Fed 5 the Ultimate Post-apocalyptic Camera

The Fed 5 is one of the most feature packed Soviet rangefinder which does not require a battery. It is virtually undestroyable, I bet it is going to stay operational way after man kind extinct and the cockroaches rule the world. Since it has no battery an EMP blast cannot ruin it. A nuclear winter could not make any difference neither as the kit lens (Industar-61L/D) is already rumored to be slightly radioactive.

The fact is that the lens is actually is not more radioactive than a potato (not from Chernobyl). It contains a rare-earth element called Lanthanum  which  indeed has a radioactive isotope but that is very rare and not used for the glass in this lens. Do these properties make the Fed the Ultimate Post-apocalyptic Camera (UPAC)? Who knows, but I hope nobody will need to prove that I was wrong or right about this.

Anyway, I hope I have managed to catch your attention with this little intro, if you want to read my personal experience with the Fed and/or want to be a bit entertained, click more!

My feelings about my Fed5 are very ambivalent, I simple cannot decide that I actually like it and should shoot more with it or I would better keep it in the dark deep down in the cabinet. It was the very first camera in my vintage camera collection and this fact itself grants the special label in my virtual camera catalog.
So here is the camera which kicked in my collector instinct and triggered the process which lead to this classic camera blog you are reading right now, yet I wrote I have mixed feelings about it. Let’s just say that the beginnings of our relationship was not an easy ride.

Never trust your old man

At least don’t trust his film development skills if he did not touched his film development kit like 20 years ago!

Shortly after I received the camera, me and some of my film enthusiasts friends set up a nice shoot out in the neighborhood. They came to visit form another part of the country so we did visit all the nice places we could reach in 1 day. Of course we burned through a couple of rolls of black and white film through our cameras. We had a great time, great locations, superb light and most of all very high level of excitement about the results.

First shooting with the Fed 5 (Ricoh Gr Digital)

We were so eager to develop our films in the bathroom that we completely trusted my father’s rusty memories and we did not “waste” much time for research. We did almost everything right, we kept the development instructions found on the film boxes, but we placed the films into the tank not in complete darkness, but we used red darkroom lights.

As a result all of our precious frames were ruined. Only 2 shoots survived somehow but they were also badly damaged by our careless treatment. Later I have enlarged these photos and despite they are not the top quality, I like them a lot. Eventually these are the first photos I developed myself.

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Camerajunky (2007) Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D, Fed 5, Flash, Silver print

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My father and Holló at the bathroom door (2007) Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D, Fed 5, Flash, Silver print

This first time “failure” was almost inevitable for a bunch of reckless fools who we were. It taught me to be more patient when it comes to film photography and I think it is somewhat the point. You cannot rush with film and old gear, you must wait sometime for the results. The waiting for the magic to happen is really spices up the process to me. If you want the output fast, go pick up a digital camera (I also have some).

Great things

The feature set is quite outstanding among other Fed cameras and I think it provides (on paper) everything which I would ever need in a classic camera.

  1. It has a single stroke film advance lever which is connected to an automatic film counter mechanism. This lever is a huge improvement over the previous film advance knob used in the Fed 3.
  2. The coupled range-finder/viewfinder is also handy, and diopter correction is possible and for the first time it is not prone to accidental adjustments.
  3. Also it has a hot-shoe which is quite a big thing, so convenient  flash usage became possible, and an additional flash-cable port is also available.
  4. The camera features a built in light meter which does not require any power source apart from the light it is measuring, so you can never run out of batteries. The needle display of the meter and the related mechanical calculator makes the top plate rather cool looking.
Fed 5 top plate detail

Fed 5 top plate detail

The top plate looks so great that it inspired me to make a little comic where a similar instrument is used as radiation meter on an imaginary space station.

cdsc

Are we doomed Captain?

It is ugly

As we all know everything comes with a price. This case the built in light meter required a hell lot of extra space and eventually it lead to a new shape which is very unpleasant to my eyes. I like the shapes of the older Fed (1,2,3) models. The older it gets the better it looks (and the closer to the Lieca 2). The fed 4/5 are very brick like in my opinion because of the enlarged top part.

Fed 5

Fed 5 – the sexiest angle I could find

Fed 5

Fed 5 -front

Fed 5

Fed 5 – back

Fed 5

Fed 5 -bottom plate + back can be removed to load the film

Fed 5

Fed 5 – top

Hard to use

Yeap, this camera is nothing but easy to use. First of all the viewfinder is small and dark. Maybe it is only my version, but the glass has a very heavy greenish cast, which holds back a lot of light. In addition it is very hard for me to see the boundaries of the frame. In general it is a challenge to compose with this viewfinder. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely usable and I had no problem with focusing so far, but the composition is an issue.

The frame-counter is a nice to have feature, but it adds some extra resistance when you try to advance the film. It could give you the impression that something is broken inside the camera. I have got used to FSU cameras, so strange sounds and resistance during film advance are not new things to me, but this camera could be scary even for me.

The light meter is completely worthless, as selenium cells do not age well and they became inaccurate after a few decades for sure. Mine is working acceptable in good light, but as it gets darker the more it gets unreliable. I think it is possible to replace the cells, but usually I can take my time to measure the light with an external meter. Still it is too bad that the light-meter is actually the reason of the new shape (I don’t like) and now it is more or less serves as extra weight I need to carry.

Conclusion

On one hand the Fed5 has a poor viewfinder experience and I am not the biggest fun of it’s shape. On the other hand this is my first vintage camera. It never failed me and actually this is the only L39 mount rangefinder camera of mine which has a reliable shutter so I can test such lenses only with this body.

I am mainly an available light shooter, but I like to have a hot-shoe and I already used the one on my Fed.

If you are looking for a rangefinder but you have small budget and you want to use flash, you can’t go wrong with this camera. It will survive all of us and keep going to take pictures as long as somebody can press the shutter.  Plus it can be turned into an effective melee weapon against polar bears.

Links

Samples with Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

Bus stop (Miskolc 2010) Fed 5, Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

Bus stop (Miskolc 2010) Fed 5, Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

Eszter (Miskolc 2010) Fed 5, Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

Eszter (Miskolc 2010) Fed 5, Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

Lord Percy and Magni (Miskolc 2010) Fed 5, Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

Lord Percy and Magni (Miskolc 2010) Fed 5, Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

 (Miskolc 2010) Fed 5, Industar 55mm f/2.8 N-61 L/D

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22 comments

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  1. Lehoczky Alfréd · March 24, 2013

    Szia! Megint egy kis Miskolc? 🙂
    Próbálj szerezni zorkíj 4-et vagy 6-ot azért az kifinomultabb. Igaz én nem használtam egyiket sem, tehát lehet, hogy nincs igazam.

    • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

      Szia! Persze, hogy Miskolc. Még van jópár oda köthető képem amit nem mutattam meg.
      Van egy Zorkíj 4K gépem, de sajnos nagyon romos. Mindenesetre a keresője százszor jobb mint a Fedé, szóval könnyen lehet, hogy igazad van.

  2. Lehoczky Alfréd · March 24, 2013

    Szia!
    Éppen ma délelőtt vettem a Zsarnán (tudod, itt Miskolcon az ócskapiac) egy Zorkij 4-et és egy Fed 2-t. Mindkettő kifogástalan állapotban. A Zorkij jupiter 8-as objektívjét Holnap akarom kipróbálni az Oly E PL-1-emen. Remélem jó lesz. A két gép összesen 13 $ volt:) Ezt még én is megengedhetem magamnak.

    • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

      Szia!

      Mind a kettö, nagyon szep gep. Nekem föleg a Fed2 formaja tetszik, bar a Zorkij jobban hasznalhato. A jupiter 8 biztosan nem lesz csalodas, nekem is van ket darab, es nagyon jo mind a kettö.

      • Lehoczky Alfréd · March 24, 2013

        Nekem nem jött be a Jupiter. Igaz, hogy egy Canon FD 1,4/50-el kellett megmérkőznie. Elbukott..

        • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

          Persze, a Jupiter nem feltétlen jön be mindenkinek. Megvannak a hibái, de talán pont ezek miatt van egy jellegzetes karaktere. Én sem ezt tartom a technika csúcsának, de számomra valahogy mégis csak kedves. Én sajnos nem tudtam rendesen kipróbálni digitális vázon, mert nekem tükrös digitális gépem van. Ellenben a FD 50 1.4 érdekes lenne nekem is.

  3. Lehoczky Alfréd · March 24, 2013

    Nagyon tuti objektív, de tükrös vázakra ez sem mászik fel. Ezért szeretem a tükörnélküli vázakat.

  4. spcamerastyle · March 24, 2013

    Hello Gábor. Your posts are always very good! Well written and great photos. Congratulations!

  5. AninhadaBest · March 24, 2013

    Hi,
    I’ve just find your blog by chance when looking for some info on the FED 5 and I’ve absolutely loved this post.
    Keep up the good work!

    • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

      Thank you! I keep going for sure. Come back from time to time.

  6. muthurama krishnan · March 24, 2013

    Awesome post and great pics. I myself got a FED5 from ebay. And i have run into problems with it after one roll of film.
    1.) The rangefinder arm behind the lens is loose. The image on the split screen doesn’t move after halfway when focusing from infinity to 1 meter. I probably think that the rangefinder arm screw is loose. Have you had this problem?
    2.) Secondly, while disassembling the camera, i couldn’t remove the top cover of the camera without removing the Exposure match dial on the left where the rewind knob is. I tried unscrewing it with all my might, but in vain. How to remove the exposure match dial so that the top cover could be removed and serviced.
    Hope you could help me out.

    Cheers
    Muthu

    • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

      Hi,

      I have not tried to dismantle my camera yet, thankfully there was no need to do so.
      So I am sorry, but I have no experience too. But I wish you all the best luck.

      Gábor

      • muthurama krishnan · March 24, 2013

        I have narrowed down on the problem. Thank you for the reply.

        • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

          Wish you all the best luck with it. The good thing is that these cameras are very roboust and relatively simple. Plus if you manage to break it it is not breaking the bank. Please write a line or two about how was it going.

          • muthurama krishnan · March 24, 2013

            Firstly, i tried to adjust the rangefinder horizontal calibration by turning the wrong screws. i accidentally removed the screws holding the lightmeter dial to the top cover. The plate that holds the screws fell in and got stuck with the rangefinder arm, disabling rangefinder focus mechanism halfway through focussing. Now i had to remove the top cover to make things right.

  7. Steve · March 24, 2013

    I actually recently picked up a Fed 5V. This is the version without the selenium cell, so it is fully manual. The top p;late is a bit different, but the shape is the same; buly. The viewfinder in mine is actually quite clear compared to most other FSU cameras I have. It doesn’t have a greenish cast and the rangfinder patch is pretty clear and easy to see. I was quite surprised, as every Zenit I’ve ever tried has had a horrible viewfinder. Even my Prakticas have worse viewfinders than the Fed 5V, which surprises me. Anyway, I hate that it doesn’t have strap lugs, but I do have a case for it. It came with the Industar 61 LD. I have a Fed 2 on the way also, and the seller informs me that I can also use the same LD lens with it. I also have a Fed Zarya on the way. It’s a rarer FED that is a 35mm without the rangfinder, which opens up some interesting lenses.

  8. secludedsea · March 24, 2013

    Having used my FED 5, I agree with you about the ergonomics. If you don’t use a case fo rit, it’s like holding a heavy bar of soap. I prefer the slimmer early FEDs with strap lugs at least. I recently also picked up a FED 1, so will be posting about my experience with it: http://sjp.id.au/oldgear/fed-1-camera-soviet-russian/

    • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

      The Fed 1 really is a classic. Good luck with the fixing. I am going to be stay tuned. I have also started to fix some of my old FSU gear myself. Maybe you can give me some advises some time.

      • secludedsea · March 24, 2013

        I’ll definitely let you know. Hoping to check the shutter today, clean the aperture on the lens and check the rangefinder accuracy. We’ll see how much time I have for it! I like rangefinders, but they definitely need plenty of care. Thank you! What is your FSU collection like?

        • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

          I have a Kiev 4, A couple of Zenits of different kinds, Smenas, Lubitel, Zorki 4, some box cameras I don’t even know the name. The list is always changing though. I am not even sure how many cameras I have,

  9. Robert · March 24, 2013

    The ergonomics of a FED 5(V) are pretty bad. I had one from 1995 and comparing it to a FED-3 (1967, 50 October Revolution model) the model 5 is the worst RF they ever build. Comparing it with the older Zorki-6 or Kiev-4 you can see how bad in the last FSU camera building years their production was done. Also the metal parts are very thin, out of tolerance so my recommendation is: Never buy a FSU camera after approx. 1980. Although all models will need a C.L.A. you can get a Kiev-4, Zorki-6 or Zorki-4 from approx. 1955-1969 in a good shape and really enjoy them. These cameras you can get in a 100% good working condition including their Jupiter lenses.

    • camerajunky · March 24, 2013

      Hi Robert,

      Thank you for the comment. It is nice to see you here.
      I have to agree with you. When it comes to FSU gear, the older is the better. At least this is my experience too.
      I like your website by the way.

      Bests. Gábor