Tom on Fakes.

Or the incredible unusual Russian Camera copies.

Fakes... The Russian Connection.

This will be my most controversial article ever. An inventory of known fakes (to me that is) and a small guide to recognize them. Retracing is a lot of work. I know of several fakes, I've seen several but a lot of fakes are just rumours.
Though their historical value is at best questionable. They can be a lot of fun to collect. This list will not contain prototypes. This list will also never be finished. Fakes are still popping up. This list summarizes the fakes, most of these I've never seen or only seen on the Internet (and the internet can be a very unreliable source).
I do own several fakes as seen in the photo above. Upper Row, the Red Fed, this is a fake I made myself, I just painted it and made up the story behind it myself, why? Read the
Tom Tiger and the Red FED article. But in short, it is a warning about the strange myths that people use to sell you a russian camera. Okay, some of them are just plain lies.
Second is the Zorki 5 "Cobra". Made by a very skilled repairman from the Ukraine. He did a very good job, CLA'd leatherette stripped and this skin added, nice camera.
Bottom row, the "Bildberichter" which turns out to be a fifties FED 1E. In the middle the Silver Zorki 1 b/c, no pretence, just a good looking camera. No history whatsoever.
Last but not least, the Fed "Snakey". A Fed 1G with its vulcanite stripped and this snakeskin added. It is a homemade job and the seller on ebay said this very honestly. Some people hate it others love it. Personally I think it looks very cool but the camera still needs some work.

What brings people to make this?
Money, nice and short answer. These fakes sell for double and sometimes triple the amount a normal Zorki or Fed goes for. For instance a Zorki one will set you back between 70 and 100 dollars (US) but a fake goes for 125 up to 225 dollars. Or even higher....
They were made from Zorki 1 and Fed 1 cameras. The cameras were stripped, polished re-engraved, repainted and yes even recalibrated. Topplates can be either "re-engraved" or pherhaps someone made a new mould and are they stamped again. Or maybe they have a small supply... who knows. It seems to have become a small industry. Thusfar we know of several of these "forgers" a group in Moscow, or even just one man in Moscow. And a group in Poland.

Is this a bad thing ?
It just depends how you look at it. A friend of mine who is a serious collector actually said that he loves the fakes, there making his collection worth more every day.
Other people don't like them, pherhaps these are the hardcore collectors who see these cameras as historical objects.
Personally I think that these cameras might be worth something, after a few decades that is. The numbers of good Zorki 1's and Fed 1's are not endless and one day in the near future the source will run dry.
And I like them. Some are downright beautifull and qualify more as a work of art than as a camera.

As long as these cameras are sold as fakes and not as original Leicas I can't see the harm in it. There is no law in taking apart a camera and repainting it. I would't even call the people who made these fakes "forgers" but great workers who made several beautifull cameras that are a great addition to any collection. I wouldn't mind having a few of them.

But people who sell them as originals.... these are the conartists of the cameramarket. And there are a lot of them around. Even on the internet, esspecially on the internet. Just have a look at the auctionsites. Or just have a look at a camerastore. Some just happened to have a Gold Leica....

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Known fakes and odd variations

Zenit (slr or in dutch spiegelreflex)

Best known variations (Genuine), commemorative engravings like the Olympic engraving and 50 years of Soviet Victories/Soviet power.

Camo FotoSnaiper/PhotoSniper
Rumours were that several FS-3's were used by some recon unit of the Red army, these are weird rumours, they date back to 1941 to the FS-2 which was later replaced by the FS-3 the rumours go even so far as saying that they were replaced by FS-12 or that FS-12's were added. They also talked about a modification of the Tair, a weird Soft release that did not make noise. Two colorschemes seem to have existed. a "polar" one and a "woodlands" one. The Polar one has a colorscheme with black white and grey in straight lines with sharp straight angles. The woodlands is olive drab. Though rumour has it that it showed more colors on the lens.

Never seen, considered to be a fake or a non existing set. If it does exist it's fake. FS-3 sets came in light grey (early models) and in all black. The FS-12 sets were all black.

Grey Krystall, exists but hard to find.

Bronze/Black Zenit ET, exists but hard to find.

Zenit-E all black, exists but hard to find.
Zenit-E all chrome, exist but hard to find.
Zenit-E Green/olive drab, considered to be a fake.
Zenit-E White/chromium, considered to be a fake.

Titanium Zenit 122, exist commemorative edition to celebrate KMZ

Zorki, Fed and Kiev (rangefinders and in dutch meetzoekers)

Best known variations (Genuine), commemorative engravings like the Olympic engraving and 50 years of Soviet Victories/Soviet power and the Moscow youth festival or festival.

Zorki Yura. A zorki 1d or 1e engraved with the text "Yura" and a date 12-4-1961. This was the date of the first manned spaceflight of Yuri Gagarin. (Yura is a nickname for Yuri) It is believed (but not verified) that a workshop outside or in cooperation with KMZ built about 500 (numbered, serial is on the topplate right above the hotshoe) of these commemorative Zorkis. Fakes are known to exist. The Yura knows only 1 version and came only in cyrillic. The lens, a collapsible I-22 is also marked Yura (in cyrillic) the camera itself came in mat chromium with black vulcanite.

Zorki 3 military Green
Real, but fakes are around. This camera came in olive drab with matching olive drab lens and olive drab universal rangefinder. Engravings are in black.

Silver Zorki, exists but is just a normal Zorki 1 stripped of its vulcanite cover. Does not pretends to be anything else than a pretty camera. Unknown history of origin, possible made for a collection or by KMZ.

Black Zorki's
These are all fakes. No Zorki or Fed ever came in full black.

Black Kiev's
These are all fakes. No Kiev's ever came in full black. (some rumours exist...)

Grey Zorki S. Exists but hard to find. (grey leatherette) Green Zorki S. Exists but hard to find. (green leatherette)

Fed 2 in different colors
This only applies to the vulcanite (the black stuff on the body) NOT the metal. Feds with Green, grey, blue (dark) and red (dark, sometimes called blood red) exist and are genuine. Unfortunatly fakes exist also and this makes it hard to tell them apart.

Red Fed
A Fed 5b with a bright red and black Color scheme, intended for the KGB as token for 10 years of loyal service. Came with a Vostok automat KGB watch (marked KGB and CCCP). Definite fake, made by me just to show how easy it is to make a fake and to dream up a story behind it.

Stalinet, Gold coloured unsure if a Chrome one exists
Fake, Zorki 1 or Fed 1 but very well done. This camera has the Red Star on both the topplate and lenscap (metal). The word Stalinet is engraved in cyrillic on the topplate. Between the points of the Red star the letters CCCP can be found (there are some without)

Fake, Zorki 1 or Fed 1 Comes in both Gold and chrome. The KGB logo with sword and shield are both on the topplate and on the Lenscap (metal). Do not confuse this model with the early Fed 1's (a version) which have NKVD engraved in the topplate.

Fed Paulus & Fed Siberia
Supposed to be a camera for cold climate. All knobs and dails on this camera are larger than normal. Rumour goes that the Paulus saw a very small production number but considering this very small number all Paulus and Siberia cameras have to be considered Fakes. Besides that, you know what happens to film in very cold weather, also take into account that these cameras were built in the fifties so film that had a good tolerance for cold wasn't really there.

Bildberichter Made in the '90 ties of the 20th century by a Moscow forger.
The Bildberichter is one of the most famous fakes Chrome Zorki 1 or Fed 1 complete with the German "Reichsadler" and the swastika both engraved on the top and the Lenscap (metal).

Luftwaffe Eigentum Best known fake
Comes in both Gold and chrome, usually a Zorki 1 allthough Fed 1's have been seen Usually Leica engraved. There was a Luftwaffe Leica (model III) and the Luftwaffe Eigentum is embossed on the back of the camera. It was also stamped onto the leather case. All of these have the FL and then a number besides the regular serial number FL stands for "Flieger". Sometimes the text on the fake is spelled wrong, Luftwaffen instead of Luftwaffe. The German "Reichsadler" and the swastika are both engraved on the top and the Lenscap (metal).

Comes in both Gold and chrome, usually a Zorki 1 allthough Fed 1's have been seen Usually Leica engraved. Wehrmacht appears on either the bottom, or topplate. Somtimes spelled wrong. Wermaht, Wermagt, Wermacht, instead of Wehrmacht. The German "Reichsadler" and the swastika are both engraved on the top and the Lenscap (metal).

Kriegsmarine Just rumours about this one.
Yes a Leica in black with the inscription Kriegsmarine seems to have existed. They were also marked with MF which stands for "Marine Flieger". This is one of the rarest of all Leicas and it will be just a matter of time untill we will see fakes. All black camera, swastika black on a white field (round) located on the spot of the selftimer.
Sometimes spelled wrong, Kriegmarine, instead of Kriegsmarine. The German "Reichsadler" and the swastika are both engraved on the Lenscap (metal black).

Unterseebootdienst, Just rumours about this one. I've never seen it.
Again a chrome/black zorki 1, engraved Uboat and Uboatnumber, for example U-571 and on the bottomplate, Unterseebootdienst. Pherhaps one of the weirdest and badly done fakes ever. The German "Reichsadler" and the swastika are both engraved on the top and the Lenscap (metal).

The Sport is a chrome Zorki 1 or Fed 1 complete with the German "Reichsadler" and the swastika both engraved on the top and the Lenscap (metal).

(Topografical Service of the Airforce) This cameras looks like a Zorki 1 but has a contax mount. Came with blue, black or white leather cover instead of vulcanite. Very well made. Brass, stainless steel instead of aluminum. Usually came with the Red Star on the topplate and TSVVS engraved between the points of the star. Also known to have come without any engravings. It is real, but with so many fakes around that it has become very hard to find out which one is real and which one is not...
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Leica copies

Numourous versions exist. Black/gold, black/silver, all black, all gold, snakeskins Leica Samovar, Leica Luxus, wood/chome, wood/gold, Green/white/silver...... the list goes on and on.... Actually the list is endless.

Most are wonderfull. Some look better than the real leicas. Some look like cr*p. But most I've seen are very well done and show great workmanship and dedication. In fact, these fakes are beginning to become a whole new market. Being cheaper than Leicas but looking the part they've become more than the initial Leica wannabe's I said copies, in fact this is not true entirely. The forgers have come up with "NEW" types of Leicas. Like the dark red white color scheme with a silver top. Which is more of an art object than a camera. You can even buy one with crocodile leather or with snakeskin... wow...

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How to recognize fakes

  • The rangefinder cam. Zorkis have a triagular shape of cam, Leica is an ellips or circular shape. Some Feds also use the ellips but this one is smaller and at a other angle than leica.

  • Red engravings on the lens or on the speeddail, Leica did not have that.

  • There were no all gold leicas and no gold Luxus Leicas.

  • Lensmounts, Zorkis and Feds have a big and thick metal lensmount. Leicas lens mount is smaller and thinner.

  • The focal length on the lens, Leitz (Leica lenses) gave their focal lenght in cm and in lowercase (f=5cm). Russian lenses gave their focal length in mm and in uppercase (F=50mm)

  • There is a difference in lenses. The collapsible Industar lenses which are copies of the Leitz elmar lenses differ in the distance of the iris blades. The Leitz lenses have their iris further back down the lens.

  • Leica shutter buttons have solid tops can only be used with a Leitz cable release, which screws into the collar around the button, whereas the FEDs and Zorkis have drilled and threaded release buttons for standard cable releases. This is why a lot of forgers prefer the older Fed types before 1953 for it has the solid top shutterbutton. The collar can be made.

  • FED and Zorki accessory shoes are very basic with just 3 screws inside. The Leica accessory shoes have a pair of raised bars. This one however is easily faked I found this Leica accessory shoes on my "Bildberichter".

  • Most of the Leicas have straplugs allmost no fakes have them. The ones that have straplugs have them in the wrong place (too far forward) and are bigger than the Leica ones.

  • The ever ready case, Russian cases are more rigid, Leica uses a finer leather. Sometimes the word Leica is just burned in. Very obvious. Due to the nature of leather cases are harder to fake. They usually are not there or have gone "missing".

  • I allready mentioned spelling errors but there are some small ones. On the bottom should be "Auf" en "Zu" instead of the cyrillic texts. And NO Fed or Zorki had the words "open" and "close" on them. The speeddail should have a "Z" on it and not a "B" (Zeit aufname).

  • Look at the middle viewfinder window. There is a difference between the Zorki/FED and the Leica. The Leica has a smaller plate. The Zorki is just one piece (easier to stamp). The leica middle viewfinder plate is not a complete rectangle. It's a rectangle with the upper right corner missing. The lower left corner has a screw.
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Places to get them.....

Russian Souvenirs

Okay... one place... but there is allways ebay...

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