Now I know I'm really crazy. This is the very camera about which I said "I know it's got a great lens but it's just so UGLY!" At the time I couldn't imagine anyone actually walking around with one in public. I've looked at it enough now that it's grown on me considerably -- while it's not exactly a handsome camera, it's more agreeable in person than pictures suggest. How's that for a compliment? This is the basic 5B, there is another version of the 5 with an uncoupled selenium light meter. There is also a model year variation with different Cyrillic lettering on the nameplate and gridded pleather covering like the FED 3B that is even less attractive than this model. Note - though this model is commonly referred to as a 5B the letter is really equivalent to an English V, so you will see it referred to as a 5V by native Russian speakers.
Where the FED 3B feels like a solid shooter, the 5 feels like a cheap knock-off. The body is slightly taller but it weighs about the same, and feels noticeably cheesier, like it's made of cheaper or thinner metal. Even the lens mount feels a little cheap. Aluminum instead of steel? Maybe. Odd about the extra height, I can see about 1/4" of space under that tall top cap, wonder if it was simply to make room for the hot shoe wires or some other manufacturing shortcut? At any rate, of the series, this is definitely the FED to take to the muddy soccer game in the rain, the one to schlep to the windy beach for those lovely sunset shots when you'd leave a more collectible camera at home.
See my other FEDs and the Links below for the background on this beast, it does indeed have a great lens and that's really the bottom line. Touted as the best Russian-made LTM lens ever, the rare-earth impregnated Industar-61 L/D came standard on the FED 4 and 5. The common sentiment is that for the price what you're getting is a world-class lens with an ugly camera-shaped rear lens cap. I haven't used it enough myself to say whether I think it's better than the earlier Industar-61 or the Industar-26M, which are both excellent.
I'll skip the somewhat sordid history of the FED. Suffice it to say that the FED factory in Kharkov was an orphanage-turned-work-commune named for Felix E. Dzerzhinsky, founder of the original Soviet Secret Police. It's a very interestsing story, and you can read all about it on this excellent page, just make sure to come back when you're done (I love that site!). Oh and put your wallet away or you'll find yourself off bidding on FEDs before you know it. One FED is never enough!
Like-new in box. All I really wanted was the lens, but for $16 plus shipping from Europe, I just couldn't pass it up. Still, it needed a minor rangefinder adjustment, both vertical and horizontal. Both adjustments are trivial, given a lens you know is properly adjusted to infinity. Remove the metal nameplate by sliding to the left and lifting, careful not to lose the (easily breakable?) spring clip. Then remove the two obvious screws which hold down the faceplate. (You don't need to do this to get to the adjustments, but I figure you may as well clean the glass while you're in there.) The horizontal adjust is the recessed screw, the vertical adjust is the rotating collar around the round rangefinder window. Do the vertical first, then with the lens set to infinity, adjust the screw till the images are aligned on a distant object. I believe this adjustment is the same on the FED 3B. You can double-check focus with a piece of frosted glass held to the film plane with a loupe, with the shutter held on 'B'... see my repair tips page for more details.
I thought that for the money, and since it was already kind of ugly, I would have a little fun with my little FED. I carefully removed the covering and replaced it with the outer layer of a woman's belt I found at a second-hand store for $1. Looks pretty kewl now!
Tips & Tricks
Like with the other FEDs and Zorkis, and any camera where winding on also causes the film speed selector to turn, ALWAYS cock the shutter before changing film speeds! It's in the manual but it bears repeating. In fact, go read the manual before even attempting to use the camera, the stuff about shutter speeds is both non-intuitive and critical to the proper operation of the camera. Changing film speeds without tensioning the shutter can damage the shutter!
Speaking of cocking the shutter, you'll at first think there's something wrong with the wind stroke, it feels very resistant at the beginning of the stroke. It doesn't do the Grind Wind like the 3B and my Zenit, but odd nonetheless. The extra resistance seems to come from the integrated frame counter. Nice feature: the lever does stand off from the body, unlike the one on the 3B.
Hot shoe! There's an improvement. Only activates when the shutter speed is set to 1/30, the sync speed, otherwise it's just an accessory shoe. Also has PC sync terminal, in a very odd spot, the center of the back of the top cap. That's a new one on me.
Diopter adjustment using the ring around the viewfinder, and unlike the lever on the FED-2 & Zorki-4 it's less prone to accidental adjustment. Nice. Set it and forget it.
Like the 3B and 4, the 5 lacks strap lugs, so you need to have it in its neverready case if you want to carry it over your shoulder. Luckily the case is a little lighter than those of its predecessors, so I wasn't tempted this time to cut the top part away like I did with the 3.
- My special page devoted to relubing Industar-26 and Industar-61 lenses
- The very important OWNER'S MANUAL - please commit it to memory
- So help me, I LOVE this russian rangefinder page, it's intelligent and funny
- A page devoted to Russian Rangefinders
- And a nice page on 'Why Russian Leica Copies?' Well, because!