I’ve just received a beautiful new (well, really quite old) FED-2 rangefinder camera made in the former Soviet Union some time in the 1950s. The FED-2 was the first and very successful attempt by Soviet camera makers to improve upon the original and vastly more expensive Leica II and IIIg designs.
The camera above is unusual because it’s finished in black enamel, so this is an opportunity to see how the FED-2 would have looked if that finish had ever been available on a camera out of the FED factory. It never was, and this finish is in fact the detailed modern enamelling work of a skilled restorer from Odessa in Ukraine.
The story of the FED factory is an interesting if unpalatable one. The factory (???) in Kharkov was an orphanage-turned-work-commune named for Felix E. Dzerzhinsky, founder of the original Soviet Secret Police, the Cheka (later the NKVD).
And the origin of the title of this post? It’s from an old Soviet song about war journalism:
With Leica and with notepad
And sometimes with machine gun
We passed through fire and frost.
Stephen Rothery has a controversial conspiracy theory that the early Leica I and II models were clones of the first FED rangefinder (the FED-1 or Fedka). He posits that the Leica in the song was simply a genericised trademark and that, for some time in the 1920s to the early 1940s, Leica in Russian was a synonym for a 35mm camera. I’m not sure about this, but it’s a good story…
Anyway, these are rugged, inexpensive machines that take great photographs, on good old fashioned film. I plan to use this pretty much exclusively for black and white photography; perhaps I’ll post some shots here after I’ve used it for a bit.
[Edit: 23 June 2008: I worked out the camera is from 1955 and is the type ‘a’ version of the FED-2. I’ve added a wonderful little wrist strap from Gordy’s Camera Straps. Elegant, simple and rugged. And very reasonably priced too! The camera, which is heavy enough, feels safe hanging on it. Highly recommended.]