Good Russian Cameras?

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henryvk

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I'm still happy with my latest FED 5C and Industar 61 L/D. I even befriended the ugly ERC it came in. It had bounce at 1/250 and 1/500 after resetting the tension on the shutter curtains (it's visible in the last picture). This was apparently due to some slack on the 1st curtain and it should have been obvious if I had bothered to check the speeds against something bright like an open window because you could clearly see the curtain bounce back.

I added a little red shutter release button because it looks nice and helps with the shutter release being a bit shorter than the frame counter.

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name

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prices comparisons are a difficult exercise because soviet ruble was a domestic currency for internal use, the front-end with open market currencies was an import/export trade for the state but didn't translate into the intrinsics of soviet society, very different of regular capitalist society.
A typical measure was to talk in portions of or amounts of monthly salary.
There was a long thread on club.foto.ru about the cost of cameras in the 80's mostly (well, beginnig of the thread before it diverts...): for instance Zenit-E 100rb, salary 150 rb. etc:

Что сколько стоило в Советское Время...

---


well, I believed this was the first known trivial fact about the FED... All literature and online sites do remind of this but few do detail a bit further.

there's also a lot of fuzziness in the terms. It was not the russian secret service but the soviet counter-revolutionary service and secret service, Tcheka then OGPU then NKVD then KGB. Agents affected to counter-revolutionary service had specific uniforms, so they were clearly differentiated from the police and from the military. The ones affected to intelligence activity were of course just regular civilians.

Dzerzhinsky was a Polak from the polish-lithuanian eastern-most realm, his birth place is nowadays in Belarus. In polish registries of the catholic church he was under his polish name Feliks Szczęsny.
Many early Bolsheviks were Polaks and from the edges of Austro-Hungarian empire. As well known marxism and modern forms of socialism and communism did develop initially in Germany (Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels...) and propagated into Russian Empire eastwards through Poland and Austria. Karl Radek was from Lwow, Lemberg in german, Rosa Luxemburg from a town between Lublin and Lwow. Etc. Other Polaks as important as Dzerzhinsky in the forming of initial soviet state were Julian Leszczyński and Bronisław Wesołowski. Dzerzhinsky/Szczęsny was active in the polish communist party also.

ok, so the origin of the FED camera is indeed very unusual because it was not from a manufacturer of photographic material. Russian Empire had experienced ten years of war: from 1914 WWI to the end of Civil War around 1923/1924. WWI alone inflicted terrific effects in the country, hence the first february revolution out of social unrest. By beginning 1920's there was a huge amount of orphans and street children. The fresh soviet government was concerned by that of course, and specially Dzerzhinsky. He coordinated measures in order to re-socialize street children and teenagers, end related homelessness , criminality. On the other hand there was a famous pedagogue, Anton Makarov who had experimented with self-sufficient self-managed boarding organizations ie. "communes" with a combined work and educational task. Makarov had also been in contact with Gorki who was a drifter in his harsh youth.

one of this "communes" was founded in Kharkov by Makarov in honor to Dzerzhinsky. There were of course technical personal and supervising engineers. Kids , from early teenagers to youngers in their twenties first producing simple metallurgic objects like bed knobs and oil cans, then moved into manufacture of drills. Workshops improved and tooled as needed. The institution became also a vocational school. Then, once a Leica was brought from Germany, disassembled, and they started making clones, with some slight variations.
it was all hand made until 1935, with lenses individually adjusted to the bodies.

these early hand-made FED, numbered on top plate, with the inscription "Trudkommuna in the name of F.E.Dzerzhinsky" first, then "Trudkommuna NKVD-USSR etc" can be quite expensive. (trud kommuna = work commune). WW2 did suspend production but some batches for the military and these had a 1/1000 speed and are nicknamed "kommandirsky".
After 1935 the marking "Trudkommuna" is replaced with "factory" then "kombinat", as the "commune" was shut down and became a regular factory.

a Trudkommuna NKVD-USSR with the 1/1000s (from an a listing on Avito):

View attachment 276736

Makarenko, not Makarov.
Forget the Poles. The Soviet Union was created and led by people of a different nationality. This nationality includes Vladimir Krasnoe Solnyshko, Peter I, other tsars and queens, Pushkin, Lermontov, Lenin, Trotsky and everyone else. Also Marx, Goebbels and other 'aryans'.
I photographed with almost all Soviet cameras. The best photos are given by Zenith TTL with Helios from the early 1980s. The best image (portrait) is given by two Soviet lenses: Helios (KMZ only. ONLY) and lens from Almaz (LOMO). All other Helios are trash with metal chips inside. Also good lenses were made by Lytkarino and Zagorsk factories.
 
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flavio81

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I photographed with almost all Soviet cameras.

Did you use any of the following?

- Kiev 10 or 15
- Start
- Kiev rangefinder, serial number starting from 55 or less.
- Zenit-5
 

Donald Qualls

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- Kiev rangefinder, serial number starting from 55 or less.

I've got a Kiev 2 with a 55 serial -- it's the first Contax type RF I've had that works (including an actual Contax II). Love the camera. I've also got a Smena 8M, Kiev 30 and Kiev 303. I think the Kiev 30 is my favorite 16 mm camera.
 

snusmumriken

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I have experience of only one FSU camera, a Zenit SLR with f/3.5 Industar, that I bought brand new in 1969. Mechanically, it caused me a good deal of grief for about 10 years, until I bought a Nikon. The lens was reasonably good, but its iris was mechanically dodgy. The leather case was fabulous. I didn't really want a case, but it smelled so good...
 

M-88

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Did you use any of the following?

- Kiev 10 or 15
- Start
- Kiev rangefinder, serial number starting from 55 or less.
- Zenit-5
Zenit-5, along with 4, 6, 7 and 9 are rare cameras. Their number is below 40000. All of them together. Kiev-15 is also rare with around 35000 made. I had its close relative - Kiev-10. It had a fan-shaped shutter made of copper and of course it kicked the bucket eventually, without any prospect of being repaired. Yes, even the Arsenal factory refused to work on it. That was back in 2012. I'd say the "good Russian camera" (the word is Soviet, by the way, not Яussian) is the one with less sophistication. One that you can repair on your own. Leica clones like fiest iterations of Zorki/Fed are that kind of cameras.

P.S. Since we're talking about Soviet hen's teeth, might just as well mention "Almaz" cameras, which were supposed to use Nikon F2 as a template and should have been "no worse than the original". Of course they were worse.
 

flavio81

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Zenit-5, along with 4, 6, 7 and 9 are rare cameras. Their number is below 40000. All of them together. Kiev-15 is also rare with around 35000 made. I had its close relative - Kiev-10. It had a fan-shaped shutter made of copper and of course it kicked the bucket eventually, without any prospect of being repaired. Yes, even the Arsenal factory refused to work on it. That was back in 2012. I'd say the "good Russian camera" (the word is Soviet, by the way, not Яussian) is the one with less sophistication. One that you can repair on your own. Leica clones like fiest iterations of Zorki/Fed are that kind of cameras.

P.S. Since we're talking about Soviet hen's teeth, might just as well mention "Almaz" cameras, which were supposed to use Nikon F2 as a template and should have been "no worse than the original". Of course they were worse.

However you can easily get a Kiev-15, -10 from ebay, at reasonable prices, so not that rare.

You didn't answer about the Kiev rangefinders. To me, those are the best soviet cameras ever. In #2 i'd put the Salyut/Kiev-88, it just needs service before usage.
 

M-88

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However you can easily get a Kiev-15, -10 from ebay, at reasonable prices, so not that rare.
I had so much "good time" with K-10 that I never even bothered myself checking their availability on the bay.

You didn't answer about the Kiev rangefinders. To me, those are the best soviet cameras ever. In #2 i'd put the Salyut/Kiev-88, it just needs service before usage.
I still have Kiev-4 with dead selenium meter, serial starting with 57 so should be 1957. It is a solid camera, but its shutter overhaul and adjustment is not an easy task. Sure, it is good, but only until it needs service. And the viewfinder/rangefinder is somewhat tiny. All in all, it's not a camera I would use on a daily basis.

My dad loves it though, Kiev-Contax is his favourite 💁‍♂️
 

flavio81

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I still have Kiev-4 with dead selenium meter, serial starting with 57 so should be 1957. It is a solid camera, but its shutter overhaul and adjustment is not an easy task. Sure, it is good, but only until it needs service. And the viewfinder/rangefinder is somewhat tiny. All in all, it's not a camera I would use on a daily basis.

My dad loves it though, Kiev-Contax is his favourite 💁‍♂️

According to whom? I'm a camera technician, the Kiev isn't a hard camera to overhaul. It is hard if you don't know which screws to remove first, otherwise, the shutter module itself can be removed rather quickly. Perhaps curtain strap replacement requires some work and patience, but still much easier than replacing the curtain itself (plus straps) on a Leica-type camera: The ones (Zorki-1 etc) you extol as being easy to service.

If you want to remove every sprocket and spring on a Kiev rangefinder, yes, then it becomes very hard; however, this isn't necessary, really.

I have a pre-war Contax with a viewfinder prism transplanted from a 1964 Kiev 4A. The rangefinder clarity is excellent, as good as any machine out there.

The only think I don't like about those Contax pre-war and Kiev cameras is the strange noise they make at 1/50 or slower speeds.

Your dad surely knows about cameras!!
 

M-88

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According to whom?
According to me of course, I can only speak for myself and based on my limited experience. Needless to say that I'm not a qualified technician. We just don't have camera repair shops here and pretty much everything is DIY for me.
 

4season

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I briefly owned one of the last KMZ-made film cameras, the Zenit KM+, circa 2005. It felt bulky, it was noisy, and parts of the plastic housing flexed in a none too reassuring manner. And yet, I thought it was a remarkable last-gasp modernization effort, with the packaging alone being an enormous upgrade.
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4season

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For comparison's sake, here's the packaging for the Zenit 212K. But the factory inspection date was a surprise: November 11, 2015, less than 5 months prior to my purchase!
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__Brian

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My favorite is the Zorki 3M. 1x viewfinder, combined vf/rf, single shutter speed dial. Mine has new curtains installed by Oleg, and I calibrated the RF for the Leica standard. I have a second one picked up for $35, left its calibration the same.
 

eli griggs

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The Fed 4 gives good service and, iirc, was sometimes found with a permanent take up spool instead of a detachable spool, like Leica and early Feds.

Supposedly l, this modification was often made by professional photographers, photojournalist, etc. and have had good treatment and adjustments.

It is a LTM system.

Sharp lenses are trial and error, but most I've seen and used are sharp.

Cheers
 

LeoniD

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of course it kicked the bucket eventually

Of course, because you forced it to work with the old lubricant still inside.

That was back in 2012
It's 2022 now and bringing a Kiev-15 back from the dead cost me a mere 40$. It was a camera that was used as a toy, stored in a basement and opened with a screwdriver wedged into the door's lock because the previous owner couldn't find the button 3cm lower. Lens was missing half of it's parts too.
 

awty

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Adjusted the curtain tension on my old, but excellent condition Zorki. Slow shutter speeds were hanging.
Released tension on the bottom screw then gave it 4x anti clock turns and it's now firing nicely again. Haven't tested for capping or speed accuracy.

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BMbikerider

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I have had a number of Russian cameras, a couple of Feds, a Kiev (lovely camera) but one that rarely gets a mention is also rare to find called 'Start' It was seemingly a hybrid design with features from a Zenith coupled with that of an Exacta. The lens was the ubiquitous 58mm F2 Biotar copy. The diaphragm was auto or manual operated like an Exacta with a plunger shutter release on the side of the lens pressing on the actual release on the body. There was a lever wind and a film cutting knife again like an Exacta. The shutter speeds appeared to be generally accurate 1sec to 1/1000. The mirror was not instant return but when you wound on the film a cord attached to the mirror pulled the mirror back into place.

The prism was removable as was the focussing screen.

There was also a 39mm thread adpter which allowed the use of early Zenith lenses to give a limited range of tele and wide angle

For what it was the lens performed very well and a decent 12x16 could be made sso long as the cammera had been on a good tripod

If you think a Nikon F5 was heavy you have not used one of these!

I owned it around 1964./5 and sold it to a friend in the Army to fund the purchase of a new Pentax SV.

(Click on the image to expand)
 

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M-88

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Of course, because you forced it to work with the old lubricant still inside.


It's 2022 now and bringing a Kiev-15 back from the dead cost me a mere 40$. It was a camera that was used as a toy, stored in a basement and opened with a screwdriver wedged into the door's lock because the previous owner couldn't find the button 3cm lower. Lens was missing half of it's parts too.

Oh wouldn't it be nice to know you back in 2012!.. As of today, it isn't feasible for me to send my K-10 to repairs.
 

guangong

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A working Contax 2a can often be bought for little more than a Russian copy of Contax 2, so why gamble? Perhaps take a chance with a Russian lens. For ltm cameras, there are so many reliable cameras: Leica, Canon, and many Leica clones. The Russian cameras share the same thread as these cameras, but not the same flange to film distance.
Reliability is key. Nothing worse than shooting a great picture but having camera malfunction.
As for SLRs, there are plenty of reasonably priced cameras on used market. Nikon F, F2, Pentax, Minolta, etc with a mountain of good lenses to choose from.And almost all easily repairable.
 

LeoniD

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Oh wouldn't it be nice to know you back in 2012!.. As of today, it isn't feasible for me to send my K-10 to repairs.

Why? Ukrposhta works as usual. A bit more expensive, ±40uah inside of the country, instead of pre-war 20-30, but that's it
 

flavio81

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Adjusted the curtain tension on my old, but excellent condition Zorki. Slow shutter speeds were hanging.
Released tension on the bottom screw then gave it 4x anti clock turns and it's now firing nicely again. Haven't tested for capping or speed accuracy.

You should not mess with curtain tension if you haven't disassembled the camera to clean and lubricate the shutter (and mechanisms)

Chances are, after cleaning and lubricating, everything will work again fine without needing any change in curtain tension.

Increasing curtain tension will add more friction to this dried-up mechanism and will make the camera fail again after some time.
 

henryvk

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I’ve been getting some pretty good results with the LOMO Voskhod (Восход) recently. Definitely a weird camera but also well-made with far and away the best viewfinder, a very good triplet and some good weight to it. The shutter pull is very soft but I actually find that easier to shoot. The lens is also recessed very deep in the lens barrel which helps with keeping out stray light.

The image on Kodak Gold have that glows triplet vintage look, like the Lubitel just in 35 mm.

I can’t overstate how nice the VF is. Why did they never manage to put one like that in the Zorkis or FEDs?

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E. von Hoegh

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According to whom? I'm a camera technician, the Kiev isn't a hard camera to overhaul. It is hard if you don't know which screws to remove first, otherwise, the shutter module itself can be removed rather quickly. Perhaps curtain strap replacement requires some work and patience, but still much easier than replacing the curtain itself (plus straps) on a Leica-type camera: The ones (Zorki-1 etc) you extol as being easy to service.

If you want to remove every sprocket and spring on a Kiev rangefinder, yes, then it becomes very hard; however, this isn't necessary, really.

I have a pre-war Contax with a viewfinder prism transplanted from a 1964 Kiev 4A. The rangefinder clarity is excellent, as good as any machine out there.

The only think I don't like about those Contax pre-war and Kiev cameras is the strange noise they make at 1/50 or slower speeds.

Your dad surely knows about cameras!!
I've been using a '69 Kiev 4 as a walkaround camera for six years or so. The meter works, and it has been utterly reliable. I did some CLA when I got it, and it just keeps working, even on rather cold days. When it's cold enough that the slow speed escapements don't want to work, speeds of 1/125 and faster still work fine. Yeah, they sound funny on the slow speeds, but 1/125 and faster are very quiet. I really like the H-103 lens also the J12 and J9 are nice. Also, a Zorki-S with the I22. The camera needed what any camera from 1957 would need, a thorough cleaning and relubrication plus shutter tweekings after it went back together,it's been working very well since. With a tiny electronic flash, indoor pics are easy and it's very handy. The Industar lens is fine.
That's my experience with FSU 35mm rangefinders - so far I'm delighted. And, you really can get a real 1/1250th with a bit of fiddling and the right oils. That will maybe not be stable long term, but mine is doing O.K. so far. The Kiev/Contax shutters want to be clean, and really seem to benefit from modern synthetic lubricants. When I took my '36 Contax apart, I could smell old whale oil!
 
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