Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder Mini-Review – By Julian Higgs

By julianhiggs

I’ve often asked myself “Why would anyone want to buy a 50 year old plus Fed 2 Russian (Or any other) Rangefinder camera?” I still don’t know the answer to that, but the feelings and desires we get for some apparently inanimate objects is quite irrational. Bass guitars being my other GAS weakness.
I have been interested in older LTM rangefinders ever since I bought a charity shop Fed 4 and a Jupiter 3 for my Sony A6300 mirrorless but had never looked at the Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder. I’d borrowed a Zorki 4 from a friend, but they are so heavy and clunky.

I’d looked at Leica and dismissing them for the cost – especially as the older ones are little more than a box with a shutter. The lenses though are another story of course. I had as I said, previously bought myself (and sold on) a Fed 4 with a built in meter. It worked really well, and had an LTM lens. My plan was to play with other lenses, but the ergonomics were all wrong for me. Shutter in just the wrong place. I found the rangefinder patch too dim and the camera was too big (I thought)!

My wife and I were walking past MrCad one day on the way back from the Don McCullin show at Tate Britain last year.  Somewhere I’ve passed by many times but never managed to go in.  Sparkling in the window was a lovely little Zorki 2. We popped in for a shifty. This felt more like it. It was a lovely little thing, however I didn’t get on with the separate rangefinder and viewfinder. Also the take up spool seemed to be jammed in and so, for the asking price, it stayed in the window.

On returning home and after a bit of Googling I came across a seller on eBay offering various versions of the diminutive Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder. A small, simple, sweet little rangefinder, similar to the Zorki 2, but with a combined view and rangefinder that was being offered with a variety of lens options. A collapsible Elmar copy or Industar 61 amongst others.

My plan was for an Elmar collapsible copy, so I could pocket the camera with minimal fuss. Or pop on the Jupiter 3 if I wanted something a bit faster and more fancy. I also figured if I come across any other interesting glass in a compatible mount I can just pop it on to the Fed 2. Simple! We’ll see on that one what with the focus calibration problems I’ve read about in these older lenses

The Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder is not a complicated camera. As I said earlier. Its essentially a light tight box with an adjustable shutter. The shutter speeds are limited to Bulb, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250 and 1/500. That’s it. It does have diopter adjustment though. And a cold shoe with sync socket on the front. A rewind knob on the left side of the top plate (as you hold it) and the rewind release is around the shutter (shutter release is still in the wrong place, but I’ll live with that).

It’s easier to load that a Zorki 2 or a Leica of the similar era I think (although I’ve never tried either of them) as the whole back and bottom comes off with two nicely engineered turnbuckles on the bottom plate, either side of the 3/8″ UNC 16 tripod socket. The film counter is on the right turret. Don’t forget to zero it when you load or to set the shutter in the correct order to advancing the film with the somewhat awkward wind on knob, not lever (you get used to it).

The lens it came with was the Elmar copy. f3.5 – f16 and a minimum focus distance of 1M. Usable and clean. the exposed focus helicoid was a bit of a surprise, but seems to work ok. It probably could do with a good service and the rangefinder accuracy checking but I’m not sure I can be bothered. Yet.

The Jupiter 3 is a different beast altogether. f1.5 – 22. Also a 1M minimum focus distance. Well made and has that super fast Sonnar formula that Hamish talks about here. The lens looks well I think mounted In the Fed 2 body.

Fed 2 with Jupiter 3
Fed 2 with Jupiter 3

So far I’ve used the Fed 2 less than I thought, but that says more about me being picky with what I shoot these days and have so far only used expired colour or black and white film. I’ve also set myself the challenge of shooting ‘Sunny 16’ with every roll. Everywhere. Inside, outside, sunny, cloudy, whatever. So far the results have been varied but acceptable. Thankfully I’ve not managed to completely black or blow out a frame yet. I’ve always got something for my labours. Just the quality varies. Couple this with my own light leaky bulk loaded HP5+ from 1996, the fact that I captured anything at all from this roll was  frankly a bloody miracle.

Developed in Rodinal at 1:25. Scanned at Truecolour Imaging as always. Soon I’ll be scanning my own with my very own Pixl-Latr!! 🙂

Some tweaks in Snapseed or Lightroom mobile to “improve” contrast and composition but that’s about it

Car Park Architecture - Central Milton Keynes
Car Park Architecture – Central Milton Keynes (Collapsible Lens)

 

Light pools Central Milton Keynes
Light Pools Central Milton Keynes (Collapsible Lens)

 

Grafitt Art - Croydon
Graffiti Art – Croydon (Collapsible Lens)

 

Coffee Van Queue - Croydon
Coffee Van Queue – Croydon (Collapsible Lens)

 

Reflections on Isolation
Reflections on Isolation (Jupiter 3)

 

Bullrushes - Bedfordshire
Bullrushes – Bedfordshire (Jupiter 3)

 

Under The Wire
Under The Wire (Jupiter 3)

I like the character and atmosphere in some of these images. Dark, grainy, light leaky loveliness. Its found a place in my heart this little Russian box with a shutter. No batteries, no meter, iffy framing, questionable rangefinder patch and fiddly controls. But I love it. Along with my Olympus XA it’s staying in one or another bag or pocket for ever.

Thanks for reading my ramblings. Comments and conversation always welcome.

If you. would like to follow my work you can here:
www.julianhiggsphoto.com
www.instagram.com/julian.higgs

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About The Author

By julianhiggs
A returning film photographer, musician and engineer. Darkroom owner and film lab experimenter. Always looking to see.
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Comments

The fatal flaw in the Soviet Leica shutter - Kosmo Foto on Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder Mini-Review – By Julian Higgs

Comment posted: 20/11/2022

[…] FED-1 do not have this problem. The Zorki-3 and Zorki-6 also do not usually have it. Almost every FED-2 has this problem. The Zorki-4s are a bit more complicated. They may or may not have. The E-series […]
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Alan K Teffeteller on Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder Mini-Review – By Julian Higgs

Comment posted: 10/08/2021

I am shooting a Fed 5b, I love it, quirks and all. Running some Fujicolor 400 Superia through it right now, but plan on grabbing some Ilford HP5 for a future roll.
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julianhiggs replied:

Comment posted: 10/08/2021

Great Alan, I do like Fujicolour but am a Portra fan for colour film. HP5 is my goto BnW film. That and FP4.

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Igal on Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder Mini-Review – By Julian Higgs

Comment posted: 15/08/2020

FSU cameras are lovely. I have the first model of Zorki and I adore it. I love your photos from the FED. If you are ok with bottom loading, but want more quality, and a way better focusing, look into Canon IV SB. You can magnify your viewfinder for more precise focusing, and your shutter speed goes up to 1/1000
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julianhiggs replied:

Comment posted: 15/08/2020

Thanks. The Fed really is lovely. I did look at Canon once or twice but the cost put me off.

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BG on Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder Mini-Review – By Julian Higgs

Comment posted: 15/08/2020

Thanks for sharing, Julian! The FED 2 is great rangefinder if you can find a well-made copy. It really does have some great updates from the Leica it copies, especially the later varieties of the model.
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julianhiggs on Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder Mini-Review – By Julian Higgs

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

Hi Tobias, Thanks for your message. I really do love this little camera. So small and simple. Thanks for your kind words about the shots too. Good luck in Stockholm!!
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Eric replied:

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

Great article. I have and rather like my FED 2. It and three others cameras remain from a Russian camera bender a couple of years ago that included a Kiev and a Zorki. Of those remaining, 2 FEDs and two Zenits, I like the Zenit E also. The new old stock in box FED 5c and Zenit KM I grabbed for near nothing are terrible, but I still like them for some reason. Logic and photography do not share space in my universe at times.

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Jeff Werner replied:

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

Nice article, and I love the moody shots! I just started messing with an old Zorki 1 the past couple of months; the tiny size when you collapse the lens is a fabulous feature!

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julianhiggs replied:

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

Hey Eric, thanks. Wow that’s quite a GAS itch to scratch! ???? It’s a strange thing isn’t it. These are not the most ergonomic of cameras, BUT, they have a certain character don’t they? I couldn’t live with the Fed 4 I had at all. Just too many quirks, and the Zorki 4 was similar. But this little thing is so simple in every way that I’ll embrace the bits that I would otherwise reject as intolerable. I have a Zenit E as well but it’s so big and heavy I don’t use it. But the Helios lens it came with is great on my Sony A6300.

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julianhiggs replied:

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

Thanks Jeff. I didn’t look at the Zorki 1. But will check them out. But the Fed seems to tick all my boxes. The moody shots were probably more to do with the 20 year plus expired film stock.

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Jeff Werner replied:

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

The Zorki 1 is more of a direct copy of the Leica ii, so it has the separate finder windows and bottom door, and slightly smaller than the Fed 2 but I'm not sure how noticable the difference is. I'm liking it but I think you've inspired me to shop around for a Fed 2! And your composition definitely compliments the character of the old lens & film!!

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julianhiggs replied:

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

Thanks for the info Jeff. I really liked the Zorki 2 I saw in the shop, but with the sticky spool (no one could release it), the faf of loading it and the separate Rangefinder window (not to mention what I thought was a too high asking price) I’m pleased I went for the Fed in the end. I took a complete punt on one from eBay “direct from the Ukraine”. Who knows if it was, but it arrived and works so I’ll take that as a win! Good luck with your quest.

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Tobias Eriksson on Fed 2 Russian Rangefinder Mini-Review – By Julian Higgs

Comment posted: 14/08/2020

Hi Julian! Thanks for your reflexions about my favourite camera model. And nice photos too - I especially like 'Reflections on Isolation' which is a very powerful composition in itself. (As a sidenote: I am at this moment preparing to participate in the Stockholm Fotomaraton - Corona style - with the Fed 2.)
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