I've had my eye on this one for a long time. It's been sitting in the display case of "expensive items" at a Salvation Army Thrift Store since February with a price tag of $89.95 on it. At first I tried to beat them down, but the word was "we never negotiate on price, as this is a charity store". Good enough - I believe in good will, but I don't believe in overpriced cameras. We shall see. I would periodically go in and check on it, and one time I gave it a thorough going over in the store. I noticed the light seals around the film door were badly deteriorated, and I couldn't get the battery holder to unscrew, probably due to corrosion, but otherwise, everything worked very well. I gave the girl behind the case my evaluation, but do you suppose she even knew what I was talking about, or even cared?
Today, I went into the store to buy a pair of jeans, but of course, had to sneak by the display case too. And what's this? The green price sticker of $89.95 had been replaced with a red one, reading $29.95! Now that's more like it! As you can see, I brought it home, fiddled around with the controls a bit - everything's still good, and I put a roll of film in.
But what about those light seals? Well, the lower half of the leather case (real nice case I might add) completely covers the affected door, so I'm going to trust that no light will get past the case. And the battery? Well, contrary to the belief of some out there, this model's battery is for the meter only, and unlike with , say, the Yashica 5000, there is no automation or electronic shutter control. The shutter speed only goes to 1/500 - everything is totally manual. I can use this camera with my external light meter, same as I do with my FED-5b. I made good and certain this was in fact true before I put the film in. I verified every shutter speed, and looked through the lens at every aperture setting, and sure enough - they operate fully independently of each other. Here's a short little article that verifies my findings.
Here's a close-up of the control rings:
The 45mm f1.4 (drool!!) lens is fixed - it can't be interchanged with other lenses. Also, all controls are on the lens barrel itself. Starting from the body outward, there is the focus ring, the depth of field scale on the main tube, which also has a flash sync selector and self-timer winder underneath, which you can't see here, then there's the aperture ring (f1.4 to f16) along with the film "ASA" (ISO) selector switch and window, and finally, the shutter speed selector is the very front control ring, with provision for "B" to 1/500 speeds. The only controls on top of the beautifully chromed top plate are the film advance / counter window, the shutter release, and the rewind crank. The flash PC socket is also mounted on the top left of the plate. The front of the camera has both the viewfinder and rangefinder windows, and the very ugly Cds light-meter lens, along with a push-button "Switch" near the bottom to activate the light meter, which displays simple arrows in the viewfinder (useless without the battery).
Mechanically this camera feels amazing. The shutter is very quiet, and all controls turn very smoothly. The viewfinder is large and very bright, although mine looks quite cloudy with age. The split image for the rangefinder is a bit smaller than the one on my FED-5, but it is brighter, and responds with less of a turn on the focus knob, so focus can be achieved very quickly. Remember - nothing is ever blurry in a rangefinder window - you have to be looking at the split image when you focus.
I will try and get a roll of film shot through this little beauty within the next couple of days, and hope everything works out as good as I think it will. Meanwhile, here's a Flickr Group dedicated to these cameras showing what they can do.
Don't forget to look at my Print Catalogue. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org