Tommy Ku Photography

Need proper burial: Don't buy overly cheap cameras

For a few weeks I have had my eyes on the Soviet rangefinders like FED, Zorki and Kiev. These are cheap, not very cheap (Solina are still cheaper due to low demand), but cheap, and good value when coming with a good lens like Jupiter-8 or Industar 61 L/D. You are more like buying the lens than buying the camera, as a good lens can be sold as expensively as the combo.

In my attempt to be lucky as a cheapskate, I attempted to secure a job lot of cameras in a sale. On the first minute of the sale I found what I wanted — 3 TLRs, oops, sold. Then a lot of 3 folders, again, sold. By that point I was so hyped up I didn't care what I was buying, I needed to buy something to comfort the soul that missed 2 lots of medium format goodies.

A job lot of 2 FEDs (FED-3 and a FED-5) caught my eyes, for cheap, like €21 but without any lens. Sure, something is better than nothing. I bought them, and with shipping the total cost went up to €41. Not very good for FEDs without lens, but there are two of them, I could get an ok lens to go with them if they both works.

Of course, I should have known better. None of them is good enough for practical use.

FED-3 that needs proper burial

The FED-3 type 2 which comes with a winding lever. Appearance looks good and rangefinder is bright and clear. At first, the cloth shutter curtain looked ok unlike what's shown in the photo above. When trying to crank the winding lever, it'd pull the cloth shutter curtain and lose traction in the middle. The two pieces of curtains would slide back to their original position.

When I pull the winding lever, the shutter speed selection dial seems to rotate together. So in order to avoid losing traction in the middle of winding, I held the speed selection dial as I slowly crank the lever. After a few tries, I was able to crank the lever fully, then it suddenly lose traction again and the shutter left open for 1 seconds. Coincidentally, the reading of shutter selection dial stayed at 1s before I lost traction.

After repeating this same process several times, I suspect the slow shutter speed is giving too much pressure to the winding gear as I cranked the lever. When I got a chance to wind it again, I pull the shutter speed dial and rotated it towards slower speed like 1/60s. In the next few lever cranks, the shutter would remain cocked and I was able to fire using the shutter release button. I seemed to have fixed it somehow (timer still don't work). When shutter is cocked, damage to rubberized cloth curtain can be seen, and through the curtain light leaks is readily observable. Well this is still fixable without disassembling the camera.

Of course, I should have known better. After turning at speed 1/8s or 1/4s and fired the shutter, the shutter curtain was stuck at the position as shown. I believe there is no way to fix this except a disassembly and shutter replacement.

This cameras needs repair or a proper burial.

FED-5B that needs proper burial

The FED-5B has Olympic mark that doesn't mean much as it's very common. Obviously the self-timer lever is missing and it doesn't seem easy to fix. I can overlook this as I rarely use self-timer on other machines. To my surprise the shutter seems strong, I could cock the shutter and fire it without any issue. At all speed it worked except slow speed seems a bit inaccurate.

On a closer look, though, there seems to be a scratch on the second piece of rubberized cloth curtain visible only after cocking the shutter. There's obvious light leak but not impossible to fix. Actually on the back, someone has attempted a fix already to dubious effect.

If I have another thing to complain about this camera, FED-5B's viewfinder is not as bright and yellow focusing circle isn't as clear as the FED-3. Inferior viewfinder is still way better than unoperational shutter though.

I probably could get some glue and paint to fix the shutter light leak. The fix will last for awhile until eventually the shutter curtain is replaced or it completely breaks down unrepairably on its own. At this point, even repair sounds like a losing battle to fight.

This cameras needs repair or a proper burial.