All material copyright by Mark Tharp, 2000


The Fed 3 is a development of the earlier Fed and Fed 2 cameras, being themselves copies of the Leica II and III 35mm cameras. Many of the controls and much of the layout will be familiar to Leica screwmount users.

While certainly not in the same class as the Leica III, the Fed 3 actually has some advantages. Tops among its advantages is the fact that you are not carrying an irreplaceable collectors item should you decide to use it. The viewfinder is also marginally brighter than a Leica screwmount and is coincident with the rangefinder. Above all, the film can be loaded, in daylight, with the ease and convenience of a modern 35mm camera - the entire back comes off!

Without getting into ugly specifics about build quality, the primary functional disadvantage of the Fed over Leica screwmounts is the relatively low top shutter speed of 1/500th sec. But when did anyone ever get a Leica to actually snap its shutter at a true 1/1000th anyway?

1. Self Timer 8 and 9. Shutter speeds
2. Timer Release Button 10. Rangefinder optic
3. PC connection 11. Flash / accessory shoe
4. Film counter 12 Rewind
5. GOST film speed reminder 13. Viewfinder
6. Shutter release and rewind ring
7. Rewind lever


To access the film compartment you remove the one-piece back. It is secured by two rotating latches on the bottom plate. Rotate each latch toward the outside of the camera body as shown in the illustration above. Slide the back off as shown. Installation is the reverse of this proceedure.

To load film place the 35mm cartridge onto the left spindle, with the film leader placed into the takeup spool on the right. Note that the takeup spool pulls the film UNDER the spool, so feed the leader so that it passes OVER the sprockets and then UNDER the takeup spool.

Make certain the rewind ring is turned as far counter-clockwise as possible. The rewind ring surrounds the shutter release, which is between the shutter speed selector and the film advance lever. It is marked with a "B" and "C" with arrows pointing the direction to rotate. To advance the film the ring must be in the "C" position. Wind film advance lever and press the shutter. The film should now be winding onto the takeup spool. Replace the back. Advance the film and release the shutter for two frames. You should now be ready to take pictures!

When you are ready to rewind the film you must FIRST RELEASE THE SHUTTER. Failure to do so may cause the shutter to behave erratically the first few times when you next load film. Rotate the rewind ring to the "B" position by turning clockwise WHILE PUSHING DOWN. As space is somewhat constricted, it is easier for most people to do this using the right hand with the lens pointing towards your body. Locate the rewind knob on the opposite end from the advance lever. Turn the rewind knob clockwise until no resistence is felt from the film. The back may now be opened and the film removed.


The film advance lever is a single stroke mechanism, ie pushing the lever to the full extent of its travel will advance the film one full frame and cock the shutter. Hold the camera with the lens pointing away from your body, push the lever with your thumb smoothly in one continuous motion until it reaches the limit of its travel.


The film counter dial is not geared, so it can be rotated in mid roll if care is not taken. When you are ready to take your first frame, rotate the counter knob (directly above the film advance lever) to the first mark after the "0". The counter will advance up each time the film is advanced.


IMPORTANT!!! NEVER CHANGE SHUTTER SPEEDS WITHOUT FIRST COCKING THE SHUTTER!!! In the worst case, you may do major damage to the mechanism. At best, you will find the shutter behaves erratically for a few frames.

The shutter speeds are located immediately next to the accessory shoe and are contained on a dial numbered B, 30, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 60, 125, 250. and 500. "B" will open the shutter for as long as you press down on the shutter button. "30" is 1/30th of a second and is the synch speed for flashbulbs. "1" is for one second. All other numbers are the denominator of a fraction of a second, of which the numerator is the number 1. In other words, 1/2, 1/4th, 1/8th of a second, and so on. You may wonder why 1/30th is out by itself and not between 1/15th and 1/60th as would appear logical. This is because the 1/30th setting works differently than any other, timing the full opening of the shutter to coincide with the maximum light output from flashbulbs.

To change speeds FIRST COCK THE SHUTTER. Now grasp the speed selector knob and gently pull up while rotating the red arrow to the desired speed as marked on the dial. You will notice that the knob moves easily from 1/30th counterclockwise until it reaches the 1/15th mark. At that point resistance will be felt, and a noise like the winding of a clock will be heard. This is normal as the slow speed mechanism is engaged. The speed selector cannot be moved counterclockwise farther than the 1 second mark. DO NOT TRY! To go from on second to 1/30th you must turn the knob clockwise all the way around past B.


Note the knurled ring which surrounds the eyepiece on the back of your Fed 3. This is a diopter correction, allowing you to adjust the viewer for your own eyesight. In most cases, this will eliminated the need for glasses while using your Fed 3 - a good thing as the knurled ring is almost certain to scratch your eyeglasses.

To adjust the diopter rotate left or right until the viewfinder is at its maximum clarity. How you do this while holding the camera up to your eye is anyone's guess. But you should only have to do it once.

Now note the bright "spot" in the middle of the viewfinder. This is the rangefinder. It will provide a spit image of the object in your viewfinder. Rotate the focus ring left or right until the split image merges into a single image. If this cannot be accomplished, you are too close to the object for that particular lens.

What you see in the viewfinder is almost certainly not what the film "sees." At normal distances, and with the "normal" 50mm lens, there is little difference. Change to a wide angle or telephoto lens, or try and move in close and other factors come into play.

The Fed 3 viewfinder has a field of view roughly comparable (at least to my eyes) of a 50mm lens. If you use a wider lens, say a 35mm, you will capture somewhat more than you can see through the Fed 3 viewfinder. Conversely, longer focal length lenses take in smaller and smaller areas, until at 135mm the lens may see only the area encompased by the rangefinder dot. The solution here is to use one of the many available auxiliary viewfinders. These come in both dedicated (a single viewfinder to match a single focal length), multiple brightlines, and adjustable varieties. These are inserted into the accessory shoe and will provide the proper field of view for the lens desired.

When moving in for a closeup you run into the problem that the lens is in the middle of the camera, while the viewfinder is well off to the side. If using an accessory viewfinder, the problem is reduced, but the finder is still above the lens. This problem is known as paralax error. Some accessory viewfinders have paralax correction. Some of the macro lenses made by Leitz came with an optic that was positioned over the viewfinder and "corrected" the paralax. I am not aware of any Russian equivalents.


Keep in mind that the Fed 3 has no hotshoe - it is an accessory shoe only. You will need to plug your flash into the pc connector on the front of the camera next to the self timer release button.

Charles T. Hoskinson (Tom) of southern California has graciously shared the following with me:

M synchronization is for M type flash bulbs. An M bulb's flash duration is about 1/25 second. Due to burning inertia, the bulb reaches its maximum output about 1/50 second after the electrical circuit is closed. The M synchronization circuit takes this inertia effect into account by closing the electrical (flash) circuit before the shutter is completely open.

X synchronization is for electronic flash. With electronic flash the flash duration is 1/200 second or less. At shutter speeds of 1/30 or 1/25 second (and longer) the shutter curtain slit size is at least as large as the frame window. Consequently, with X syncronization the electrical (flash) circuit is closed at the moment of complete shutter opening.

The FED 3 synchronization is designed for use with electronic flash at a shutter speed of 1/30 second. For M Synchronization with the FED 3, use the "Bulb" setting on the shutter speed dial [press shutter button, flash, release - ed.]

Some Russian cameras have a flash "synchroregulator" that can adjust the flash firing delay from 0 to 25 milliseconds. For electronic flash, the correct setting is 0. The Zorki 5 is an example of this design.

Thanks Tom!

For those unaccustomed to such slow synch speeds, be aware that you may have some "ghosting" problems with fast films in an average lighted room. Use 100 asa or less and it should not be a problem.


Your Fed 3 also has a timer to allow delayed shutter release. This is commonly used for group shots while the camera is on a tripod and the photographer wants to be in the picture as well. I frequently use it for slow speeds when I wish to avoid "camera shake".

First, advance the film. Second, turn the self timer lever counterclockwise until it points at the 12:00 o'clock position. When ready to release, press the timer release button directly above the self timer lever.


A ring with what looks like "roct" and a series of numbers appears just above the film counter. The numbers relate to "gost" film speeds, which are comperable to DIN and ASA film speeds. One can use these as a reminder of the film speed which is loaded in the camera, if you know the conversion.

In the center of this ring, on the early models of the Fed 3, are three icons for sun, incandescent light, and flash. These appear to be designed to work with the gost film speed marks, but how is a mystery.


Your Fed 3 uses Leica Thread Mount (LTM) screw threads, 39mm X 1mm. This allows you to use not only the lenses made in Russia for the Fed, Zorki, Mir, etc., but also other LTM lenses made by Nikon, Contax, Steinheil, and currently by Voigtlander, as well as Leica.

CAUTION: KMZ (Zenit, or sometimes Zenith) made some LTM mount lenses for their early SLR cameras and these have a different focal plane depth. They may mount, but will not operate properly and could damage your camera.

Caution: Not all LTM mount lenses will work with your Fed 3. Some lenses use a "tongue" to push against the rangefinder cam, rather than a cylinder. As the shape of the cam itself is different on the Fed from that of a Leica screwmount, it may not push pass the cam to completely seat the lens. Never try to force a lens into your Fed 3 lens mount.

To remove the lens, simply turn the barrel of the lens counterclockwise until it comes out. To install a lens, carefully square up the threads and gently turn clockwise, making certain that it is not cross-treaded. Continue until the lens is firmly against the camera body, but do not overtighten.

Please email comments, suggestions to jmrdse@msn.com