens. Even if there are still problems, at least I’ve learned a bit about simple camera mods.
- Some history on FED cameras: check out Jim Blazik’s site (includes Zorki cameras and other Soviet RF info).