By: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Front part of the FED-4. You can watch from left to right the synch socket for outer flash, the self-timer deactivating button, the self-timer operation lever, the big silicon meter window, the rangefinder small circular window, the FED logo both in Cyrillic and Latin characters and the viewfinder window on its right.


Basically inspired on the German 1932 Leica IId with L39 thread, the FED-4 (in spite of
preserving such classic LTM mount so as to be able to use the wide range of already existing lenses and a shutter being a copy of the German original one from the quoted Leica IId together with similar control knobs and dials) also sports some aesthetic aspects (specially the frontal part) linked to the mythical German M Series Rangefinder Leicas, the 1954 Leica M3 above all.

Designed by R.M.Belenki, two models were made: the FED-4a (1964-1971, 229,566 units built), the last of the series bearing neck-strap lugs, which used for the first time a rewinding knob located on a side of the top area; and the FED-4b (1969-1976,269,008 units built) which added a quick advancing frame lever instead of the
classical turning wheel.

The FED-4 exhibits the characteristic outline of the superb not reflex direct viewfinder cameras, lacking a tilting mirror, a very smooth and silent shutter release and a great optical quality, particularly with wideangle and standard lenses, since they are designed and built without compromises on not having to avoid the mirror, being able to further introduce into the camera body and very near the film plane.

This model entailed the premiere of a non coupled selenium meter, and the higher superstructure that was required for its setting makes the FED-4 a bigger camera than the previous FED-3.

The body is 3,3 cm wide, 8,8 cm high and 14 cm long, though the width increases to 7,2 cm with the standard lens.

The loading and film transport systems are conventional and the frames counter can be manually reset to zero.

The FED-4b film advance lever is located in the usual position on the top part of the camera body and a simple pull or a sequence of softer strokes of it pushes each frame forward.

The direct viewfinder incorporates an accurate focusing rangefinder by means of the superposition of two images that are made to coincide by turning the lens focusing ring and bringing about a global 2:3 real size image with a faint greenish hue.

On the other hand, the rangefinder patch is slightly yellowish, without bright framelines, parallax correction or exposure indications within the viewfinder, although the camera features a dioptric correction control not usual by that time.

The FED-4 is a fairly robust and solid camera, utterly metallic, weighing 800 g and boasting a plane focal horizontal travel shutter with cloth curtains and speeds between 1 sec and 1/500 sec + B setting for long exposures and self-timer.

The flash synchronization speed is 1/30 sec for electronic flash and 1/15 sec for bulb units and besides the customary hot shoe, it has a threaded PC synch terminal for external flash units.

Likewise, it includes a selenium meter for film sensitiveness between 20 and 400 ISO.

On the top left end of the camera body, we find a dial and a glass window with a needle indicator, a system allowing the manual choice of both shutter speed and diaphragm, with f stops options between f/2.8 and f/16.

Furthermore, the FED-4 sports a self-timer, with delayed times setting between 9 and 15 seconds.

To sum up, the FED-4 is a Russian camera contributing a wholly mechanical philosophy, acceptable reliability and top-notch optical quality regarding its range of lenses. A machine devoid of the manifold electronic circuitry and batteries of modern autofocus reflex cameras, beating many of them (specially standard and intermediate level models) both in terms of optical quality and working ability under adverse conditions.

Around 500,000 FED-4 were made between 1965 and 1976.

Semilateral view of the FED-4. In the right area of the image you can observe the knurled knob for rewinding film.

View from top of the FED-4.From left to right: double concentric dial with the shutter speed scale (external big knurled wheel) and the diaphragms scale and film sensitiveness with Russian GOST nomenclature instead of ISO (smaller internal knurled wheel); accessory hot shoe; shutter speed choice knob; shutter realease; little knurled ring for disconnecting the rewinding (located around the shutter release); and more on the right we find another double knurled dial: the external (bigger size), which indicates us the number of shots we have made and the internal (smaller size) to choose the type of film that we are using -for daylight, tungsten, infrared, etc.


The FED-4 shutter is an excellent copy of the original one embedded inside the 1932 German rangefinder Leica II (Model D), in whose layout the shutterspeed dial turns with the first curtain and a pin located on the mentioned shutter speed dial drives a lever releasing the second curtain.

In order to change shutter speed, we must lift the dial, turning it then, with which we move the pin in such a way that the first curtain will shift a bigger or lesser distance and time before the second curtain is released. Both the curtains and dial speed is constant, but not the difference between the shutter speeds -because each speed doubles the next one on a normal progression-. Thereby, the high speeds come grouped on the dial very close to each other, while there´s a great distance between the two slowest shutter speeds (usually 1/60 sec and 1/30 sec).

Notwithstanding, by dint of slightly reducing the effective base length of the rangefinder, the Russians added some slow speeds to this exact copy of the 1932 Leica II (Model D) shutter, arranging them on the great space between 1/60 and 1/30, so as to avoid the introduction of another dial for the slow shutter speeds (a resourceful device of lofty aesthetic beauty, which along with an escapement gear typical of the Swiss watch manufacturing firms placed on the low part of the camera, was a built-in feature in the Leica III) that would have remarkably raised the production cost.

In this type of shutter, the first curtain takes 1/30 sec to complete its travel and stop.

Moreover, this shutter has the trait that to cock it implies the same action in the speeds settings as when we turn the shutter speed dial to choose a slower speed.

Rear view of the FED-4, in which highlight from left to right: the direct viewfinder (without a mirror, by means of internal coupled rangefinder) with the dioptric correction ring around it; the FED logo from Kharkov factory (Ukraine) and the inscription ´Made in USSR´.

Nice upward view of the FED-4, in which stand out the very beautiful finish of the aluminium, the gorgeous mechanizing and aesthetical appearance of the main controls and the superb vulcanised rubber of the lower part of camera body, usual in the classic Russian photographic industry, without forgetting the imposing appearance of the Industar 61 52 mm f/2.8 with a special lanthanum formula.

Aerial view with close-up of the top right area of the camera, in which you can see from lef to right: the shutter speed selector knob with a red indicator arrow, the knurled little ring for rewind disengaging (with the shutter release placed on it), the shutter cocking and film advance lever and the double concentric knurled dial (the bigger showing the number of frames we have exposed and the smaller allowing to choose the film type - daylight, tungsten, infrared, etc).


The standard lens is the Industar 61 52,53,55 mm f/2.8 with Leica M39 thread mount, with a minimal focusing distance of 1 metre, angle of view of 45º, weight of 225 g and 59x57 dimensions.

This excellent lens bears a new optical formula with lanthane glass of great optical performance and in the same way as every Industar lens, its construction springs from the renowned 1902 four elements Tessar design by Carl Zeiss firm brilliant optical pundit Paul Rudolph.

The optical calculus of the Industar 61 52,53,55 mm f/2.8 was carried out by the Russian scientists W. Sokolov and G.G.Sliusarev, who employed a positive element (thicker on its center than on its edges) made with STK-6, an optical glass sporting special optical attributes, made with crown glass and added lanthanum and whose refractive power is approximately twice as much as a normal optical glass, which makes feasible the optimization of the aberrations correction to a high degree.

Other Russian L39 mount lenses which can be used with the rangefinder FED-4 are: Russar MR-2 20 mm f/5.6.- Exotic high quality anastigmatic super wideangle, with 6 elements and an angle of view of 92º. It´s very rectilinear, practically free of distortion and it involves a proper Russian Pancake design from 1960 by the great optician M.M.Roosinov, partly inspired by the 1933 Zeiss Topogon Ludwig Bertele original formula for aerial photography and by the 1950 Carl Zeiss Topogon 25 mm f/4 lens intended for use with Contax rangefinders.

It´s a non coupled with the rangefinder lens, but it doesn´t matter to all practical effects, because of its huge depth of field.

It has proved to be very useful in landscape, architecture and indoor photography, where since it isn´t a retrofocus optical design, a tremendously high resolution and nearly total absence of distortion are achieved.

The optical elements configuration is of symmetrical type and the minimal focusing distance is 0,50 m.

For this lens there´s an original independent Russian viewfinder, boasting parallax correction, which is mounted on the accessory shoe.

Nevertheless, it is maybe a better choice to buy the modern and excellent Skopar 21 mm f/4 L39 from Cosina Voigtländer, also sporting a specific viewfinder and rendering a slightly superior quality.

Aerial view with close-up of the dial with the f stops scale and the film sensitiveness scale (marked in Russian GOST terminology and not in ASA), the latter in red colour

Spectacular semilateral back view of the FED-4, clearly indicating an excellent finish and an utterly metallic building quality, superior to most modern autofocus standard and intermediate level range cameras.

Orion-15 28 mm f/6.- An extraordinary 4 elements in 4 groups lens, rather difficult to build (because of the tremendous bending of the glass in each of its elements), very inspired by the legendary Carl Zeiss Topogon 25 mm f/4 for Contax rangefinders, introduced in 1950 after recalculating it and having reduced its dimensions (from the original 1933 Ludwig Bertele Topogon optical formula applied inside a special f/6.3 huge 9´´x 9´´ lens for aerial photography) for 35 mm Contax rangefinders.

Because its optical formula was specifically conceived for aerial wideangle photography and photogrammetric photography, its image quality is superb, with negligible geometric distortion, gorgeous resolution and possibility of big enlargements both on photographic paper and on projection.

Besides, the Russians were well aware that in spite of the fact that the Orion-15 28 mm f/6 is a scarcely luminous lens, as it is used with a rangefinder camera without a tipping mirror, the authentic ability to attain handheld available light snapshots would indeed comparable to all purposes to a reflex lens stopped at f/4.

Therefore, this maximum aperture of f/6 (together with a very light weight of 65 g) was very useful, since very probably the soviet photographic industry of that moment couldn´t have sustained the huge production expenditure that would have posed to increase the maximum luminosity to f/4 as in the marvellous original Carl Zeiss Topogon 25 mm f/4.
Jupiter-12 35mm f/2.8.- A copy from Carl Zeiss Biogon 3,5 cm f/2.8 for Contax rangefinders previous to II World War.

Optical design of 6 elements in 4 groups. It contributes remarkable sharpness and absence of distortion, since it is a non retrofocus design.

It can´t be used on the modern Cosina Voigtländer rangefinders L39 mount Bessa L and Bessa R, because its rear element is so big that it strikes against the meter before being able to finish the lens coupling.
Jupiter-8 50 mm f/2.- Optical design of 6 elements in 3 groups. A rather worthy lens, very good in the center and a bit soft in the edges. It also displays a good colour accuracy.
Jupiter-9 85 mm f/2.- A copy of Carl Zeiss Sonnar 85 mm f/2 for Contax rangefinders previous to the II World War. An optical design of 7 elements in 3 groups. An excellent quality lens, very suitable for portraits.
Jupiter-11 135 mm f/3.5.- A 4 elements in 3 groups lens. It shows a great aesthetical beauty and a good image quality, though taking into account its focal length, the focusing accuracy with the range finder is more difficult than with the rest of quoted lenses.

On the other hand, the FED-4 can also use all the very wide range of old Leica and Voigtländer L39 thread mount, along with all the modern Voigtländer Cosina lenses with L39 mount and even the vast majority of Leica M lenses through an adaptor.

The FED-4 with its removable back. Just watch the magnificent thoroughness of the guides for 35 mm framing the rear part of the shutter curtains.
The good film flatness was always very important for the Russian designers of photographic cameras.

Image of the lower area of the FED-4. Once more, the top-notch finish and anticorrosive anodising treatment takes a main role.
Also first class the mechanizing of the thread for tripod along with the sublime presence of the Industar 61 52 mm f/2.8 lens, whose look evokes the mythical German M39 threaded mount lenses for the legendary rangefinder Leicas.

Lovely set made up by the FED-4 camera with its Industar 61 52 mm f/2.8, lens cap, shade, authentic leather case, instructions manual and original product box.

Industar 61 53 mm f/2.8, one of the most high quality lenses of the Russian photographic industry of all time, with a special optical formula based on slightly radiocative lanthanum glass.


a) First of all, you must adjust manually the film sensitiveness by means of the big dial allowing the
adjustment between ISO 20 and ISO 400.

b) You must point the camera towards the subject, theme or person that you want to photograph.

c) You are to turn the meter button until aligning the red needle with the needle of the meter.

d) The suitable shutter speeds and diaphragm are read on the dial and you put them on the camera.

Front view of the Industar 61 53 mm f/2.8 lens.

Aerial view of the Industar 61 53 mm f/2.8 lens.


In the same way as happens with a good percentage of the classical German Leica rangefinders with M39 thread mount, some important precautions must be taken on handling the FED-4, specially:

        4 Don´t adjust the shutter speed before having cocked the shutter, in order to avoid serious damage to the            camera.

        5 Don´t turn the shutter speed dial in the interval between 1/30 and 1 second.

        6 Never aim the camera at the sun, for it can open a hole on the shutter curtain.

        7 Don´t ever leave the camera with a slow speed set when you´re not using it, because it would harm the            camera mechanism.

        8 Never leave the shutter permanently cocked when you are not using the camera, cause it would damage            the camera working.

Front part of the Industar 61 55 mm f/2.8 lens, a focal length merely nominal, because as a matter of fact it is practically a twin brother of both the Industar 61 53 mm f/2.8 and Industar 61 52 mm f/2.8.
The three lenses are almost identical, most often featuring a real focal length of 52,4 cm.

Industar 61 55 mm f/2.8 lens in which you can clearly notice the three different scales for diaphragms, depths of field and distances.

Industar 61 55 mm f/2.8 lens with its splendid shade.


Camera Model: Soviet Rangefinder F-4.
Type of Camera: Optical rangefinder coupled to the viewfinder, for 35 mm film and
interchangeable lenses.
Focusing: Manual through coincidence rangefinder.
Standard Lens: Industar-61 52,53,55 f/2.8 featuring new optical formula and elements made with special lanthanum glass.
Viewfinder: Direct, coupled to the rangefinder, without framing marks or parallax compensation. It sports a +/-2D dioptric corrector.
Shutter Type: Focal plane, mechanically controlled, horizontal-travel and cloth curtains.
Shutter speed times: From 1/500 sec to 1 sec + B manual.
Flash Synch: 1/30 sec for electronic flash and 1/15 sec for bulb units.
ISO range: 20-400.
Lens Mount: Leica M39 thread.
Film advance and rewind: Utterly manual.
Self-timer: Mechanical, with speeds between 9 and 15 seconds.
Weight: 800 g.
Dimensions: 3,3 cm wide x 8,8 cm high x 14 cm long.
Meter: Photoelectric with non coupled selenium cell.
Construction: Wholly metallic.
Focusing Range: From 1 m to infinite.

© Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza