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Monday, 09 April 2012 00:00

Fed 2

Recently I wrote here about how I had started to shoot 35mm film again and that I had bought a Canon EOS 5. Well this seems to have really given me the bug for film as I now have a second 35mm camera to add to my collection. This one though couldn't be more different from EOS 5, it's a Russian built Fed 2 (Type C2) built around 1958 and I have to say that this little camera has blown me away. The Fed 2 is basically a clone of a Leica, or to put it more accurately the Fed 1 was a loose clone of the Leica I and the Fed 2 evolved from that. So similar is the Fed 2 to both the Leica I and Leica II that sadly it is not uncommon for fake Leicas to have been constructed from the body of a Fed 2. Whilst these little cameras do not offer the same quality of a Leica they are packed with charm and can produce some surprisingly good results and whilst a Leica can cost anywhere from £200 to £3000, you can pick up a Fed 2 for around £25.

 

I bought my Fed 2 on eBay from someone in the Ukraine. Admittedly it was a bit risky in doing this but this particular seller has sold hundreds of Feds and due to the low value I felt it was worth the risk but why did I want it? I have been very taken with lomography for a few years now and have played around with various iPhone apps that mimic this style of photography. Whilst these apps are good fun and very cheap if not free I always found them a little unsatisfying in that you were stuck with the lens and resolution of the iPhone whereas I wanted a 'proper camera' that would be higher resolution and have a lens which would allow me to set the aperture etc. I had considered buying one of the more obvious Lomo cameras like the Diana and Holga but these are little more than point and click cameras. I have also always been interested in vintage cameras and find them very tactile and just appeal to my sense of history. Whilst there can be no doubt that modern cameras wipe the floor with vintage cameras in terms of features, performance and sometimes image quality, ultimately I can't help but think that whilst they may be technical marvels they lack soul. Vintage cameras by comparison lack the technical aspects of a modern camera but ooze soul from every pore.

It seemed an obvious choice therefore to combine my interest in lomography and my love of vintage cameras and buy a Fed 2. When the camera arrived I gave it a quick once over and confirmed that everything seemed to be working and the shutter sounded like it was reasonably accurate at all shutter speeds but how would it perform. Being over 50 years old it was entirely possible that there may now be tiny holes in the material of the shutter curtain or that the light seals had perished or that the shutter wasn't firing at the correct speeds after all. I managed to find an English version of the manual (here) which was useful as it highlighted the fact that you must not set the shutter speed until after you have cocked the shutter as doing it the other way can damage the camera.

After a quick read of the manual I gave the camera a very quick clean and loaded a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 and took it onto the streets of Camden for a test. This was the first time I had used a rangefinder camera and whilst the rangefinder in my Fed 2 was working correctly I found it quite hard and slow to focus. This is because that unlike later and more advanced rangfinders from the 1960's the Fed 2's rangefinder only produces a tiny orange circle within the viewfinder (in later cameras the rangefinder covers the entire viewfinder). Being so small it is hard to identify when the two images are lined up correctly but over time it possible to get faster at it and if your aperture is large enough you could also use the distance scale on the lens.

As I am so used to cameras with auto focus lenses, light meters, shooting modes like aperture and shutter priority, different metering modes and automatic frame advance it was a bit of a shock to suddenly use a completely manual camera. Absolutely nothing is automatic, there are no electronics in it, it is purely mechanical there isn't even a light meter and so exposures have to be worked out before hand using the sunny f/16 rule or a separate light meter. In the end I download the Pocket Light Meter app for the iPhone from Nuwaster Studios. This lightmeter uses the iPhone's camera to work out reflected light and is actually incredibly accurate. I tested this app against my Canon EOS 30D and found that it matched the light meter in the camera perfectly every time in a wide range of lighting conditions. According to one review I've read of this app where someone measured it against their Sekonic L508C that it was accurate to within 1/10th of a stop and that's good enough for me!

Here are a few of the test shots I took in Camden and my home town of Worthing.

After getting the film developed I scanned them in using my Plustek 7600i film scanner. I did notice that the camera is scratching the neg slightly in three places, it is very fine and to be honest you wouldn't really be able to see it unless you zoomed right in and it is quite easy to repair in Photoshop. I did also notice on most of the shots that there was a kind of flare right in the middle of the frame. I think this may be due to there being a tiny hole in the shutter curtain which is not surprising considering it's age. I really love this little camera and tend to carry it around with me wherever I go now and so I think I will pay to get it serviced. I have found someone in Moscow who has been recommended by numerous people who can service the Fed 2 and replace the shutter curtains and who also can service many other Russian cameras for a very reasonable fee.

My only fear is that buying this camera has made me want to buy several more vintage cameras. Maybe one day I'll be able to afford a Leica!

Read 6990 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 June 2014 10:26

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