film photography · Rangefinder Camera · Soviet Camera · Vintage Camera · Vintage Camera Reviews

The Fed-2 – A Soviet Leica

The FED factory, located in the Soviet Ukraine, started creating Leica copies in the 1930’s. This was after the Soviet Union stopped importation of photographic equipment. The history of the factory leaves you with a bit of goose bumps, and not just for the poor orphans that worked there. FED was named for the initials of Felix E. Dzerzhinsky. He was a man who, strangely enough, was one of the architects of the Red Terror during the Russian Civil War and founder of the Soviet secret police.

FED-2 AD
1961 UK AD for the FED-2

Despite their history, many soviet cameras were mass produced and continue to be popular today with their own cult following.


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The Lens

Almost 2 million copies of the FED-2 were produced between 1955-1970 with slight variations over the years. It was usually paired in the factory with the Industar 26m f/2.8, roughly a 52mm focal length.

FED 2 Industar Lens
FED 2 Industar Lens

The Industar focuses 1 meter (a little more than 3ft) up to infinity, and has the M39 lens mount. The thread of an M39 is slightly different from the Leica Thread Mount and the cam that turns the lens is shaped differently from the round ones on a Leica. This makes compatibility of non FED lenses hit or miss, from what I’ve read.

FED 2
FED 2

The Camera

The frame advance knob also cocks the shutter each time you advance the frame. The frame counter is the manual type that would need to be reset after each roll.

FED 2
Top of the FED 2

This copy has shutter speeds of 1/25-1/500 and B. Later variations have speeds of 1/30th-1/500th. A word of caution with these types of cameras is to get in the habit of advancing the frame after each shot. Never change the shutter speed before advancing the frame and cocking the shutter. There is a pin inside the mechanics of the camera that can be harmed. It is also good not to turn the dial to B after 1/500, instead turn it back.

Like the Nikon F, there is a collar around the shutter release to turn in order to rewind the film. Also like the Nikon F, the back slides off but with two locks.

FED 2 Bottom
FED 2 Bottom

There are two screws on the underside of the camera, with the back off, that allow you to adjust the shutter speeds as they become slower over time.

FED 2
FED 2

On the front of the camera is a self timer lever (not on early variations), and a PC socket with electronic flash synch at 1/25th or 1/30th on later variations.

The viewfinder is a small hole that has an adjustable diopter wand to adjust for your vision. This makes it clear and a lot more distinguishable than other rangefinders I’ve used.

My Experience with the FED-2

This is only the second Soviet era camera I have gotten to shoot with. The first one being the Zenit-B my Uncle B sent me. Mike Eckman sent me this FED-2 in order to try my hand at a soviet rangefinder.

FED 2 - Ilford HP5 400
FED 2 – Ilford HP5 400

Right away I liked the feel of the camera in my hands, and love the sound of the shutter release. The cautions that need to be taken with the shutter make the camera sound extremely delicate, but it is in fact a well made and sturdy camera. Like the Zenit-B, it’s simple yet surprisingly adequate.

FED 2 - Stop Sign
FED 2 – Ilford HP5 400

I can’t compare it to the Leica II, the camera it was made to impersonate, because I have never shot with one. However, I do own a Leica M2 and when comparing the two for quality differences between the two brands, I can feel the difference in the materials and weight. You can tell that it is impersonating some of the Leica features.

FED 2 - Ilford HP5 400
FED 2 – Ilford HP5 400

The viewfinder is a bit small for me because I wear glasses. I have been training myself to view with my right eye rather than always using my left. I find this more comfortable instead of squishing the camera against my nose and glasses.

FED 2 - Ilford HP5 400
FED 2 – Ilford HP5 400

To be honest, I am surprised these compositions came out the way I planned because I had a hard time seeing the whole picture through the viewfinder with my glasses.

FED 2 - Ilford HP5 400
FED 2 – Ilford HP5 400

This lens is fast with a maximum aperture of 2.8, which I really liked for indoor photos. It also has a nice bokeh wide open.

Frankie
Frankie
FED 2 - Ilford HP5 400
Avocado Tree

Final Thoughts

If you can’t afford Leica prices, the FED-2 is a really nice option. An authentic Leica II on Ebay would run you around $600 and up, but a FED-2 on Ebay will run you significantly less. I actually think I will be adding one of these to my collection in the future.

The next Soviet rangefinder I’ll review is the Kiev Mike sent. Stay tuned. Be sure to watch my video on the FED-2 below.

Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

Check out Mike’s article for the history of this camera and FED.
I ran into this service manual for the Fed-2 so I thought I’d throw that link here in case you are bravely seeking to repair your FED yourself.

If you found this article helpful and feel so inclined to help me out with the continuation of these articles consider making a small donation.

If you’d like to purchase a Leica II or a FED-2 and use my link, I may receive a small commission from any purchases resulting from the link.

Ebay: Leica II or FED-2

KEH: FED-2 or Leica II

9 thoughts on “The Fed-2 – A Soviet Leica

  1. If you can -save up for a real Leica…If that is too big a stretch, the Russian Leica and Contax interpretations can be very useful, but…

  2. I’ve had good luck so far with Fedka.com if you are looking for a good source for Soviet cameras. I’ve bought a 6×9 folding camera and a Jupiter 8 lens from Yuri (who runs the store) and I’m pretty sure he CLA’s the cameras before selling them.

      1. On the eBay front, seller Cupog is in Slovakia and he CLA’s and sells Czech and Soviet cameras and accessories (with great pics and descriptions). His prices are very reasonable, though they are all auctions (not Buy it Now). I bought a Czech Flexaret Va TLR from him and it is lovely (for a beaten-up 1958 TLR).

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