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Top: The Palekh Fed from the front.


Above: The Palekh design continues around the camera back.


Left: Even the lens cap has its own Palekh addition.

1963: The Palekh Fed

Fed cameras were made in a factory of the same name in the Ukraine. In 1934, they made the Fed-1, which was a copy of the Leica II, introduced in Germany two years before. In 1955, the Fed-2 updated the design a little and in 1961, the Fed-3 streamlined it even more. That’s where this camera originated: it’s actually a Fed-3, type B.


It’s not unusual to see cameras of this type and era with different coloured bodies, the result of modifications by collectors in the UK. This one, however, was decorated in Russia, from where it was acquired.


The artwork on the body is called Palekh, named after a Russian town famed for icon painting, and where this type of miniature folk handicraft began in the 1920s. Palekh is carried out with tempera paint, depicting characters from fairy tales and songs in bright colours against black backgrounds in a smooth design with gold shading.


Usually Palekh is applied to papier-maché items like small boxes. Here, the design has been printed onto fabric fitted precisely to the camera body, allowing for the lens, delayed action lever and release button.


As a usable camera, the Fed works fine with an interchangeable Industar-61 52mm f/2.8 lens, coupled rangefinder and focal plane shutter speeded 1-1/500sec. As a collector’s item, cameras like this divide opinion.


Some will dismiss it because it was not originally produced in the Fed factory and therefore is not an ‘official’ camera. Others, delighted that the modification was made in Russia, see a rare and rather beautiful object that is probably a one-off. I’m one of those

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