A Russian (Rangefinder) in Canada

Built like a lead brick, my FED 2 rangefinder

Built like a lead brick, my FED 2 rangefinder

So, while we seem to be on the subject of film cameras, one of the cameras I’ve recently acquired (through a very nice gentleman at work, thanks!), is a FED 2 russian rangefinder. It’s a type PE0385, manufactured between 1956 and 1958 with a 50mm f3.5 lens for any of you that might be interested. It’s also built like a brick. Possibly a brick of lead considering how much it weighs. Suffice to say, it’s quite a sturdy little beast…

Out of the several film cameras of various formats that I seem to have gathered together in the past few months, the FED was sturdy enough that I wasn’t afraid of breaking it, easy enough to use that I wouldn’t completely waste the film due to my lack of experience, and simultaneously the first one that came to hand. So I thought that I’d load a roll of black and white (Ilford XP2 Super 400 negative film) and see what I could get around Vancouver.

Bearing in mind that I’d never looked through the viewfinder of a rangefinder camera before, I was in for an interesting time. In case you’ve never used one, basically what you get on looking through the tiny circular viewfinder on the FED 2 is the frame that you’ll shoot, more-or-less, with a small patch of yellowish-green double image in the middle. That’s that rangefinder. Basically, the theory goes that you focus using the lens and you line up the double image so that the images overlap perfectly when that object is in focus.

That’s certainly the theory anyway.

In this case, the horizontal alignment was OK, but there was a good couple of mm mismatch in the vertical alignment, so the images could never perfectly match, they were always a bit out and if what you were trying to focus on was small, that could get somewhat interesting!

Having said all that, I managed to brave the 8°C  rainy weather in the hours that I had when I wasn’t working and shot about 25 frames and then, a couple of exposures before the end of the roll, I somehow managed to snap the film inside the camera… Still, I managed to get it back to the UK, get the people that do my processing to take the film out for me in a dark box, and I’m well chuffed with some of the shots.

They seems to have a good grain to them, but it’s a very sharp lens indeed, the definition and contrast is excellent and the scrape marks where the film has clearly rubbed on something, lend a wonderful vintage analog feel to them. There are a few examples of the shots taken with the FED 2 in the gallery below if you fancied a look through.

Of course, the one thing I probably shouldn’t have done, was located a set of instructions for service and cleaning of the FED 2 on the internet (which I did). Followed by stripping it down to clean it (which I did). Including the rangefinder assembly. Stupid. Me.

I now have a camera which has a beautifully clear rangefinder and is wonderful to look through if, and it’s a big IF, you don’t mind that you can no longer line the double images up either at infinity or elsewhere. So kids, when you need to adjust your rangefinder, take it to someone that knows what they’re doing… So, not me… The Fed will be going in for re-alignment at some point in the future…


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