View Full Version : Best Russian RF?
O.K., I've seen some posts in the gallery taken with the Fed-2 (Taffer) and other Russian RF's and the results are really nice. I have always heard the Russian RF's have unreliable quality and it's basically a "crap shoot" when you buy one.
My questions are:
1. How reliable are they?
2. Which model is the best user?
3. What lenses wide-tele are best?
I think you can add;
What dealer should you do business with?
There were a couple threads early on at this site. I believe there is a Forum for Russian Rangefinders, when you are in there change the view box to see all threads since the beginning and I am sure you will find them.
Iíve got over 30 of these guys in my collection now, most of them purchased directly from the Ukraine and Russia, but a few acquired from US vendors or disappointed US auction buyers. Some lessons I have learned as an American buyer:
The overwhelming majority of the Ukrainian and Russian auction Sellers are good people, but many know little about cameras and deal in a multitude of goods. Some do not understand that a take-up spool is an essential part of some cameras, and some do not read or write English/American well enough to figure out what you are asking them. Instead they rely on translation software.
Getting money into Russia and Ukraine to pay for goods is more complex than buying from Canada but easier than buying from Great Britain. Never send cash. Bidpay has high fees. Look for Vendors who use WesternBid in Minneapolis as a payment agent or the occasional one who has a Paypal account (usually in the name of a third person in a third country) Donít do 3 or 4-way transactions where you pay for the Sellerís purchases in the US with your Paypal to offset the payment you owe him/her in the foreign country.
Always remember that these cameras, especially the rangefinders, are OLD. They range from 50 plus years of age to 25 years of age and have all of the problems that cameras of this age will have.
There were periods of time in the USSR when good materials were not readily available. Quality of manufacture suffered as a result. Chrome is not always smooth and shiny, plastics become brittle or gummy, metals gears may be too soft or worse yet, soft metal gears may be matched up with hard metal gears.
Quality control varied from good to non-existent. It varied between manufacturers and across time periods. If youíve ever purchased a brand new Japanese camera and taken it out of the box, donít expect this experience with a camera made in the USSR.
Soviet cameras (other than the German designed Kiev) tended to have simpler designs and engineering than their German counterparts. They were designed to be easier and less costly to manufacture and repair. Concomitantly, they are a little less user friendly. The Kiev on the other hand is neither simple nor user friendly.
All of the 35mm rangefinders are potentially good cameras, with the potential to have good lenses. The Soviets were almost manic about making good quality glass. But they were not able to put most of that glass in mounts which match the best of the West Germans. For 35mm cameras all of the 50-58mm lenses made after the war can be good lenses if they were built properly and cared for well. The 35mm Jupiter-12 is also good. The 85mm Jupiter-9 is good, but is occasionally in bad mechanical condition because it is hard to work on. Those bad examples have usually suffered from poor maintenance and improper maintenance. I have no experience with Soviet lenses longer than 85mm except for medium format lenses on the Moskva and Kiev 60.
As for 35mm rangefinder bodies, once you get past the condition and wear and tear issues, are good designs. There are a lot of personal preferences involved, because some viewfinders are significantly different from others; film loading varies between bottom loaders, removable backs and hinged backs; and some have neckstrap lugs while others do not.
If you are going to buy from Ukraine of Russia, plan on eventually buying more than one in order to get one that is 100% functional.
Donít buy cheap. After you figure in shipping, repairs and downtime, the higher cash outlay for one that is imported by someone else and that is 100% functional could become a bargain. I have dealt with Robert and CJ at Russianplaza. They have been very good to me. Mike Fourman at Kievcamera is also very reputable. He answers the phone, but takes longer to answer e-mails. Call him rather than e-mailing. Yuri Boguslavsky at Fedka has a very high reputation, but I have not actually purchased from him. Your net cost in purchasing from one these guys could be no higher than buying cheaply in Russia or the Ukarine and sorting out all of the unexpected complications. Also, Russianplaza has shipped to me in Texas buy Priority Mail. It typically takes 2 days from Hollywood to Texas.
Yes!! I'm warming to the idea of a Russian RF!
Saw some wide angle street shots and though "Must get a wide angle camera"
First search pulled up a Ricoh GR21, (21mm point and shoot, but very expensive)
Then I bid on an 28mm basic SLR, which I'm glad to say I didn't win. heavy & clunky!
So... can any one recommend a Russian RF which will take a nice 21 or 28mm lens?
Oh, and I don't wan't the hassle of messing with take up spools or making film leaders. (I know that restricts me a bit)
I'm thinking Fed 5? Any suggestions?
A meter (working) would be nice too! Are all the meters selenium based?
I'd recommend a Zorki 4k. I've got one, which I bought from a classic camera dealer, which works pretty well. The Feds there did not look as user friendly and I did not like the rangefinders as much (The Feds have circular RF patches, while the Zorki has a rectangular one, albeit with slightly fuzzy edges).
Another bonus is that these come from the latter era of Soviet cameras, so are 'only' about 30 years old.
From what I have heard, the wide-angles are slow and poor, with the best lenses being the 50mm (many configs were available, this has been discussed elsewhere on the site), and the Jupiter-9 85mm/f2, from which I'll get some pics back soon.
By the way, the GR21 is expensiver, but the GR1 series, with an excellent 28/2.8 is about half the price. It's the only 'proper' camera I own, and the results are always superb.
Hope this helps,
>1. How reliable are they?
I have many Soviet RF's and have been using them for just over a year now, I have yet to have one break down thru use. On the other hand I have had several arrive not fully functional i.e. pin holes in the shutter curtain, shutter not operating correctly due to grease/lube going thick, dirty viewfinder, RF out of alignment etc. Most of the problem cameras have been because of me looking for a bargains (you get what you pay for, yeah I know) or buying older rarer models (less to choice from) or taking pot luck with a new seller. Btw: All my cameras have come out of Russia from ebay auctions. IMO its better get one that listed as "like new" or "excellent" by one of the better sellers than to try and save $10 and get a bargain camera that may not be the best as a user.
>2. Which model is the best user?
(With speeds down to 1 sec) - FED3, Zorki 3M
(with speeds down to 1/30) - FED2, Zorki 6
FED3(b) is the best bang for your $$ IMO
>3. What lenses wide-tele are best?
This is just from my experience and what I've picked up form web posts.
Best wide is the Jupiter 12, there are Soviet 28mm & 20mm's as well but for the prices they go for (if you can find one) you would be better off getting a CV lens for a user. I've got a chrome J12 that I really like, nice images.
For standard lenses most of the 50's are good I've found unless they have "cleaning marks" (more like rubbed for years with steel wool ;)) ... IMO pick of the bunch are Jupiter 8 (f2) & Ind 61 L/D (f2.8). I've also had very good results with the Ind 26m, Ind 22, Ind 50. The only real hit and miss 50mm is the fast Jupiter 3 (f1.5), some are great and some are rubbish.
For Tele's you have the Jupiter 9 (85mm/f2), its a great lens but lots of them have focus problems from being stripped and put back together wrong and are very hard to put right. There is also a 135mm but I donít have one and havenít heard much from users on it.
As far as ebay sellers go I've found the soviet sellers to be good people to deal with in general. While I don't like to recommend sellers "alex-photo" and "cupog" come to mind as good people to deal with.
I like the various FED and Kiev cameras. FED is based on the Leica camera but have a much easier way of loading film the early Leicas did.
The Kiev is based on the Contax camera and has a very good rangefinder system.
I am referring to the 35mm cameras. Both FEDs based on the Leica camera and the Kiev based on the Contax have interchangeable lenses, at least I think all models do.
You can buy many different lenses and I really couldn't recommend any particular one.
The Kiev covering isn't the best in the world but it doesn't affect the operation of the camera.
The only Zorki I have works all right but it has the Leica way of loading film where you have to trim the end of the film. The film loads but it is a nuisance to load the film into the camera.
>So... can any one recommend a Russian RF which will take a nice 21 or 28mm lens?
Just about any of the Soviet RF's (FED & Zorki) will take LTM lenses, add a VC wide to one of the bodies I mentioned above. Note: If someone is thinking of a FED2 make sure you get a later model with the high acc shoe so a finder can be fitted without problems.
>Oh, and I don't wanít the hassle of messing with take up spools or making film leaders. (I know that restricts me a bit)
The FED3(b) has a fixed spool and uses standard film leaders, there are also a few others like the FED 5 you mention. Itís a bit big and ugly IMO, but functional never the less.
If you are going to "point and shoot", you can also buy a 28mm T-mount lens, LTM T-mount adapter. and LTM Russian camera of your choice. The camera then becomes just a light tight box with a shutter.
Some good input here; thanks!
I've bought from Fedka.com, and Yuri is good to deal with. I had trouble with light leaks and shutter problems in the Kiev 4a and sent two back. For the third try he ran a roll of film through it and include the prints & negs with the camera to show it was working ok. :-)
I got a Jupiter-12 (35mm f/2.8) too, from RussianPlaza, which is a very nice lens. So's the 50mm Jupiter-8M.
But I also got another Kiev 4a from KievCamera that also has serious shutter problems. They weren't responsive to my contact efforts, so I'm looking for a US-based repair shop that will do a good reasonable job on it. Suggestions?
I'd have to agree with most of the opinions already provided. Pshinkaw has the most and probably best info. I have 9 Feds, Mir, Zorkis and sadly, no more Kiev. (I also have 14 Zenit SLR's but that's another story) In my experience, having only bought from 1 Russian seller and the rest from North America, I'd say you're better off with a Fed 5 or variant as it is newer, has a fixed take up spool, requires no cutting of a leader, and other than the looks being a matter of taste, it functions as well or better than the older models, just takes a bit of getting used to ie. shutter cocking/film advance lever rather than knob, etc. Lenses are readily available, fit all the other Feds/Zorkis if you decide to add another camera later, focuses nicely via the double image rf and if need arises, makes a formidable club or hammer for self defense LOL.
I have used:
Sorin Marcu, owner of
Eurotech Camera Service
1217 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
Voice: (512) 479-5090
Fax: (512) 479-0282
He was trained in Rumania and has experience with Soviet era equipment. I've been happy with his work.
Thanks Paul, since Oleg abruptly retired, I've been sitting on two or three cameras and lenses I needed to have fixed. Sure miss his work, but I guess it's time to move on to another repair tech.
There are really few things to add to all the good advices above, so instead I'll tell you my story :)
Well, my baptism with FSU rangefinders (and with rangefinders in general) came from Jim Blazik's site:
Todd, take a look at the pages on FSU rangefinders history (for Fed and Zorki cameras) and also at the favorite shooters section, it's really well written, fun to read and informative.
Indeed, I've been almost following his favorite shooters line, by acquiring firstly a Fed-2 from Anya, then a Zorki 3M and a Kiev 4am directly from e*ay. I've been lucky enough to get 3 hits out of 3, and they all keep working well to the date. Lately I've acquired a couple more Kievs, 'cos is a model I like a lot, and being just serviced by Oleg, they perform really smoothly.
It's difficult to recommend a 'first' one (if you end liking it then you won't stop getting more and more :) ), but probably the key is getting a good one from a reputated seller and as Laika said don't try to save $10 for a bargain as you get what you pay for.
I'd like to try a Fed-3 someday (either the a or b version), but hey, you must leave something for the future :)
Good luck with the selection ! Remember also that on most knob wind cameras, you must wind film (and hence cock the shutter) before changing shutter speeds, it's sort of a 'gremlin' rule (don't feed them after midnight!).
Allright, I'm a little overwhelmed by the response. It would seem that the majority of the folks here have at least dabbled in the Russian Rangefinder cameras, if not so gone all out to collect/use 'em.
I looked at the FED-2, Kiev 4am, Zorki and feel the need to add one to my bag. I'll let yall know when it happens, tahnks for all the info.
some of you guys really are waaaay into the fsu camera thing!
i too am somewhat overwhelmed but also glad we have such a resource here.
which leads me to my question.
i just bought a 55/2.8 fed lens from a guy in vancouver.
problem is i can't find anything in any site that matches this description. the closest thing i found is the industar 61 ld, but the seller says it's a fed lens.
can someone help me out here. i'm mostly looking for some info till i actually get the lens in my sweaty little hands, put it on a camera and see what it can do.
Thanks for the repair reference, Paul!
Todd, only one more thing, I remember being amazed of how easy and comfortable was to use my G-III Canonet when I got it, and mainly when comparing it with my FSU RFs.
But that's not a fair comparison at all, as they are two very different worlds, each one with pros and cons. A fed, a zorki, a kiev, they all require to change the 'cpu' a bit in order to enjoy them completely and I always find it refreshing when after some time using a FSU one I come back to my Oly SP, Canonet or Hi-matic and viceversa.
It's all about using and comparing, but luckily as they are pretty cheap, there's not a real need to choose, so you can use them all.
Joe, the Industars usually feature a FED logo on the front, so maybe that's the reason why the seller tells you it's a fed lens. OTH, maybe there's a collapsible FED 55/2.8 :confused: I'd say it's a I 61 (or the L/D), as the I26M was marked as a 52/2.8, you can see both lenses here:
I suppose you don't have a picture to show us, no ? ;)
not a good one - from ebay ad.
It's an Industar-61L/D, probably original equipment from a Fed-5. It's a very sharp lens which has exceptional contrast. The name "Industar61L/D" is in Cyrillic characters while the "Fed"logo is in Roman characters. That might explain why the Seller insisted that it is a Fed lens. Sometimes they require disassembly and lubrication in order to work smoothly. There are a couple of Web sites with illustrated instructions for this model. I think Matt Denton's is one of them. After you get it and if you decide to CLA it, let me know and I'll post the references.
thanks paul, i thought it looked like the 61ld from the pics i found on the net.
according to the sller it's 'like new', in great shape. we shall see...
I am on my third Russian camera, a Kiev 4a, which works perfectly. Good meter, consistent shutter, smooth focus. My Fed died after the first roll with a torn shutter strap. My Kiev 4am worked, but the slow shutter speeds were inconsistent. My current J9 in LTM is a reliable performer on the Canon 7. My first J9 in Contax mount had slop in the focus helical that made repeatable focus difficult. The problem is that few will spend $130 to CLA and repair a Kiev or Fed, but would send a Canon, Nikon or Leica in without hesitation. I spent $80 having a the aperture blades on a Nikkor F1.4 reset and the lens CLA'd; but would not do the same with a $2 Jupiter-8.
The solution? I bought the Kiev 4a from a Russian seller who had a high-rating and actually tested the camera with film. The J-9 in LTM was the "export" version. The lens looks like it had been set up to work on Leica's; the lens stops "just-short" of infinity as indicated on the distance scale. Why? If what has been written about the Russian Leica copies being set up for the 52.3mm standard, the J9 would focus slightly past what was indicated. I have never had any out-of-focus shots (other than my own fault) with this lens used wide-open, nearest focus to infinity.
These are with my $2 (from Richard Tillis of Woodmere camera) Jupiter-8 on my Kiev 4a, 1979 vintage. Metering with the Selenium Meter. JPEG did not do them Justice!
I put these links up under "new Lenses", but they belong here.
A Girl and her Dinosaur (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/1284/size/big)
Dino! Remember, Flowers are Friends, NOT FOOD! (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/1285/size/big)
Many Russian lenses suffer from dried lubricant that makes them sluggish. Some of th I-61L/D's (I have 3 of them) have the opposite problem. Their dried lubricant left the mechanical components dry and loose. They rely on grease as a packing device as well as for lubricant. These lens will "rattle loose" until they are cleaned and re-greased. They'll never have that machined smoothness of a good Leitz or Canon lens, but they should feel as smooth as a good Vivitar.
O.K., after going to various sites and eb@y, all of these multi colored Fed 2's and Kievs come up, are they just painted or what? I know after doing some research that there were some colored Feds but it's like a rainbow on eb@y.
What is an average price for a working Fed 2 or Kiev 4am? I found a Fed 2 in really nice shape for 39.00 (it's blue???) and a Kiev 4am in what appears really nice for 60.00 (it's all black but looks great).
The Kiev would take my Sonnar 50mm 1.5 off my Contax IIa (so I could keep my German body scratch free) and I could add a Jupiter 12 for a nice kit on the street!
Some FED2 were coloured but most of the ones on ebay are repaints, the original colours are muted (see pic) so donít be fooled by some that look like they would glow in the dark. Also any FED/Zorki/Kiev that has black top and bottom covers is a repaint, some look like they have done a nice job but most look like they have just gone over a camera with ugly chrome work and they then list it "as new" and ask $50+ for it.
As for what to expect to pay for a FED2 I'd be looking for something like this ... http://cgi.ebay.com.au/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15234&item=3824983710&rd=1
Note: I'm not recommend you buy this camera or from this seller but am only using it as an example, is listed "like new" itís got the original box, manual and metal lens cap. Its a late "dual logo" model with the mushroom style wind knob and has the high mounted acc shoe thatís a must if you want to mount most lens finders. I've also found the late models generally have good shutter curtains, not something I can say about the older models (more hit and miss). I would expect to pay around $30-40 "BIN" + postage for a "like new" FED2 unless it a rare model. On average FED2 go for $15-30 depends on condition/model.
This is a pic of my original blue FED2, note how most of the ones on ebay are much brighter. Also note the position of the PC socket in the body, as far as I know its the only original model to be coloured so any other with timers, repositioned sockets are likely to be repaints.
Edit: When buying a late FED2 check if it has strap lugs, the last models didn't so you have to use it with the leather case if you want to use a strap (what were they thinking!)
I paid $35 for my Kiev 4a with a total with shipping from the Ukraine under $50 from a dealer who actually tried it out and could verify the meter and slow speed operation. Noted in his description was the sound of the shutter. My prior one sounded like "Walk Don't Run". It takes the Contax Lenses; but I had to do some filing on the Tanar 135 F3.5 retaining clip to get it to fit.
Do not buy a repaint: they are typically painted over the chrome. The paint will start flaking with use. And, if done incorrectly, will mess up the camera. Look for one that has been CLA'd.
I get great results with my present 4a, and the meter is accurate.
I like the Kiev's. Well, technically, I like one. I have lost badly at Russian Roulette, and even the current one (from a renouned repairman) doesn't quite cut it- the bottom shutter blinds the last mm of a frame when I do flash photography.
That means that of the 4 Kievs I've bought, none work flawlessly.
The first one is sitting on my microwave- it's got the smoothest shutter I've ever felt on a Kiev or Contax but the body top doesn't fit quite right, and the back leaks an amazing amount of light as a result.
I bought another- it died after 3 test shots, no film yet in the camera.
I bought another but this time as a "black Kiev" from Mr. Fourman. It's shutter wasn't even across the frame at 1/1000 (later model) and I sent it back. Mr. Fourman eventually (!) sent me another, and this one's shutter was broken from the box. I sent it back, and he sent another Kiev, but this one was silver. it's shutter died after a couple test shots. I sent it back. I've called and sent e-mail reminders but he seems to have forgotten about me, and I've had great dealings with him in the past, to the point that I don't want to make too big a deal over it.
The last one, from Oleg, is nice. Rangefinder is accurate. Shutter is pretty good, too, except for the above mentioned flash issue.
I have some great lenses for it- the J-12, J-8, J-9, and J-13 are all wonderful. The CZJ 50mm chrome f/1.5 is amazing, and the lens that stays on the most. I use hoods with many of the lenses as I can, the J-13 is an exception, as I can't find a teeny hood for such a long focal length, and strangely, it seems to be the only lens I have that doesn't really need one. I've shot it through bright sunlight, heavily back-lit scenes, only to find little, if any, flare. The J-9 on the other hand, needs a hood BADLY. I use one from a Nikkor of 50's vintage, push-on. Works well, and my photographs with that lens look MUCH better than when I started using that lens (and the associated big pink blotches on my prints form the flare)
I have the late model "Black" Jupiter-9 made in 1979. I have had good luck with it, and have not noticed a flare problem. I use a filter, but not a shade. On my 1st J-9 the interior had some light haze and I cleaned it out. The coating had permanent spots in it that would flare. The coating of the black ones seems to be improved over the prior early '60s lens.
Jupiter-9 Shot (http://www.rangefinderforum.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/1287/size/big/)
I agree with all of the above. If any of that non-original paint got inside you will have a mess on your hands.
I don't think I've ever paid more than $20 plus S&H (typically an additional $15) for a Fed-2. They seem to be the most abundant. They are certainly the simplest in engineering and construction, so there is less to go wrong and they tend to be easier to fix.
The ones sold with original boxes, instructions and "passports" (authentication documents) tend to be sought after by collectors. They will cost you more in an auction. A good user model costs a little more than buying and processing two 36 exposure rolls of Kodachrome. If you go with a Fed-2, consider buying two of the same model. If you are working on one, you will have a functional example to help you put it back together again. The incremental cost of shipping should not be double.
Viewfinders: The Fed's before and after the Fed-2 had squintier viewfinders., The Zorki-3 and 4's have the best Zorki viewfinders (bigger than the Fed's)
Take-up spools: The later Fed-2's and Fed-3's plus the 4's and 5's have built in take-up spools. All the other Fed's have removable (meaning losable) spools.Always ask your Seller about the spool in the camera. Fed, Zorki and Kiev spools are not interchangeable. Kiev spools can be made out of disposable cassette spools, but the others cannot. If you need to buy a replacement spool, it will cost you about $8 from a US seller.
The Kiev's are really. really nice. They are better made overall, last longer, but once you have a problem, they become very complex machines to fix.
There was a period of time in the 60's when everyone seemed to make cameras without neckstrap lugs. That includes Soviets, East Germans and West Germans. For the most part the Japanese seemed to have resisted that trend, although some do surface from time to time. The Fed-2 is not too bad w/o a neckstrap and the Fed-5 handles OK too, but for some reason the Zorki-4 w/o a strap gives my wrist a cramp. Some models just grip easier than others I guess.
The best Russian Rangefinder? One that does what you want it do, consistently.
Does somebody have photo samples to share taken with these cameras mentioned?
My prior posts in this thread have links to two shots in the Gallery with the Kiev 4a and J-8; the entire roll came out as good as these two shots. The same is true of the J-9 in LTM; I get consistently good results with it. I have the 85mm F2 Nikkor to compare with; the J9 is somewhat softer, but yields a very pleasing portrait.
Being a good engineer, I will keep my Test Subject constant and vary the Lens and Camera used to take her picture so that you can make a fair comparison.
Here is a sample from an Industar-26m, A Tessar clone. The body was a Fed-2d.
Originally posted by Cpt.Caveman
Does somebody have photo samples to share taken with these cameras mentioned? Hi-- You can locate samples in our galleries here; just search on "kiev" or "Jupiter" or whatever, and you'll see a filtered selection!
that is a pretty sharp lens, is that in the Austin area?
This is a pic I took last summer with a FED2 with a Ind-26m 5cm lens on Fuji 400 Superia film. I had bought the camera for spare parts (for $6) but when it turned up from Russia I thought it was too good to strip so I cleaned it up and put a roll thru it to see how it would go... As you can guess I had to buy another parts camera :D
Here is a bit of detail from the top middle, both of these scans are from 4x6 prints. Web images don't do it justice. :cool:
Thats incredible for a 6 dollar camera and probably better than alot of the ones I paid way more than 6 bucks for! That Lens is really sharp.
It's from the front of the State Capitol Building. The fence in the foreground is the iron fence that runs around the front of the Capitol Grounds.
I thought it looked familiar, I was just up there last week, picked up some "Elgin Sausage" for supper.
Sausage and the State Capitol building. It's kind of a disquieting thought isn't it?
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