ФЭД 5в is a Russian LTM rangefinder with a kit 𝑓2.8 55mm Industar-61 L/D lens. It’s a large, fully-mechanical 730g metal beast with a silk shutter curtain that can be set between 1s and 1/500s. The camera features a hot shoe, flash sync at 1/30s, self-timer, and a dioptry adjustment.
In this review, I will share my experience using a camera that’s been in my family since before I was born, share lots of sample photos, tips, as well as my overall opinion of the body and the lens.
FED-5b in use.
Though this camera is large enough to have plenty of handgrip space, even for the biggest hand, it’s not very comfortable to use. There are no strap lugs, so the only way to keep this camera on a person is to either use the ever-ready case that comes with it or your own camera bag. The top-plate ГОСТ (“GOST”) memo for Soviet film speeds isn’t particularly useful for the modern ISO/ASA films. Overall, FED-5b feels like a crude instrument, like a hammer at a steel mill.
After all, despite its drawbacks, it still comes with a great lens and seems to be as reliable as AK-47: I have dropped it into sand by accident once, which hasn’t affected it in any way other than the crunchy sounds it made for a while until clearing up.
✪ Note: This section focuses on the camera body — controls, film loading, shutter, etc. For Industar-61 lens performance review, scroll for the dedicated section below, right after the comparison between FED-5 and FED-2 — another classic Soviet camera.
FED-5b has a nice, contrasty and round rangefinder patch that I found easy to use in most lighting conditions. Unfortunately, it’s housed behind a very small viewfinder window with a spiky metal bezel that can easily ruin your glasses. The dioptry adjustment is helpful though personally, I’m not a fan of that feature since I like to see the entire world around me in focus, not just the camera’s frame.
Winding the film on 5b is a straightforward experience. Setting the shutter speed isn’t. First off, you will have to have would the film before setting the speed. Second, you’ll need to lift the peg next to the shutter, rotate it until the awkwardly scratched-on red mark matches the number you’re looking for and let it go until it sets in — keeping in mind that the mark and the number won’t match precisely. This sort of limitation is understandable in ancient relics like FED-2, but in version 5, which came out four decades later, it’s disappointing. The shutter sound is noticeably loud, though not as booming as of some SLR cameras. The self-timer works as expected: nothing special there.
The shutter shake is not very well balanced, and the shutter button is a little difficult to get a feel for when the triggering will happen exactly. This makes taking precisely-timed or slow-shutter photos hand-held challenging — but not impossible.
Rewinding the film onto the canister is slightly tricky but not impossible. You’ll need to press down on the metal sleeve around the shutter button until it clicks, which unlocks the film for winding with the crank found directly above the viewfinder window.
Loading FED 5b is fairly straightforward, though it’s not an entirely comfortable experience. The two lugs at the bottom plate should be flipped up and rotated — one clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. The entire cover slides off, and the film’s leader can then be threaded into the cheap-looking slit on the takeup spool.
Thankfully, there are no batteries involved with this camera — there are absolutely no electronics in the 5b.
FED-5b vs FED-2.
FED-2 was a significant improvement on the original FED, which was a straight copy of the Leica. It featured a longer rangefinder base, combined rangefinder/viewfinder and a decent finish. FED-5’s improvements over 2 are the hot shoe for shooting with flash, improved film counter, improved film rewinder crank, a self-timer, additional slow shutters speeds, and a modernized rewinder crank. Other than that, the 5 became heavier by 118 grams, at least 20% larger, with a cheaper thin leatherette grip, cheaper takeup spool, shorter rangefinder base, and no strap lugs.
I love my 5b because it belonged to my dad, but overall, it seems like a downgrade from a FED-2 with few advantages that matter in my photography. The 5 is harder to carry around and just as annoying to set the shutter speed on. Some may say it’s uglier too.
If you’re about to make a choice between the two cameras, the 5 may still be a viable decision since it’s cheaper and has newer components (less likely to break). Seeing that neither of these cameras is terribly expensive, I’d still recommend the FED-2.
However, note that the above comparison is between the camera bodies only. When it comes to the kit lens, I think that FED-5b’s Industar-61 is far superior to the 2’s Industar-10, even if it doesn’t collapse nicely into the camera.
Industar-61 Л/Д lens performance.
The best thing about FED-5b is undoubtedly its lens. The nominally radioactive glass is made with Lanthane (in Russian, лантана — hence the Л) that does not turn yellow with time like thoriated glass of the Japanese Yashicas and other cameras of the period. The coating on this 𝑓2.8 55mm works very well and, aside from reducing flares, considerably adds a slight tint of marine in a certain light to the images.
It’s not particularly fast, nor is it the sharpest lens out there — but it has great contrast. It’s well-corrected, has no vignetting, and its bokeh isn’t swirly.
The aperture has clicks up to 𝑓16, which is nice. The focus throw on this lens is massive, adding that most of them are over 30 years old; the caked lubrication often makes going from its closest focus distance of 1 metre to infinity awkward and laborious.
Industar-61 does not look as nice as Industar-10, but the quality is far superior, which I think matters more.
Is this old camera worth the money? Depending on how much you’re spending, of course — it’s a full-frame film camera with a great lens and some quirks.