My Fed 1G fake of a Da Lai rangefinder... Oh how I wish it was the real deal!
Here I present a genuine fake. From what I can tell it's a "dressed up" Fed 1G masquerading as a super rare Chinese Da Lai rangefinder. Since not much is really known about the Da Lai, maybe this camera was a dressed up presentation prototype. The prototype suggestion is really wishful thinking on my part and I have the highest suspicion that my original opening sentence holds 100% true.
According to Douglas St Denny's book "Cameras of China", there were only 12 Da Lai cameras produced by the Da Lai Camera Factory in Beijing. Of those only one is known to still exist and is held by the Beijing Camera Factory.
It is known that some very enterprising FSU camera craftsmen had produced nearly perfect fake copies of Leica cameras and sold them to unsuspecting customers or visitors to the former Soviet Union. It is understandable that they would capitalize by making fake Leica cameras, as the Leica name is well known worldwide, but it is unimaginable to me that someone would fake a little known Chinese camera. I could not imagine the expense of the tooling to create the Chinese writing on the camera I'm showing, especially since it may be a one of a kind fake copy.
I have never put any film through this camera as I don't have a take up spool that fits properly. I'm sure I could find one for this camera somewhere.
Anyway enjoy and I hope this will kick off some good conversation.
Fed's as Leicas started very early, just after the war there were two sources, one said to be in the US army in Berlin, and a Cairo craftsman, who turned out some pretty basic copies, and could not spell Wetslar, Elmer, or Lieca very well!! The Cairo ones were reasonable mechanically, the engraving was a bit primitive, as the case was beaten flat to remove the Russian script. They were re-plated to cover the marks, but with silver, which wore badly.
The US army ones were far better, it was said they came from a Berlin based transport depot workshop, and sported all the Swastikas you could ever want! Olympic Leicas, Contax's turned into the Olympic winners cameras, Luftwaffe Leicas with engraved pilots names, we all hoped Eva Braun's camera would turn up one day! They even made versions with the Nazi symbols removed rather crudely, which effectively covered up the Russian origins. There were thousands turned out, mainly sold to US troops as souvenirs.
The next wave came with the end of the cold war, every conceivable version of the Leica that could be made from a Fed or a Zorki was turned out, also coming from Poland and a few from East Germany, who also turned plain Bering Robots into the Luftwaffe versions. But as you say the Chinese Da Lai copy must rank as the rarest fake of all. It must have been part of a batch, a one off sounds unlikely, mind you there are not many alterations to the parts if they had access to un-engraved tops etc, so it looks like a Russian source.
FEDs and Zorkis have been made into just about every r@re cameras that existed (and a lot the never existed). I've even seen them masquerading as Leotaxes. I've seen FEDs made up to look like really early Zorkis, too. Even run across some that were combinations of FED and Zorki parts. Some of the Leica copies that were chromed plated were pretty nice-looking. I've taken several Zorkis and replaced the main body shells with ones from Zorki 2Cs and ta da! A Zorki 1 with strap lugs! Of course you have to put new covering on it to cover up the hole for the 2C self-time lever. w
As already said at a different thread, remarkable is the price, at which those pretty beautiful cameras are often sold. For an original FED1/Zorki, you already need to pay app. 100$ and those copies are sold on E-Bay for just a little more ... and most of them look like new. Cleaned, refurbished, coated, newly adjusted and engraved ... who does that for a few dollars more ? I often wonder about that.
Jack, I think, your Da Lai looks great and I think, it will let you take good pictures too. I would have run a film through it immediately
An oddity I came across many years ago was a war time "Canon", yes, the early fabled Japanese Government financed Leica copies, once said to have been made by Kwanon. Only thing is, Hansa Canon did not make them, and although it was a good fake, even replacing the bottom plate of the shutter crate with Canon type parts, it was an early Fed.
It had very good faux Japanese Military engraving, and details on the casing, like the flat ends, were altered to match the 1940's JII Canon. It was very well finished indeed, and had three later Canon lenses with it.
The point is this was in 1968, long before the USSR flooded the market with fakes, and this "Canon" was far better done than the US army or Cairo efforts. The body inside showed faint marks of silver soldering to produce the new top, all bead blasted, and then re-chromed to excellent standard. The standard lens did not seem to be Russian, it was a modified Leica Elmar, new front and engraving with Serenar brand.
I suspect it was made in the States for sale to a collector, and got on to the market after it was found to be fake. The engraving must have been copied from Binoculars or made up, I got a friend who reads Japanese to check it, and half was nonsense or referred to Binoculars!
It's amazing what a skilled machinist can do. Of course creating a fake from unblemished factory original parts and engraving fake logos, serial numbers and such would be the easiest. But to take existing cameras, grinding down already thin metal or pounded flat existing logos and replating even if crudely done takes a clever mind and some skilled hands. We know that greed is the motivating factor in creating these fakes. I could imagine some huge profits were made for the truly well executed fakes sold to unsuspecting buyers / collectors in the "good old days". The current trend at least on ebay of openly selling Leica fakes is sort of amusing. As Berndt already mentioned the cost for such cameras is very reasonable and for the extra work involved over selling an original Fed or Zorki if any real profit is made.