What you need to know about the FED - 2
In your hand
When you first handle a FED-2, you immediately become aware of its heavy weight
(compared to its size).
Not surprising, it is 100% metal. A far cry from the plastic wonders of more recent
times. Surely, it must have been built to serve a second purpose; a handy weapon in
close combat. :-)
The second thing you notice is the crudeness of workmanship. At least, when compared
to its ancestor, the Leica II. However, when you disassemble one of these beasts and
come to know its parts intimately (believe me, you do!), it becomes more of a charming
feature than a handicap. Why? Because you can see the marks left by the workmen, who
created them. They seem to talk to you of past times and far away places. (Well, with
some imagination...) It is hard to put a finger to it, but - unlike the perfectly polished
big brothers - these cameras seem to have a distinct personality. I have not seen two
FED-s that were exactly the same. (They all had different faults. ;-> )
Anyhow, there is not much to a FED-2; it is a simple machine with few controls. Just
enough to take good photographs. Nothing less, nothing more.
Loading the film
Take off the back of the camera by first opening the two latches at the bottom and then
sliding the back down a bit and lifting it up and away from the body. (To open the latches,
you simply lift up the semicircular handle and give it a 180 degree turn.) Closing is the
exact opposite of opening.
You load the film by inserting the cartridge on the left. Unlike in a typical SLR, the
fork cannot be pulled up (and it does not have to be). You can pull out the rewind knob
some way, but it only makes rewinding more comfortable. It does not pull up the fork,
so don't try to force it.
Draw the end of the film over the image window and the sprocket wheel and then down
behind the take-up spool coming back up on the far right. The end of the film has to be
fastened under the little metal plate that is attached to the take-up spool. (You might
have to turn the film advance knob some way to bring it into the right position.)
Oh yes, and I should mention, that you do have to use the take-up spool that comes with
the camera. You can't substitute it with one of those plastic ones that are found in
modern film cartridges. So when you buy a FED-2, make sure it comes with its original
(metal) take-up spool.
Just one more thing: it is always a good idea to take a glance at the rewind knob when
you advance the film to the first few frames to see that it has been properly loaded.
The rewind knob should turn counter-clockwise as you move to the next frame.
Advancing the film and setting the shutter speed
As many other users will tell you, this has to be done in this very order; advance the
film by turning the film advance knob as far as you can (with this you also wind up
the shutter), and only then set the shutter speed. You do that by pulling the shutter
speed setting dial up a little and turning it so that the required number aligns with
the little dot in the middle. When properly aligned, the dial should click into position.
Warning: do not go from B to 500 or vice versa. If you are at the highest speed and
want to select B, turn the dial around over all the lower speeds.
Why are these oddities? Find the answer to this question on my camera repair pages.
It is not possible to expose the same frame more than once with this camera (either
accidentally or on purpose).
Setting the aperture
There are no complications here, this is 100% manual. You can set the aperture any time
you like. You won't be looking through the lens, there is no internal light meter to worry
about, so your adjustments will not interfere with anything.
Using the rangefinder to set the distance
First of all, make sure you get a sharp view in the view/rangefinder. If the view is
blurred, try to move the diopter adjustment lever (next to the rewind knob) forward or
backward. It will make a difference!
FED-s have an orange (golden?) spot with a split image in the middle of the viewfinder.
Your goal, of course, is to bring the two images (one is noticeably dimmer) into perfect
overlap by turning the distance scale ring on the lens. This is not always easy when
the light conditions are poor. (Try to find vertical lines with high contrast.)
The FED-2 has a large rangefinder base length (i.e. the two windows of the rangefinder
you see in the front are relatively far apart), which makes setting the distance accurate
even with moderate telephoto (135 mm) lenses.
Also, unlike in a Contax (or Kiev), the position of the windows is such that there is no
danger of your fingers blocking them as you hold the camera for shooting.
If there is no way you can make the two images overlap, your camera is misaligned and
needs to be fixed.
Taking the picture
"Just press the button..." - I think we heard that before. (On the side; I just wonder
how many times an average person presses a button on an average day? I wonder what comes
first in a baby's life; learning to say "mamma", or pressing his/her first button?)
Anyhow, one thing you will notice is that the speed selector dial rotates as you press
the shutter release button. Not that there is a real danger of it with this camera, but
don't put a finger too close to it, because you might impede its movement.
Rewinding the film
First, disengage the sprocket wheel by pressing down the 'collar' around the shutter release
button and turning it clockwise. (There are markings on the cover - a Russian P and C with
a double headed arrow in between -, which try to tell you this, but unless you are familiar
with the language you might not know.)
Wind back the film with the rewind button, open the back cover to take out the film and rush
to the nearest photo outlet (or better still, develop the film on your own).
One great thing about the FED-2, is that you can use lenses of different focal lengths with
it. Typical are the 35 mm, 85 mm, and 135 mm Jupiter lenses, apart from the 50 mm standard
The lens mount is a 39 mm screw type (as per Leica). You turn the lens counter clockwise to
take it out. When you put it back, it is a good idea to first set the distance to the
shortest (1 m on the standard lens), otherwise the rangefinder coupling arm gets in the way
and makes it harder to match the start of the thread on the lens and body.
If you have looked at a few FED-s already you probably have noticed that the position of the
lens markings are all over the place in relation to the body. In other words, some lenses
screw in more, others less. Don't worry about this, this is just the way they are.
However, if you are getting unsharp pictures, of which there are several possible causes, and
one of them could be that the lens-film distance is incorrect. Look at my camera repair pages
to see how this problem can be identified and corrected.