5 Frames with a FED Mikron 2

My adventures with this temperamental yet surprising little Soviet rangefinder....

5 months ago

Latest Post Cross-processing Colour Film with Rodinal by Rob Kent
FED Mikron 2 (ФЭД μuкрoн2)

I can't quite remember how I became aware of the existence of the Mikron 2.

I spent quite a lot of time and effort at the end of last year (2018) trying to find a compact camera I could get on with; it needed to be small enough to go in my pocket, quick and easy to use and not break the bank. I tried a number of solutions to this problem, most notably the Olympus Trip35 which was almost right except for its zone-focusing system and the complete lack of feedback on the aperture/shutter speed combination the autoexposure system had picked.

Anywho, at sompoint during my search I came across the Mikron 2: a tiny, full-frame rangefinder with an autoexposure program indicator in the viewfinder. If that wasn't enough, the rangefinder patch was apparently almost Leica bright, not something that could be said of my earlier rangefinder experiences with the FED 4 and Petri 7s! Further reading revealed that this camera had never been intended for export and was therefore rare in western Europe. This is further evidenced by the fact that the only manual for the camera is in Russian and the film speed scale only shows GOST numbers, not ASA/ISO.

As I had a trip to Tallinn, Estonia coming up, I thought I would hold off and see if I could find anything on my travels. As it happens, I did find one in a market in Tallinn, but the light meter cell was missing and the seller still wanted €40! Safe to say I passed (although I did buy an Agat 18k (AГAT 18к) which may be the subject of a future review). On my return, I hit Ebay and eventually came across an example for sale in Ukraine that had been serviced and recovered in a rather fetching red colour, so I bought it!

A quick point of history and specs. The Mikron 2 (which can also be written as Micron 2, μuкрoн2 or Mикрoн2) started out in 1967 as the Mikron, a half frame 35mm camera which had a selenium cell meter and a Helios-89 30mm, f/1.9 lens. Somehow the engineers at FED managed to squeeze a full-frame camera into the same chassis and in 1978, with a new Industar-81 38mm f/2.8 lens, created the Mikron 2. They also upgraded the metering to use a CdS cell and made room for a PX625 battery. The shutter speeds are from 1/30s to 1/650s with apertures from f/2.8 to f/16. As you press the shutter button down, the meter turns on and a needle rises in the right hand side of the viewfinder and stops at the optimum aperture/shutter speed combination or runs into a red zone and prevents the shutter from firing. Minimum focus distance is 0.8m.

So, my camera arrived with original case, lens cap and lens hood (which was nice). The first thing that struck me was that people really were not lying about the rangefinder patch! It really is excellent; a side-by-side comparison with Fynbaar's Olympus 35RC and 35RD showed it to be as good if not brighter. I went to the effort of buying a Wein MBR625 air cell so as to give the camera the same voltage as the original PX625, loaded up some Fomapan 200 Creative film and off I went.

The camera really is easy to use. Wind on, point at subject, focus with the excellent rangefinder and pull the shutter release. Everything was going great, until the meter stopped working. Much frustration, swearing and a few batteries later, I got to the two roots of the prolem: 1) I think the Wein cell was a bad example and gave up the ghost rather quicker than it should have, and 2) there is a slightly dodgy contact in the selector ring around the lens that engages auto (as opposed to flash-sync) mode. A new Varta V625U alkaline cell was procurred and the extra 0.15V doesn't seem to have much effect on metering. I've also learned to wiggle the selector ring if the meter seems reluctant and everything is quickly right with the world again.

Pictures

I've now shot two rolls of film with Mikron2, the first roll of Fomapan and then a roll of Kodak ColorPlus 200. Both were (cross)processed by me in Rodinal (see this post for the method) and digitised in the first case with a Jessops slide duplicator on my Sony A7ii and with an Epson V550 scanner in the second.

"Builder", FED Mikron2, Kodak ColorPlus 200
"Cheese Grater", FED Mikron2, Fomapan 200 creative
"Nae Parking", FED Mikron2, Kodak ColorPlus 200
"Tangled Tree", FED Mikron2, Fomapan 200 creative
"Neon Glow", FED Mikron2, Kodak ColorPlus 200

NB: The colour cast on the Kodak ColorPlus 200 shots in an artefact of the cross-processing and scanning.

The full albums containing all the pictures from these two rolls can be found here and here.

Conclusions

Issues with batteries aside, I really love this little camera. Its rangefinder is brilliant, its meter is accurate and the lens is really sharp (when I hit the focus!). Plus, even in its case, its small and you can take it anywhere. If you ever get the chance to shoot or buy one, bite their hand off! You will not regret it.

Rob Kent

Published 5 months ago

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