Well three of them have 'rangefinders' on them, though I still count them all as sort of rangefinders.
Used to have more... way more... then they got sold, or lost in storage, or somehow disappeared while trying to find a place after eviction/etc etc. (Used to have RF cameras like the Canon P, Olympus 35RC, Rollei 35S, Canon Demi, etc)
Currently I have four working ones (Argus still being worked on and tested). Two of them I had since 2007 (since around the time my oldest son was born, the Mercury and the Fed). The other two are more recent acquisitions.
Univex Mercury II - 1945
This is one of the four that doesn't have rangefinder focusing. Though I could always slide my Heyde photo telemeter onto the accessory shoe and make it a rangefinder.
This one is from 1945, takes standard 35mm (135) rolls and is a half-frame camera. The big hump on top with the DOF Scale is for the shutter assembly since it houses a very large and very accurate rotary shutter which can be set from 1/20th to 1/1,000th along with bulb and "T" (closes shutter on second shutter press). Sports a coated Universal Tricor 35mm f/2.7 lens (though wish I had the f/2.0 Hexar that they also made for it). The lens are interchangeable as they had a few different focal lengths to pick from including a 125mm f/4.5 Wollensak.
The viewfinder is basically a little portrait oriented window with two little 'tick' marks. The ticks are the limit guide for close up shooting (you put the subject within that smaller frame to for parallax). Especially since this camera can focus down to 1 foot 6 inches.
The shutter cocking knob also advances the film, and the shutter speed selection rotates as it winds (like some of the old Leica RFs, the shutter speeds aren't selectable until the shutter has been cocked). Firing off the shutter has a very satisfying "woosh-clunk".
A portrait of my oldest back in 2008 at the closest focusing distance (this was before I cleaned the lens this year too). Shot on Kodak BW400CN chromogenic B&W.
Fed 2A (PE036) - 1955~1956
The other one I've had for 9 years now. A Fed 2A was one of two FED rangefinders I got in trade for a Canonet QL-17 GIII and a Seagull SA-85 TLR.
The one I kept (shown above) was CLA'd by the previous owner. He made comments about how a lot of the FSU cameras seemed like they were serviced by tank mechanics wound up so tightly that it's like a gun going off when the shutter fires.
Said that he had properly tuned it, lubed it, adjusted it to be very smooth and even modified the shutter speed knob so that it could be operated regardless of whether or not the shutter was cocked. Meaning it wouldn't damage the mechanism if you turned it either way, you just simply wouldn't know what speed was selected until you cocked it.
The lens on it is an Fed Industar-10 50/3.5 collapsible which I just recently cleaned (it was super hazy/soft and low contrast for a while, now it's clear and rather crisp near the center). And like the previous owner said it not only feels very solid but it seemed to operate very smoothly and accurately without feeling like a rat trap went off in your hand. Probably the best Leica styled rangefinder I have aside from the Canon P I owned and the Canon 7 I have now. My only gripe with it is that the viewfinder/RF spot isn't the greatest, but it's certainly usable and I have not needed to adjust it yet.
The store I used to work at, which went out of business in late 2007. It's now a guitar shop on the right side, and a Jimmy Johns (sorta like blimpy/subway) on left.
Canon 7 - 1961-?
Just recently got this as I was wanting to get a 'good' rangefinder again for an upcoming film photography class I have next semester. I used to have a Canon P which I absolutely loved (especially with CV Color Skopar 21/4, the super-wide Heliar 15/4.5 and the Canon 50/1.8 it came with). But it seemed like the prices on the Ps are still up there, yet a 7 seemed like could find some good deals on it.
Well I did find a good deal on a 7, was about 129 shipped (off 'greedbay '), but then there was a dent which wasn't disclosed so he did a partial refund bringing it down to about 105 shipped. Then there was a problem with the frame lines just sliding around the viewfinder with gravity. Decided to take a gamble and open up the top, and turned out the prism back near the viewfinder was no longer glued in. So I took care of that with some shellac. I didn't get the frame lines perfect, but with a check with a ground glass I just have to remember that the frame lines are like 5-10% more to the right than the actual image captured. Everything else seems to work well, including the meter which appears to be accurate compared to my Minolta Autometer IVf.
It's a big camera, heavy feeling, but I like it. The viewfinder is rather nice and easy to see thru, especially the 35mm view being easier to see than I remember of my Canon P.
Shortly after I went ahead and picked up a Canon Serenar 35mm f/2.8 Mk1 and then did my rangefinder calibration based off that (Didn't really trust my Industar-61L/D 55/2.8 or Industar-10 50/3.5 to be accurately coupled for non-FSU bodies). I'm hoping to pick up a Leitz Summitar (post-50s model) for cheap(er), since it seems like the hexagonal apertures weren't as desired as the older 10-blade version to cover my 50mm range. (either that or see if there's a Canon 50/1.4 of the same era as the 7 for under 250).
Of the four this is "My Precious" as smeagol would say.
I need to get a roll thru the Canon 35/2.8, but for I did get a test roll of some expired Kodak gold 200 thru the Industar-10 50/3.5.
Argus C3 - 1953
Re-skinned with Optics (I assume just the lens) cleaned. Still fiddling with this one. I have a Black C3 which is mostly for parts right now as I lost the lens assembly when I was trying to adapt it to a digital set up (makes for a really cool macro lens). The C3 was probably the first rangefinder I used when I got into film, after using a Kodak Pony 135 (which doesn't have a coupled rangefinder).
With this blue one, so far I removed the front plate, cleaned behind the viewfinder/rangefinder windows, inspected the insides. Changed the flash timing so that it's set for x-sync, reapplied some new tape over by one of the flash contacts where an old black tape had dried up and crumbled. Re-adjusted the shutter level to a more comfortable position and took the 7-speed black shutter speed dial from my old black C3 and put it onto this one. Also adjusted the lens to accurately focus to infinity since none of the thread entries were allowing for it (I suspect the lens came from a different body), and adjusted the rangefinder to match so that now the lens, RF and focus scale are all spot on. I'm debating about taking the shutter assembly from my older C3 and putting it into this one since the shutter blades on my black one seem cleaner.
I might eventually re-skin this one since the current skin seems to have what appears like little fluffs of fabric hanging out where the skin kit was perforated, might go classic black just to match the theme of everything else I got going.
Have not shot a roll thru this one yet.
Eventually I want to try to re-acquire some of the favorites that I had to part with such as :
- Olympus 35RC
- Zeiss Ikon Nettar 515 (6x4.5 folding camera)
- Canon Demi
The biggest problem with most FSU rangefinders is that the lubricants weren't great when they were made and they've only gotten worse with time. A good CLA and relubing is all it takes to make these pretty good cameras. I love my two FED-2 cameras and my Zorki 4 that I had CLA'd by someone in the Netherlands. The camera feels good in the hand when using it and it's almost as smooth as my Leicas. (I wonder how may fanboys I gave heart attacks with that statement?) And they are built like tanks so they can take rougher handling than my Leicas and still soldier on.
I have two C3s and they are nice cameras. A bit blocky in the hand, but once you remember to keep your right fingers away from the cocking lever it's not a problem. Otherwise you will slow down the shutter by retarding the cocking lever (lots of experience there).