There comes a time in a Lomographer’s life that you’ll crave control over your photos, where having a fixed aperture and shutter speed doesn’t do it for you anymore. That is the perfect time to try out an all manual rangefinder!
Like most Lomographers, I started out with the basics – a Holga for medium format, and an LC-A for 35mm. It of course snowballed into a lot more cameras like the Actionsampler, Supersampler, and the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, all of which have fixed apertures and/or shutter speeds. This started out great but eventually, I yearned for something that gave me more control.
Don’t get me wrong though. The plastic cameras are great at what they do. It’s just that I wanted to learn more about photography and going all manual is one of the best ways to learn.
So I researched about manual cameras and the endless debates on the merits of SLRs vs. rangefinders until I finally pulled the trigger on a FED 5, one of the most common FSU rangefinders out there. I’ll get the most important bit out there first: cock the shutter before changing the shutter speed. I’ll say it again, this time with more feeling: COCK THE SHUTTER BEFORE CHANGING THE SHUTTER SPEED. Not doing so will damage your camera. Now that we got that out of the way…
This thing weighs a ton.
If you get tired easily holding or lugging around regular camera gear, this might not be for you. Former Soviet Union cameras like the FED, Kiev, and the Zorki are all big and heavy chunks of metal. You have been warned. A positive way of looking at this is that the camera feels, looks, and is sturdy. It can take a beating and can administer a beating, if you’re so inclined.
What I really like about the camera is the opportunity for learning it offers. You can practically try out all of the analogue photography techniques you can think of, from the Sunny 16 rule, depth of field practice, to hyperfocal focusing.
It’s a camera that rewards you for the amount of time and work you put into your shots. Is it a no-no for newbies to try it out? Only if they are impatient and unwilling to learn. Otherwise, it’s a very capable camera that takes very capable pictures as long as it’s in very capable hands.