FED 5b Closing Thoughts
Some closing thoughts on the FED 5b that I have been experimenting with for the last week or so…
I really enjoyed shooting with the FED. It lacks the refinement of a Leica, but it also lacks the pretentiousness too and has its own solidly mechanical character.
Images are taken with the camera are pretty good. Flare can sometimes be a problem with the Industar 61 (a 50ish mm f2.8 prime lens), although it seems to only be particularly bad if you catch the light at a very specific angle and probably a lens hood would solve any problems completely.
Sharpness is not really an issue unless shooting completely wide open. Even if the shutter is clunkier than perhaps it could be, it is still smoother than a standard SLR’s mirror and you can shoot successfully at quite low shutter speeds.
This would be a great camera and lens for a “one-camera-one-lens-one-year” project, albeit with a couple of reservations.
Firstly, the eyepiece is essentially impossible with glasses. It is a bit like trying to peer through a cheese grater while not scratching the lenses. The viewfinder is usable, if small and dim compared to more expensive cameras – but it is doubly hard to focus quickly and accurately if you are nervous about looking through the eyepiece. For this reason, almost all the images that I took were scale-focussed. Perhaps carefully painting over the eyepiece metal with some liquid rubber paint would solve the problem.
The second concern is simply reliability. The rubber patching on the shutter curtain is already showing signs of peeling away as the original surface of the curtains continues to break down. Because of this, while the FED is a fun to use occasionally, I am not sure that I would trust it sufficiently to use regularly. Perhaps a shutter transplant from a more recent camera might be worthwhile.
Overall the FED reminds me of the cheap British sports cars from the 60’s and 70’s. Lots of character and fun to drive, even if not setting any speed records. And expect a lot of time in the garage…
Some more sample images in the gallery, below. Next up – some medium format photography.