Wednesday, September 5, 2007
"... the level of amazement corresponds directly to the distance between low expectation and high quality ..."
Nothing described my experience with Former Soviet Union (FSU) -made cameras better than that quote. Despite my very frustrating bout with the first FSU camera I ever owned, a Zorki 4 with faulty film take up spool shaft, I can definitely say that I am a big fan now.
And the camera on the menu today is a further proof.
Fed 2 is the only camera that meets my "beauty" standard among the Fed camera series made by the FED working commune and later acquired by the famous KMZ factory. For more info on the rich history on these cameras, just use your favorite online search engine for Russian cameras.
This Fed 2 lacks the refined feel of the black Kiev 4A that I have. My toddler daughter can't even trip the shutter release because it's so heavy. Boy, did that bummed her out ... for about 3 seconds :)
Although, my other Kiev, the 4AM still takes the cake when it comes to total "clunky-ness" scale with its extremely dodgy shutter speed dial. But I digress...
Without the act of kindness of a certain Mike from Colorado who generously sent me a film take up spool, this blog entry would never have made it to publication. Responding to my desperate WTB post on Nelsonfoto forum (a very good photography forum by the way), Mike simply state that he has a spare spool and voila! a few days later, it materialized in a padded film canister, in a padded envelope right in front of my door.
It's the community spirit done right by decent people, I say!
I don't know exactly what to expect from this camera. I mean, the camera looks ok, and the shutter speed seems to be ok, and the extremely small aperture opens up and closes down, so I should at least get some recognizable pictures, right?
So I decided to finish my (seems-like) neverending stash of Ilford XP2 Super (expired, that is :) ) by using it as the film of choice for the test roll on the Fed 2. I have since learned that this batch of XP2 is best treated as 100ASA eventhough it's rated as 400 *Seven* years ago!
Now, the loading, I observed the take up spool I got from Mike closely and noticed at first that the metal curly "lip" (barely liftable) that supposed to catch the end of the film leader cannot be pried to open tall enough for inserting even the start of the film leader... hmmm, jumping into conclusion, I grumbled and get the scissors and start looking for that website that shows how to trim film leaders a'la Leica III.
Upon further inspection, I didn't pry hard enough, the whole "lip" turns out to be liftable. So now I have a half-trimmed film leader and a film spool that doesn't need the trim in the first place. Great...
So finally I got the film hooked up onto the film spool and I'm ready to put it into the camera body cavity. No surprises here, I gingerly started to rotate the spool expecting at anytime to relive my nightmare of slipping take up spool on the Zorki 4. But... everything rotates as it should, even the film holes latched confidently on the sprockets and the take up spool continues to roll without slipping. Hooooray!
I put the back back in its place and I was ready to roll. The question was, to where...?
Enter Deep Ellum. The one section of Dallas downtown that I've never dared to venture into before (that and I just don't have the time). It was said that the Deep Ellum is where the cool people hang out or hanged dry. Caution is definitely needed... Sounds like the perfect testing ground for the Fed!
This is what greeted me there... Uh, hello...?:
Check out that texture on the old door:
How did I get here?
Weeds on Windows:
And as I pull out of the Deep Ellum area, I spotted this Valiant in front of an old warehouse turned chic graphics studio:
Overall, I'm impressed with two things, the Fed 2 with it's shifty-looking Fed lens are obviously a good shooter. These FSU cameras are definitely a unique piece of photography history and a joy to use to boot. That is, if you can get over the clunky operation and its beauty that is somewhat an acquired taste.
And Deep Ellum provides a very interesting testing ground. Next time I'm gonna have to bring a sharp color-correcting lens.