5 Frames… On a leaky FED 5B with Fomapan 400 Action (EI 400 / 35mm format) – by Sasi Somu

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I love the 5B in spite of its quirks and idiosyncrasies. The most challenging camera that I have ever used.

The FED 5B is a coupled range finder camera with a sordid history. Apparently they were made in a factory in Kharkov, Ukraine using orphans for the workforce. And is named after Felix E. Dzerzhinsky, founder of the original Soviet Secret Police which later became the KGB.

My FED 5B., Sasi Somu
My FED 5B., Sasi Somu

I picked mine up in a second-hand camera shop in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. It is a 1980 model as indicated by the Olympic logo on the camera. So obviously the first thing I did when I got home was to give it a good clean, then put my first roll of film through it – Fomapan 400 Action.

And surprise, surprise it was leaking light. But the light leak was a bit different to what I had previously experienced. There was dots of light sprinkled strategically all over the frame and in some cases it was just spots and in some instances they became large enough to cover the whole frame.  In some frames the dots of light added to the artistic effect of the image and in some it was highly undesirable. Covering the camera liberally with black electrical tape did not seem to fix it.

Some research on the net and apparently the shutter in the camera is a cloth shutter coated with rubber, over time the rubber disintegrates and light leaks through bigger holes in the cloth. The solution suggested was to coat the shutter with Liquid Electrical Tape. The cost of this liquid for a minuscule quantity was going to be about half the price of the camera. So I said ‘bugger that!’

Needed to find a cost effective solution! And the solution that I did finally hit upon was to give the cloth shutter a few coats of matte black nail polish. This fixed the problem and since the 5B is a much loved and used camera in my arsenal.

~ Sasi

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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.

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