Five Great Soviet Cameras – Guest Post by Colonel Troskovoynicovsky

Greetings, Western imperialist sow. Your days are numbered, but be joyful temporarily, for while we prepare your inevitable collapse and political re-education, you may enjoy one of our many glorious peoples’ best picture taking kits. These Party-approved photo cameras have been manufactured patriotically and for glory of the State by noble members of the proletariat, and are ready to provide enjoyment for the remainder of your short existence.

Of course, the purchase of any non-Party sanctioned camera is strictly forbidden and will only serve to hasten your destruction. So, decadent scum, unless you dream of working in salt mine, destroy your Leica, your Nikon, and prove your commitment to the ideal of communism by shooting one of these Soviet hero cameras.


Zenit E

Among the most popular and longest-lived of our glorious Soviet camera (3.3 millions sold, 21 years production cycle), the Zenit E is a 35mm SLR that’s simple, reliable, and strong as bear. With a capable mechanical shutter allowing speeds from 1/30th of a second up to 1/500th of a second, manual rewind and advance, and a vast choice of two standard kit lenses, it offers everything a good worker needs, and nothing you don’t. This camera’s visionary creators have even seen fit to include such luxuries as light meter and lever for self-timer, though selfies are to be refrained as this style of photograph is frivolous and self-indulgent.

The Zenit E‘s manufacturers have equipped the camera with the M42 screw mount, which means that this camera can mount the entirety of exceptional Soviet glass. It can also fit with other lenses from other makers, though we should caution that mounting of Pentax, Fuji, or any non-Soviet M42 lenses could delay advancement in the party, and those who do so will have the practice noted in their file.

For more information on the Zenit E, reference People’s Ministry of Secret Documents Party File Number 756, Page 17 and associated microfiche.


Zorki 4K

This 35mm rangefinder camera was based on the famous Zorki 4, another superior Soviet camera whose production run outlasted all of its contemporaries. This includes Leica’s decadent M3. It’s a compact, beautiful machine capable of performing all tasks a photographer could ask of it. The 4K is preferred (mostly in the lazy West) due to its inclusion of the easier-to-use film advance lever (which replaced the earlier cylindrical advance knob), and a fixed take-up spool. The camera uses M39 screw mount lenses, of which there exist many excellent models.

In order to ensure this camera may only be enjoyed by true supporters of the party (who always read instruction manual) we have deliberately sabotaged our own design. Shutter must always be cocked before changing shutter speeds. Failure to do so destroys the camera. This has never happened to a single good, Russian comrade, only to foreigners, which once again proves the ineffectiveness of the illiterate western camera user.

Today, though our perfect communist system is currently sleeping, all is not sad news. For the Zorki 4K can be purchased on filthy capitalist pig sites for very few Soviet rubles. Due to their low cost, it presents one of the best values for good workers looking to buy into what surely must be the best rangefinder photo system in the world.


Kiev 60 TTL

There is old, Russian proverb that says; never bring knife to an intercontinental-ballistic-missile-fight. And it is true also for cameras. Why shoot puny 35mm film when we can enjoy superb Soviet medium format camera? The Kiev 60 is just such a camera. Gigantic, and likely too large for frail western hands, it’s also very comfortable as it shares much the same functionality and design with its smaller 35mm SLR counterparts. Just much bigger.

The TTL version offers through-the-lens light metering for those of weak mind and eye who cannot meter the Russian way – we mentally calculate shutter speed and aperture while staring un-blinkingly at the sun. It uses modern 120 film from notoriously inferior producers KodakFuji, and other non-Soviet manufacturers who will soon be crushed under the tread of our mighty machine.

Like many of the other cameras I’ve listed here, the Kiev 60 is an incredible value. And while some fools claim we copied the design from a Pentacon Six, this is incorrect. We simply remade their camera into a far superior machine. We Russians have never copied any designs from anyone. Ever.


Lomo Lubitel 2

While other brands from other nations attempted to create decent TLR cameras, all their efforts were for naught. This is because in 1954 Lomo created the Lubitel 2, the best TLR the world has ever known. Don’t believe me? Let’s see what you think after a talk with my friend, Electrified Mattress Spring.

Made of a secret Soviet plastic with metal used intelligently for focusing rings and viewfinder, the Lubitel 2 is lightweight, yet durable. This makes it a superb choice for forced marches or long winters in a Siberian missile-defense outpost. The waist-level viewfinder is the brightest of any TLR, making it an exceptional camera for those who shoot often in low-light situations, such as our good comrades above the arctic circle.

It uses 120 medium format film exposed through a Lomo 75mm F/4.5 taking lens, and while some commenters may say this maximum aperture is slow, we would counter that it is in fact you who is slow. The Lubitel features a concise control layout in which all functions are primarily centered around the lens. This streamlines operations in much the same way that bureaucracy does. There is no frame counter, so it is plausible that western-educated photographers will find it difficult to know how many shots remain. Perhaps they should spend less time on their precious You Tubes and more time in arithmetic studies.


FED 1 (NKVD, S)

Only through the visionary wisdom of NKVD founder F.E. Dzerzhinsky could such a miraculous camera come into existence. Even more of a miracle, this amazing camera was produced by youths diligently serving the state in a labor commune. Had they not been orphans, their parents would have been proud.

The Fed 1 was our great state’s first improvement over the inferior Leica II. It is a basic and functional camera that has been carefully engineered to take incredible pictures. Reasons that you should buy one of these cameras over the Leica… equivalent… are plentiful. First, some are marked with the name of the secret police, which may help you avoid unpleasant confrontations in dark alleys. Also, its viewfinder is fairly bright and shows one focal length (50mm). It uses M39 screw mount so you can use Leica lenses, though doing so will have you shipped to the gulag on the first available bread truck.

But perhaps the most important reason to choose a FED is that it shows your commitment to the ideals of communism, and that you’ll suffer for those ideals. What I mean is this, good comrade, your FED will never work right and you’re going to have to live with it.


Uh, thanks Colonel. That was… educational.

Want a Russian camera we didn’t cover here?

Find one on eBay

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Simon
    September 25, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Roses are red
    Imperialist running dog is blue
    Pain agony suffer malnourish
    Zorki > Leica
    Its true

  • Reply
    Mike Eckman
    September 25, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Might I suggest the compact and portable Agat 18K half frame camera. A wondrous piece of black and yellow plastic with a lens that many photographers describe as “surprisingly not terrible”. These things are easy to find for cheap prices and are very fun to shoot!

    • Reply
      James Tocchio
      September 25, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      One of the guys here just showed me that weird little thing earlier today! Glad you mentioned it Mike.

  • Reply
    Wilson Laidlaw
    September 26, 2017 at 6:43 am

    I don’t know why folks still say you can use Leica lenses on Russian cameras and Russian lenses on Leica cameras. If you care about sharp focus throughout the range, you cannot do this without an expensive alteration by having the slope of the RF cam re-ground. The reason for this is that when Leica clone cameras started to be made in the former Soviet Union, a lot of the lens equipment was transplanted from the Zeiss plant at Jena near Dresden and the Russian industry opted for the Zeiss focusing pitch. Zeiss used a different pitch of focusing helicoid to Leica (other than obviously for the lenses they made in L39 mount) and the rangefinders in Russian cameras take this into account. The end result is that you can set up a Russian lens on a Leica so that it is in focus either at infinity or close focus but not both. Anyone who claims their unaltered Jupiter lens works OK on a Leica at all distances, is fooling themselves or only using it at very small apertures where precise focus is less relevant. If you want the full technical explanation of this, look in Dante Stella’s blog here http://www.dantestella.com/technical/compat.html

    One interesting Soviet camera is the DRUG which in its Mk.2 version, might be seen as the apogee of the Soviet rangefinder camera history. It had all the toys including a selenium light meter and even a roller RF cam. These don’t come cheap, as they are rare and seen as collectors’ items in Russia today.

    Wilson

  • Reply
    Randle P. McMurphy
    September 26, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Toys for poor boys……so sad !

    I had a Pentacon Six (East Germany) for a while which is a level up over the Soviet production
    and get annoyed very fast about all the little things that didnt work like I was used with western products.

    Why buy this stuff ? There are more than enough high quality cameras from Pentax, Minolta and Olympus
    you can get for the same price and they WORK !

  • Reply
    Malcolm Myers
    September 26, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Thank you Colonel, that was very educational. For years I have laboured under the false precepts of free speech and capitalism. Having read this article the scales have truly fallen from my sorry Imperialist eyes. Please tell me when is next flight to Moscow?

    Great article by the way!

  • Reply
    IainC
    September 26, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    The Kiev 60 is actually not a copy of the Pentacon 6. It shares the same layout but it’s quite different mechanically.

    If I was going to quibble, i’d also mention that the FED and the Zorki are essentially the same camera too. In fact Zorkis were originally built as FEDs because the Kharkiv forced labour ca… ahem factory was over-run by the German army in WWII and production had to move to the KMZ factory temporarily. After FED went home, the KMZ engineers kept a parallel evolution of the Leica II clone.

    For what it’s worth my list of five great Soviet cameras would look like this:
    – Zenit-E (no arguments, it’s the plain white rice of cameras. Does everything it needs to do and not one thing more)

    – Kiev 10. Super space age 35mm SLR that was one of the first automatic cameras in the world and one of the few truly original designs from the FSU. Had a fantastically complicated bronze fan shutter and looked like something out of Barbarella.

    – Moskva 5. Built at the same KMZ factory that was home to the Zenit and Zorki lines, this was a folding medium format rangefinder based on the Zeiss Super Ikonta. Except, unlike the Zeiss it had selectable frame sizes instead of being locked into only one. Either 6×9 or 6×6 frames were possible by means of a mask inside the film transport and a selectable viewfinder.

    – Kiev 4. A better 35mm rangefinder than any FED or Zorki, the Kiev rangefinders were copied from Contax and used the same Contax lens mount. KMZ and FED made mass-market, super cheap cameras for the masses but Kievs were aimed at professionals so they were (usually) better made and more advanced than their Russian contemporaries.

    – Horizon. A panoramic camera that uses two frames of 35mm film per shot. The lens is in a rotating drum and the film track is curved around the back of it.

    I own all of those cameras and they are a blast to use. Soviet photo gear is very much my bag. You can see my collection with write ups and some sample images over on my blog – http://www.serialforeigner.photo/gear

  • Reply
    Dexter
    September 27, 2017 at 9:40 am

    This was great. Not owned a Soviet era camera but own a Helios 44M-4 and am taking it with me on my trip to Russia next month.

    • Reply
      James Tocchio
      September 27, 2017 at 9:49 am

      That should be a pretty amazing trip. Enjoy it.

  • Reply
    Fernando Ruiz
    October 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Great post, comrade! I also consider Kiev 4 as a successful milestone in USSR Photography history. Mi black Kiev 4 with a Jupiter 8M, aside to be an excellent defensive weapon if you get in troubles during a street photo session, makes fantastic images despite its almost 50 years of existence. The Contax design, as IAINC has said, is so well done that Kievs 4 and its predecessors Kiev1,2,3, are still a superb photo machine. And, if troubles arrives, search for “Kiev survival site” an DIY!

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