The Mystery 35mm RF camera

The Mistery 35mm RF camera

Unknown, handmade 35mm Leica copy for 24x34mm with built-in coupled rangefinder, very probably a unique camera. While the body looks similar to a Leica/FED/Zorki at first sight, it is considerably smaller in every dimension (e.g. it is 12,6mm wide, as compared to the 13,3 cm of a Leica II) and literally does not share a single component with one of its models – not even a single screw!

The craftsman style of machining and finishing, suggests that the camera was made sometime in the 1930's by the FED Children's labour commune factory in Harkov, Ukraine, probably as a prtotype or research project.

The viewfinder/rangefinder housing is only 8mm high (Leica 10mm) while the optical base of the rangefinder is 44mm wide (Leica 37mm). Not unlike the Leica one of the rangefinder windows is indeed a adjustable prism to allow an height adjustment of the rangefinder image.

The rangefinder image is gold on green ground, due to a semi-transparent gilded beam splitter. The frame counter (1–30) is activated by depressing the small fluted release knob, which has a thread for a cable release adjacent to it. The focal plane shutter provides exposure times 1/25 to 1/500. The base plate has no lock, it simply fits well and the take-up spool is a handmade one-of-a-kind as the whole camera.

On the circumference of the winding knob there are stamped numbers (1–16) for a proper positioning of the film for the next exposure, as there is no mechanical stop. All in all a very interesting and unique achievement of a skilled precision mechanic inspired by the classic Leica design, yet different in all details.
The camera is fitted with a coated Zorki Industar-22 3,5 F=50mm no.8989 ( manufactured around 1949).


Suglob, Viktor; Kochergin, Sergey; Shaternik, Grigoriy (2009). 1200 cameras from the USSR, p. 633