FED camera (1953)

FED is a Soviet small-format rangefinder camera, the first model under this brand. In everyday life it is often called “FED-1”, although officially it did not have such an index.

Produced by the Kharkov industrial machine-building association “FED” from 1934 to 1955. Produced from 1934 to 1955, when it was replaced by “FED-2”.
A large number of variants and upgrades of this camera were produced under the name “FED” (without a digital index). A version with shutter speeds below 1/20 of a second and an additional control dial (on the front of the camera, like on Leica III, Canon JS and the like) was being prepared for release, but due to the war, production was never launched.

Leica II

“FED” (1930s)

“FED-NKVD” (1930s)

“FED”, bottom charging with photographic film.

“FED” is almost an exact copy of the German camera “Leica II” [1], immediately after its release, it gained wide popularity in photojournalism. Produced by the Kharkov Labor Commune named after Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, created from former street children by the famous teacher Anton Makarenko [2].


It had a focal-plane shutter with rubberized fabric curtains. Set of shutter speeds: “B” (or “Z”), 1/20, 1/30, 1/40, 1/60, 1/100, 1/200, 1/500 seconds. The rangefinder and the viewfinder (of the “Albada” type) had different sighting windows; the viewfinder had a magnification of 0.44 ×, the rangefinder had a nominal base of 38 mm and a magnification of 1.0 ×. To charge the camera with photographic film, the bottom cover was removed, both standard cassettes and two-cylinder ones with a wide opening slot were used. There is no sync contact and self-timer.


It was equipped with a FED 3.5 / 50 lens (in the post-war years Industar-10 3.5 / 50) in a folding frame (the so-called “tube lens”) with the following aperture values: 3.5, 4.5, 6 , 3, 9, 12.5, 18 (the first experimental batch of lenses was produced at VOOMP, and calculated at GOI). The lens mount is threaded – М39 × 1. The flange distance is not standardized, approximately 28.8 mm, so interchangeable lenses required individual adjustment.


Production after the war was launched in 1948 and was carried out in parallel at the KMZ plant (the plant’s distinctive mark on the top cover, then the name FED-Zorky). The products of KMZ later grew into the Zorky line, and the FED of the plant named after Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky retained its model name, under which devices of various modifications were later produced (FED-2, 3,4,5, 10, etc.)

Until 1955, the FED camera was a copy of the Leica II camera, the pre-war variations were produced with various finishes, had a stamped body, slightly differed in the size of the controls and … required adjustments when changing lenses between cameras (the exception is the post-war issue).

There are also known military and award and special modifications – cameras were presented to especially distinguished civil servants (NKVD, Komandirsky, TSVVS). Since 1955, cameras of the FED and Zorky line began to develop independently. From the mid-30s to the early 40s of the twentieth century, about 160 thousand copies of the camera were collected.


The FED camera was equipped with a 50mm f3.5 folding tube lens (Industar-22). Scheme – tessar. It had a horizontal focal-plane shutter, a viewfinder that was not combined with a rangefinder, and a tape-based film winding scheme.

Loading of cassettes with film was carried out under the lower opening cover. The exposure scale is from B and 1/20 s to 1/500 s, the values ​​are set when the shutter is cocked. The frame counter is set manually, there is no self-resetting, there is also no reminder of the light sensitivity of the set material.

Under the screw on the front of the top cover, there is an adjustment hole for the rangefinder. There is no self-timer, the film is wound into the spool by switching the shutter release lever and turning the rewind knob clockwise.

The shutter works quietly at any shutter speed – there is no vibration, the sound of the shutter is heard directly near the device. FEDs of the first versions on the secondary market are found at a price of 800 to 8000 thousand rubles, depending on the collection value and condition.

With the lens folded, the camera fits freely in a trouser pocket and does not cause any inconvenience during transportation.


At the end of the 30s, the so-called “second model” was produced, it is also “FED-S” or “commander’s FED”, which was supplied with a “FED” 2/50 lens, the exposure range was increased – exposure of 1/1000 second was added. From 1938 to 1941, a modification of the “FED-B” or “General’s FED” with an extended set of shutter speeds was produced: from 1 second to 1/1000.

It is also known that about 800-1000 FED devices were produced by the plant in 1941-1942 and in 1946-1948 in the evacuation in the city of Berdsk, probably from the pre-war backlog of parts. According to some reports, in 1941, the model “B” began to be produced, which was a copy of the “Leica III” camera, in which long exposures were added.

Immediately after the war, the technological equipment of plant No. 237 of the NKV USSR in Berdsk was transferred to the Kiev plant Arsenal, where the production of the first model, equipped with KMZ lenses, continued. The FED-Arsenal modification is produced in a very small series and is considered a collector’s item. In 1946, the production of FED was transferred from Kiev to the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant, where it continued first under the FED-Zorkiy brand, and then simply Zorkiy.

Non-serial production

In 1933, 30 devices with an attached rangefinder (analogue of the Leica I camera) were manually manufactured, but such a FED was not mass-produced. At the same time, the VOOMP plant in Leningrad produced the first version of the Pioneer camera of a similar design. In April 1934, the first batch of 500 cameras of the same brand was released, which, like the FED, was a copy of the Leica II. In 1934, the release of a copy of “Leica II” under the name “FAG” began at the Moscow plant “Geodesy”. The number of cameras assembled is unknown; according to some information, about 100 were made.

Camera “VTSVS” (“TSVVS”)

In 1949 – 1950, a batch of “elite” (at that time) cameras “VTSVS” (“TSVVS”) was produced at the defense plant. The cameras were intended for topographic photography in the air force, as its name suggests. Captured lenses “Carl Zeiss Sonnar” 1.5 / 50 or 2.0 / 50 with internal mount Contax (as on rangefinder cameras “Kiev”) were installed in the body of the “FED” camera. The cameras were manufactured at a good technical level and were trimmed with natural leather (black or blue). The VTSVS (TSVVS) cameras were awarded to senior and senior command personnel of the Soviet Army. In total, no more than 1000 cameras were produced.

Variants and classification

FED No. 26490
Labor Commune of the
NKVD-Ukrainian SSR
named after
F E Dzerzhinsky

“FED” was produced in several versions, differing in coating technology, inscriptions, configuration of individual parts, etc. This variety is of interest to collectors.

Most of all questions are raised by the numbering system of FED cameras of the first years of release, which makes it difficult to attribute individual copies.

Counterfeits and hoaxes

Fake Leica
(presumably late FED or Sharp).
The fake is issued by the release button.

The first “FED”, like the first model of the “Sharp” camera, became the basis for many fakes.

First of all, counterfeiters exploit its resemblance to much more expensive Leica models II and III. More often they limit themselves to the fact that German inscriptions and emblems (sometimes very close to authentic, sometimes completely fantastic) are applied to the FED or they change the finish to “exclusive”, such as pasting with snakeskin or camouflage paint. Even “FED-2”, “FED-3” and “Zorkiy-S” are sometimes altered, although their appearance is already far from “Leica”. Occasionally there are also seriously altered copies; only a specialist can distinguish them from the original.

Another direction of falsification developed during the perestroika years on the wave of interest in Soviet artifacts. Various “award” and “anniversary” “FEDs” appeared on the souvenir market, for example, decorated in gold with the inscription “Stalinist”.

Most fakes are easy to distinguish by their characteristic details, which are too difficult to change: the shape of the rim of the front frame of the viewfinder, a cam instead of a roller on the rangefinder lever, the shape of the release button, and other signs.


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