FED  –  Vintage Camera Brand

FED Brand Overview

FED logo

Founded: 1927 — Kharkov, USSR
(modern day Ukraine)
Currently: FED Corporation

FED Brand History

FED is a Ukrainian brand and factory that was originally created in 1927 as a child labor commune and orphanage by the Soviet government in the city of Kharkov, USSR. Named after the initials of Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky who was appointed by Lenin himself to organize the Soviet security force that would eventually become the infamous KGB, FED manufactured millions of cameras until production officially ceased in 2005.

Camera production at FED did not truly begin until 1932 when the debut of Germany’s extraordinary Leica II prompted Soviet leaders to have it copied. The task fell to the director of the FED factory, notable educator Anton Makarenko, who then created the original FED rangefinder camera (also known later as the FED NKVD or FED-1) and began production. Shortly afterward, Makarenko was removed from his position and the factory came under direct control of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police. Production of the FED continued during World War II until it was suspended in 1941 and the factory converted for military use only to fall into enemy hands later that year as German forces captured the city after the First Battle of Kharkov.

While Soviet and German forces continued to fight bitterly for control of Kharkov, FED production was shifted to Berdsk, Siberia where it was manufactured alongside artillery sights, sniper rifle scopes, and other military optics until it returned to the original factory after the war in 1946. Production of the original FED, the camera that played an instrumental role in popularizing 35mm film in the Soviet Union, lasted until 1955, after which the factory began designing new rangefinders like the FED-2 and the FED-5.

FED survived the fall of the Soviet Union in the early ’90s and continued to manufacture cameras as well as other industrial and consumer products including hydraulic pumps and aircraft components. Starting in 1995, FED underwent a decade-long reorganization process that saw it become an independent corporation. Unfortunately, it was also decided during this time that camera production would stop entirely in order for the company to focus on other areas. Today, FED is best known for producing and servicing components for aircraft, ships, and ground vehicles.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of FED cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 209-212.

“History,” FED Corporation, http://www.fed.ua/eng/history

“FED (camera),” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FED_(camera)

Vintage Camera Lab