FED-5B Vintage Camera
|Country of Origin:||Soviet Union|
|(modern day Ukraine)|
|Made in:||Kharkov, USSR|
|(modern day Ukraine)|
|Lens Mount:||M39 Screw Mount|
|Dimensions (cm):||14.2 x 9.2 x 3.8 (body only)|
|14.2 x 9.2 x 7.4 (with lens)|
The FED-5B is an interchangeable lens rangefinder introduced in 1977 by FED, a state-run optical manufacturer named after Felix E. Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police. The FED-5B and its siblings (including the FED-2) were all manufactured in what is now the Ukrainian city of Kharkov in an orphanage turned labor commune.
The 5B and the standard FED-5 are virtually identical with the only difference being a lack of light meter on the 5B. The FED has a cloth shutter capable of speeds ranging from 1 to 1/500 seconds and Bulb coupled to a threaded shutter button on the top plate and a self-timer lever located to the side of the lens (which is missing on mine). For flash photography, a hot shoe can be found in the middle of the top plate with a flash sync terminal located on the back right underneath it. On the back’s left side is the viewfinder window surrounded by a knurled ring that adjusts the diopter. Above the viewfinder is the film speed indicator and rewind knob. On the other side of the hot shoe is the shutter speed selector which must only be adjusted after cocking the advance lever under the frame counter and film type indicator.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fascinated by the USSR and have a small collection of Soviet artifacts, mainly cameras and clocks. One of my clocks, a hefty bugger lifted out of the cockpit of a MiG-21 jet fighter has the Soviet “State Quality Mark” stamped on the housing which can also be found on the back of this FED-5B (next to the FED emblem and the “Made in USSR” badge). This particular mark is only found on products that, after close examination by the state, have met the highest of Soviet manufacturing standards and are considered comparable to the best foreign counterparts.
Apart from the State Quality Mark of the USSR, this FED-5B also has the distinction of being the camera I’ve waited for the longest. I bought it cheap on eBay (missing timer lever, dinged filter ring, dents, and all) from a guy in Saint Petersburg who shipped it the next day. Unfortunately, Russian Post promptly lost track of the package. Then, about a month later when it was found, Russian customs got a hold of it and took their time deciding whether or not to allow it out of the country. A few weeks later, it was finally on its way to the United States, presumably on a makeshift raft rowed by an emaciated octogenarian with a pair of badminton rackets. An eternity later, it finally reached New Jersey where it began a long, arduous journey to Chicago strapped to the back of a blind but remarkably determined tortoise. Then, after spending nearly three months in transit, it finally got here!
Want one for yourself? Find your very own FED-5B on eBay.
McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), 471.