Photo by: William Parkinson via USSR Photo, used with permission from Kosmo Foto.

For this week’s installment of Film Friday, we’re featuring a psuedo-review of the 6TTL, a camera from Soviet manufacturer FED that went through a great deal of prototyping, but never made it to market amidst the collapse of the Soviet Union. This article is a summary of the full piece by Stephen Dowling on Kosmo Foto.

In 1990, Soviet camera manufacturer FED started work on its next-generation rangefinder, a camera designed to take on its incredibly popular Leica M6 contemporary. Despite the Soviet Union being in economic turmoil, FED decide to take a chance by eschewing the usual mechanical shutter for an electric one and added a built-in TTL light meter—the latter of which premiered for the first time in a Leica camera with the M5.

Photo by: William Parkinson via USSR Photo, used with permission from Kosmo Foto.

As Dowling notes in his review, previous attempts from Soviet companies to implement an electronic shutter into cameras proved challenging. Even those who made it to market with electronic shutters, such as the Zenit D SLR of 1967, suffered from reliability issues. Despite this, FED decided to take the chance and used an electronic shutter capable of speeds up to 1/2000th a second—something few rangefinders of the time had achieved.

Although the exact source of these electronic shutters hasn’t been confirmed, it’s believed FED procured its 1/2000th electronic shutters from Minolta, who used a similar one in its own Minolta CLE rangefinder. Unlike the 'electronic shutters' we think of nowadays with mirrorless cameras, the 'electronic' nomanclature in film cameras refers to the use of a microchip to control the speed of the shutter mechanism, rather than a set of gears in fully-mechanical shutters.

From images of prototypes of the 6TTL, it’s clear the FED 6TTL was inspired by the FED 5C, a more budget-friendly version of FED’s 5 rangefinder. Compared to the FED 5C, the 6TTL had an updated grip, a new shutter dial, a tweaked ASA setting dial and a battery compartment, which would’ve presumably been used to power the electronic shutter inside.

An image of the FED 5, the predecessor to the 6TTL. Photo by: Stephen Dowling, founder of Kosmo Foto, used with permission.

The FED 6TTL was intended to be sold alongside an updated version of the Industar-61 L/D 55mm F2.8 lens that featured a new aluminum body and tweaked design that modernized the popular lens. However, a full production run of the FED 6TTL never came to fruition due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. As such, only a handful of prototype models remained, many of which have fallen into the hands of private collectors.

You can read more about the FED 6TTL and its history over on Kosmo Foto:

Kosmo Foto: FED-6TTL: Electric dreams

About Film Fridays: We've launched an analog forum and in a continuing effort to promote the fun of the medium, we'll be sharing film-related content on Fridays, including articles from our friends at 35mmc and KosmoFoto.