Rangefinder Calibration

A Small and fast Guide to recalibrating your Zorki or Fed

Ever have the feeling that your shots could be a bit sharper. Sure they are nice but hey it is an old camera so shots are bound to be a little off....


NO NO NO, bad...

This is what a lot of people say and it is just plain wrong. Your good old Zorki 4 or that nice Fed 2 you picked up at your grandma's can do a whole lot better. Face it, this camera hasn't been used for a long time and needs a little overhaul and caring to make it run again. So take it off the shelf and readjust it, it ain't all that difficult and it is more than worth the effort.
This small guide is intended for the Zorki 1, 2, 3 (both versions), 4, 4K, 5 and 6 and the Fed 1, 2, 2L, 3, 4 and 5. It is here because most rangefinders sold on Ebay or through photofairs really need to be checked and with this small guide you can. Rangefinders are different from SLR's they have this little second image in the finder. When you turn the lens you move the second image (yellow, pink or blueish) when they overlap each other so that you have one image, the image is in focus on the film. That is how a rangefinder works. This is an easy guide so I will not go into some other aspects of adjusting. To do the full recalibration and check you need a couple of things.
  • A small screwdriver (4mm)
  • A very small screwdriver (1,5)mm
  • A pair of small pliers (not round square beak)
  • A piece of white paper with a couple of lines on it
  • A tapemeasure
The example shots are of a Zorki 1(c version). Don't worry, on all Zorki's and Feds the adjustments are made in the same place.

There are two types of adjustment and both are equally important. The infinity adjustment (easy) and the adjustment for short range. The last one often overlooked.

How to adjust infinity

This one is easy, first remove the little screw you see in this shot.

Behind this little screw is another screw, feel carefully with the screwdriver where it is. Adjustment is done very easily. Look through the finder and find a point that is far enough away to be considered infinte on the lens 50 to 80 meters away will do. Focus on that point, if the infinitymark on the lens isn't in the same place as infinity. then start adjusting. The easy lazy way is to put the Zorki or Fed on a tripod, remove the screw stick the screwdriver in, set lens to infinity and adjust the view in the finder.

Beware of one problem, some of the collapsible Industar I-22's and some I-50's can turn beyond the infinity mark. So pay close attention to setting up your lens the right way.

Thats it.

How to adjust close range

This is harder, I recommend taking out the old tripod again. Take out a piece of paper and draw a couple of straight lines horizontal and vertically. Now stick the piece of paper on a wall so that it doesn't move. Take out the tapemeasure and measure off 1 meter exactly. Place your camera here (1 meter from the body to the paper). Now see if the image lines up when you set the lens to 1 meter on its distance scale. If not, remove the lens. It's time to adjust this camera.

See this? This flange operates the little mirror that gives you the second image. If you look at the lens and turn it you'll see that the lens actually moves in and out off the mount so when you turn the lens you move the little mirror. We need to adjust the head of this flange just a little to either the left or the right. Adjust untill the you are focussed on both the lens and in the finder. Be carefull, these cameras are old. Recheck infinity once you have correctly adjusted the camera.

End check and notes.

Once you are done adjusting, recheck again at 1 meter and at infinity. If it is good then you are done. The camera is now properly adjusted and you can try a test roll.

Couple of sidenotes,
  • Beware of the early Feds, the are much harder to adjust and sometimes are not fully leicaspeced. Early Feds, esspecially the NKVD's can work perfectly with their own lens but not with a J12 or a J11, it means that the lensmount is not 28.8 mm (filmplane to the top of the mount should be 28.8 mm on ANY Zorki or Fed) but the older Feds were different so you might need to remove the lens mount and shim it with paper shims, it is not unusual to see this in cameras
  • All Zorki's 1 to 4 have the little screw on the front. The Zorki 5a (with the Red engraved sign) has it on the front but with the Zorki 5b and Zorki 6 you will have to remove the small faceplate first, the adjustmentscrew it behind that.
  • All Fed 1's to Fed 3's have the little screw on the front and so does the Fed 4a. But the Fed 4b, 5, 5b and 5c are different. Here it is behind the faceplate, this faceplate isn't screwed on, it slides off so be carefull.

Copyright © Tom A.H. Piel