Tag Archives: russian

CCR Review 60 – KMZ Zenit E

Soviet cameras and I have had a rocky relationship. There’s only a handful out there that I like, and then there’s the Zenit E. This is a beautiful camera that is probably the pick of the litter from the Zenit line. One of my first SLRs was a Zenit B, the non-metered version of the E. And despite never getting a single frame from the camera. Because I had no clue what I was doing at the time, finding myself instantly familiar with the workings of the Zenit E and it certainly makes for a much better Soviet SLR than the other’s I’ve worked with in the past. Special thanks to James Lee for loaning out this camera for a review.

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Dirt

  • Make: KMZ
  • Model: Zenit E
  • Type: Single Lens Reflex
  • Format: 135 (35mm), 36×24
  • Len: Interchangeable, M42 Screw Mount
  • Year of Manufacture: 1965-1968

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Good
There is nothing complicated about this camera. The operation, layout and general use of the camera make it easy for anyone to pickup and use. The only feature that this camera has is the uncoupled light meter, but more on that later. Despite the weight of the camera, it doesn’t detract from its use, although a nice heavy duty padded strap would be a good idea. A carbine style cross strap would be best. The M42 mount gives you a wide range of lenses to use on the camera both German and Soviet optics can easily mount on the camera. And as a bonus, most Soviet optics are direct copies of their German counterparts and often have their unique features that you don’t find in other lenses. Even though there is no automatic aperture on the camera that doesn’t detract from the operation, as you can easily set the aperture then open and close it with a simple twist ring that will stop at the correct aperture. The one thing to watch out for is the shutter speed dial; you can only set your shutter speed once the film has been advanced and shutter cocked, much like the rangefinders from the FED and Zorki line. Finally, there’s the sound of the camera, the noise the shutter and mirror make when in operation is substantial and pleasing, there’s no mistaking when you’ve fired a shot.

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Bad
Usually, if a camera has a selenium meter that tends to be a positive feature to a camera, no batteries needed, and usually still operates. In this case, however, the meter isn’t a handy thing to have on this camera. First, off the meter is uncoupled, this means that no matter how you adjust the camera settings the meter doesn’t react, there’s a second dial that you set to give you the camera settings based on the meter reading. Add to that the meter read out is on the top of the camera body only. It would be better to stick with Sunny-16 or an external meter. In addition to this, you’ll have a hard time ensure the correct film speed setting as the camera is calibrated more towards the old GOST scale with corresponding DIN numbers. Sadly these film speeds do not line up with most modern films, you do have options like GOST-130, but I’ve never seen that sort of film. There is also the matter of the long film advance crank, while a minor nuisance does make it difficult to fire off several shots in succession. And finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Soviet Bloc did not have the best quality control so there is a chance that these cameras can break easily or purchased in a broken state. At least there’s a high chance with the right tools and manual you can do the repair yourself.

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

CCR Review 60 - KMZ Zenit E

The Lowdown
Out of all the Soviet cameras I’ve reviewed to date, the Zenit E is only one of two that I would recommend picking up, but I would lean someone more towards a Zenit B, the non-metered version. Both are strong mechanical cameras that have a nice look and feel to take out on International Communist Camera day and are better than most of the later model Zenit cameras. But there is one thing that you should look for if you are thinking of getting one and that’s the lens. Most of these cameras shipped with and still come with a Helios 44-2 lens, this 58mm f/2 is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Biotar. It has also become somewhat of a cult lens in the portrait market even I have one that I use with my Sony a6000. The reason is that when you shoot a subject at about 5 feet away with the lens opened to f/2 you get a classic Petzval style swirl. So even if you get a broken Zenit, you still get an amazing lens to add to your collection.

All Photos Taken in Hamilton, Ontario
KMZ Zenit E – KMZ Helios 44-2 2/58 – Kodak TMax 100 @ ASA-100 – Kodak D-23 (Stock) 9:30 @ 20C

Adapt This!

In my previous entry about the wonderful Sony a6000 (seriously, I haven’t been this excited about a digital camera since I got my first digital SLR the D70s) I mentioned that there were a pile of adapters for the E-Mount to allow users of the camera to mount older lenses like M39, Nikon F, Contax G ect, well I went into Burlington Camera and was talking with one of the co-owners Joan about it and she happened to have one of the better adapters out there in stock for M39 also known as Leica Thread Mount (LTM). The adapter is manufactured by a company called Fotodiox and have probably the widest range of adapters.

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Yes, that’s a Leitz Summitar f=5cm 1:2 lens mounted…cuts a fine figure eh?

Unlike the Nikon digital SLRs and using old AI and AI-S lenses is that with the a6000 you have to first enable the “Release without proper lens” setting in the menu, once you’ve done that you’re ready to rock. You also don’t have much in the way of full automatic control so you have to run in either Aperture Priority or full Manual. I highly recommend Aperture Priority. Now I really only have the one lens, but I had on loan at the time a Fed-2 and a couple Russian 50mm lenses as well, so with three different lenses I figured it was good to put them all to the test with the adapter.

ЮПИТЕР-8 2/50
First on the camera was the JUPITER-8 this is a 50mm f/2 lens and is one of the more common Jupiter lenses available. Performance wise on the camera is did a bang up job, good coverage edge to edge sharp, and very little vignetting even with the aperture wide open. The results, well they speak for themselves.

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 1

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 1

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 1

Leitz Summitar f=5cm 1:2
Nothing like throwing on a classic piece of German optics and man the lens even though it’s from 1948 still rocks on a modern body. Honestly only the a6000 could handle such an amazing lens.

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 2

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 2

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 2

Индустар-22 f=50mm 1:3.5
The Russian copy of the Leitz Elmar lens, the Industar-22 was probably the weakest of the group not because it had poor optical performance because the images were great, it’s more the design of the lens and the focus lock lug keeps it from locking to infinity. Which isn’t really much of a problem, it’s just harder to work with. A non-collapsible version might have better performance.

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 3

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 3

Fotodiox M39 to E-Mount - Test 3

Don’t dismiss these old lenses, many of them have a large number of blades in the aperture which makes for very pleasing bokeh (the descriptor for the out of focus blur) than the average consumer grade lenses. Not to mention they’re usually cheaper than most. Plus the adapter is about 30$ in change.

Project:52 – Week 44

I’m not often one who will get a new camera and throw it into a project that has been going very well, and hoping that I’ll get something decent. I usually test out the cameras first. But when I was given a Lomo Smena 8m from Michael Raso of The Film Photography Project it must be a good camera. And well the manual was all in Russian so I just launched right into using it. The results were…interesting. I carried it with me over the course of Sunday errands so there’s really no rhyme or reason to the images, they’re shot straight from the hip with little or no looking at focus or settings.

The Smena is as basic as basic can be, it’s plastic (although sporting a glass lens), there’s no focus aid, you just sort of guess, shutter speeds are indicated by pictograms (the actually numerical speeds are listed on the side of the lens barrel), and the aperture settings are on the front of the lens and you seem to pick them by the film speed you have loaded although the scale is none that I had ever seen before. Oh and there’s no light meter or automatic settings.

You shoot from the hip, and pray it turns out.

Project:52 - Week 44

Project:52 - Week 44

Project:52 - Week 44

Project:52 - Week 44

Project:52 - Week 44

Project:52 - Week 44

Project:52 - Week 44

ЛОМО ϹМЕНА 8M – T-43 4/40 ЛОМО – Kentmere 100