My First Encounter with the Russians!


One thing that really makes this heavy, bulky, not very elegant rangefinder camera something really special, is….well actually, I don't know!

Here is the story of my first encounter with a Russian rangefinder. I doubt it will be the last!

Since I got started with photography, I’ve always been drawn to big, clumsy, slow-working cameras like TLRs, and different kinds of rangefinders like this one.

And of course, when I first laid eyes on a Leica, I really wanted one! But, being a poor student, I didn’t have a chance raising funds for such a deluxe rangefinder. That’s when I heard about the Ukrainian FED cameras*.

EUREKA!!! My search was over!

I found a FED 3b on a local internet market. (not that certain big bad one) I bought the camera for the very fair price of approximately €33!

Then I started searching the web for information on this new purchase, downloading a manual (in Russian, but with an English translation) and read about other people’s experience with it.

That’s when I really started to worry!

I read about how people ended up buying several cameras before they actually got one that worked properly.
How they, when they finally got one that worked well, accidentally broke it by handling it in a wrong way.
How it, in general, was a completely impossible camera to use, and so on, and so on…

So, as I was waiting for the delivery I slowly lost faith in my new purchase, and had no other expectations than maybe to use it as a DIY project at best…

And it arrived!

As I unpacked it, I was surprised by the heavy weight and how amazingly solid it felt! It looked very well taken care of, with only minor signs of use. So, I thought, that maybe it could be working just fine after all.
I loaded a roll of Tri-X, and went out shooting, remembering to NEVER change the shutter speed before the shutter was cocked (by advancing the film).

When I got back home I immediately processed the film, and to my surprise the negatives looked really great as they where hanging to dry!

One thing that really makes this heavy, bulky, not very elegant rangefinder camera something really special, is….

…well actually I don’t know!

It has shutter speeds from B, 1-1/500 sec. and the aperture goes from 2,8-16. So nothing special there…

But there’s just something about it that makes you view things in a completely different way. Something about the way it works, and the way you work with it!

Something about its looks, and how it feels in your hands.

Have a look:

Even the way it smells!!! I don’t know what it is, but this camera has it’s very own odor! I have a lot of other vintage cameras, and they all have that special smell of old leather and lube. But with this one it’s different, it’s like a part of its personality!

All of the above makes you take pictures that are completely different than what you would have made with most other cameras. I don’t know why, but something about it is inspiring in a whole other way.

Well, to me at least! :)

Now, go out and get one for yourself! It’s not that expensive, but remember to read the instructions very carefully before using it!!!

* Fancy the rarest, most sought-after Russian cameras? We have the former USSR to bring you the finest, handsomest artifacts of recent and old times’ past. Grab any of the cultish, deadstock precision-built cameras from the facilities of Mother Russia in our Shop!

written by michell on 2011-07-15 in #reviews #ukrainian #russian #rangefinder #lomography #film-camera #user-review


  1. simon-hedge
    simon-hedge ·

    Fed 3 + Tri-X = unbeatable combination!

  2. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    I found a very early FED 3a. These work wonderfully.

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