FED 3 35mm rangefinder camera

The Fed 3 is a 35mm rangefinder camera made in the Ukraine in the mid 1960s and designed to be similar in style to a Leica but with a price tag which made it much more affordable to the average person.

My Fed 3 camera

I bought this camera for a few pounds from eBay uk simply to add to my collection of rangefinder cameras. It was ‘sold as seen’ with no guarantee that it worked, but it looked in good condition, and included the Industar 61 52mm lens so it seemed worth a punt.

When it arrived I was pleased to find that everything on the camera works as expected (at least everything I can test without a film in it), and it is very clean and tidy. The only thing I needed to do was clean up the leatherette covering which was a bit dull, and I did that with some black saddle soap.

One of the usual problems with old rangefinder cameras is that the actual rangefinder display is dull and difficult to see, but I was pleased to find that this unit has no problems in that respect. The rangefinder spot is nice and clear and makes focusing quite quick and easy.

I already have a Fed 4 in my collection, so the addition of a Fed 3 probably means I will now try to acquire all the other models – this could get expensive!

Fed 3 Description

As I said above the Fed 3 is a rangefinder camera which was made in the USSR in the mid 1960s as an affordable leica like camera. Although I don’t have any magazines from 1967 when this camera was made, I do have some magazines from the early 1960s which lists the Fed 2 at £24. I would expect the Fed 3 was a similar price.

This model is the third version of the basic camera design (the 3 gives that away!) but there were actually also small variations within the individual models. A great site to find out more about the different models is the sovietcams.com site, and the Fed 3 is listed on that site here. From that information I’ve discovered that I have a copy of the second version, probably made about 1967.

The basic design of the Fed 3 is of an interchangeable lens camera, with a rangefinder focus assistance spot in the middle of the viewfinder. If you are unfamiliar with this system, it is a mechanism for focusing which relies on having two images which are superimposed over each other. To make it easier to see, one of the images is coloured, in this case yellow, and when the two images of the subject align, the camera is focused at the correct distance for the subject. Once you are used to using it, it is a quicker and more precise method of focusing than using a ground glass screen, although it is a more complex system and therefore, in theory, intrinsically less reliable.

Although the focusing is quicker and easier when you are used to it, the down side of the rangefinder system is that when using longer or shorter focal length lenses, it is not as easy to compose the picture, because you don’t see the scene through the lens. For some lenses add on viewfinders were made which slot into the accessory shoe, but that made it even more complex as it was necessary to compose with one viewfinder and focus with another.

One oddity of the Fed 3, like the later Fed 4 model, is that the shutter speed can only be set after the shutter has been cocked. Well, it can be set before, but that risks damaging the shutter, so it’s as well to remember to always cock the shutter and then check and set the exposure. Setting the shutter speed is carried out by lifting the top knob and turning it so the marker aligns with the required speed. When setting the exposure, this camera has no built in exposure meter, so that action needs to be carried out with a separate meter, or using Sunny 16.

To load film, the whole of the bottom of the case removes using two large half turn keys in the base. When these are turned the bottom of the case slides off and the film can be easily fitted and then the case replaced.

Although the Fed series don’t have the quality of a leica camera, they introduced a lot of photographers to the art, and were a very popular introduction to photography for many people.

Fed 3 Specifications

  • Fed 3 35mm rangefinder camera made in the USSR in about 1967
  • Interchangeable lens with M39 screw thread.
  • Shutter speeds 1sec to 1/500sec + bulb
  • Accessory socket
  • Flash sync terminal
  • ISO and film type reminder on film advance
  • Manually settable film counter on film advance
  • Self timer with separate release
  • Diopter adjustment on viewfinder
  • Whole bottom of case removes for film loading
  • Film rewind switch around shutter release
  • Body Ser No: 8543056
  • Industar 61 50mm f/2.8 lens
  • Lens Ser No: 8720766
  • Manual available on line here

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