Tag Archives: ussr

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

Svema Madness!

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally had a chance to work through some backlogged film testing for the Film Photography Project. For the most part this has been testing the Russian/Ukrainian film stocks from the Svema company. This is actually really good film! First off a little background, Svema, or Свема, combines the first letters of two words: Светочувствительные Материалы, which translated means “Photosensitive Materials”. Svema was the Kodak of the USSR, founded in 1931 the company produced paper and black & white films, after World War Two, Svema gained Agfa’s colour technology when the Russians overran Germany and took the equipment back to the plant in the Ukraine. The company continued to hold a monopoly in the Soviet block until the collapse and when the iron curtain was torn open, suddenly the photographers had access to a wide range of western film stocks. And Svema started to collapse. But they survived and yes, they’re still producing films near the same plant they started out in. And while they produce a wide range of film stocks today I’ll be touching on just three. Svema Foto 200, Svema MZ-3, and Svema Micrat-Orto.

Svema Foto 200
Svema Foto 200 is a ASA-200 panchromatic black & white film that is just pure magic. I was actually really surprised at the results I got. The depth and tonal range of this film, not to mention the sharpness. To take a phrase from fellow photographer, Leslie (who was kind enough to supply with me the two rolls tested here) “it looks like the way I want the world to look.” And I couldn’t agree more. The first roll of film I processed using a formula from another photographer, John Meadows, Kodak Xtol, diluted 1 to 1 for twelve minutes.

Winter Photo Walk - Taylor Creek Park

Winter Photo Walk - Taylor Creek Park

Winter Photo Walk - Taylor Creek Park

One thing you have to watch out for with this film is that it’s on a polyester base which is thin as a heron’s leg. So if you’re sending it out to a film lab let them know as some may not want to send the film through their automated machines. Places like The Darkroom can handle this sort of film through a dip-and-dunk process. If you process at home, you may face some issues loading it up onto your plastic reels, just be calm, and don’t use violence. I have no real experience with stainless steel but they may give you an easier time.

Svema MZ-3
This is not the film for the faint hearted. I really have no idea what this film is for. It’s a slow film, most people rating it between ASA-1.5 and ASA-6. But it produces a image with almost zero grain and incredibly sharp. The first roll I actually shot back in the summer at Fort Michilimackinac. Getting developing times of course with my limited chemistry cabinant, was another issue. Again turning to Leslie’s flickr stream as she had tested the film also, I found some in HC-110, enjoying the look, I decided to shorten the developing time based on other reading I did online. And settled for six and a half minutes in HC-110 Dilution E.

Return to Michilimackinac

Return to Michilimackinac

Return to Michilimackinac

The highlights were a little blown out, and another odd thing is that on the film rebate there was another company name, Kodak. Wanting to keep with HC-110 I again shot the film at ASA-3 and dropped it by half a minute. That half a minute made all the difference, the highlights were back, and this film is looking amazing.

Wiarton, Ontario - Svema MZ-3 Test Roll 2

Wiarton, Ontario - Svema MZ-3 Test Roll 2

Wiarton, Ontario - Svema MZ-3 Test Roll 2

What this film was used for originally I don’t know, but when I used it to capture architecture in downtown Wiarton, Ontario using a perspective control lens, it worked great, very sharp, no grain at all. If I had to guess I would say this film is very blue sensitive, based on how it rendered the colour, similar to Eastman 5363, so it’s probably a copy film or high contrast title film. So I wouldn’t use any of usual contrast filters you’d use on regular B&W films.

Svema Micrat-Orto
This is the one film I had no ideas what to do with it! The canister said ASA-1, but after looking at the information I could find on Flickr, I realized this would be better shot at ASA-.75, yes you read that right, a speed less than 1! Possible, yes. How did I do it? Easy, I took the meter reading at ASA-3 using my Sekonic L-358, (3 is the lowest it’ll go), then using the same shutter speed, I opened up the aperture two stops. So I would meter for f/32, then shoot at f/16. Then it was simply a matter of figuring out how to develop it. I wanted to use Xtol, since it was the only one I could find times online for, being 8 minutes in the Stock solution (again care of Leslie), but I don’t really like using the stock chemistry. But if I dilute it, what should the time be? Should I just double it and make it 16 minutes? Then I looked back at the Foto 200, the stock time in Xtol was around 7 minutes, the 1+1 time was 12, so that’s double, minus 2 minutes. Which applying the same formula, would be 14. So I setup the Massive Dev app, and put in just the first roll. Bingo!

Roll 1 was shot in Tobermory, Ontario, but honestly don’t visit the town in the winter, the only things that were open were the grocery store and the LCBO.

Svema Micrat-Orto - Test Roll 1 - Tobermory, Ontario

Svema Micrat-Orto - Test Roll 1 - Tobermory, Ontario

Roll 2 was shot at Fifty-Point Conservation area in Hamilton, Ontario on a particularly cold, snowy, windy, winter day.

Svema Micrat-Orto - Test Roll 2 - Fifty Point Conservation Area

Svema Micrat-Orto - Test Roll 2 - Fifty Point Conservation Area

Svema Micrat-Orto - Test Roll 2 - Fifty Point Conservation Area

Oddly enough the Micrat-Orto or “Svema Super Positive Slide Film” develops as the name implies as a positive image even in traditional B&W chemistry, similar to Kodak 2468. The time of 14 minutes, you could probably drop it maybe 30 seconds and get some highlights back. Don’t dismiss Svema films out of hand too quickly. The films give a pleasing image especially the Foto 200. But if you’re looking for weird and wonderful I oddly enough recommend the Micrat-Orto, especally if you want to catch motion, you won’t need any sort of nutral density filters with this film, but you will need a meter that can either go down to ASA-3 or lower, the Gossen Luna Pro is a good choice. Remember, we’ve always had access to Fuji, Agfa, Foma, Kodak, and Ilford films, but adding Svema into the mix is simply to give you freedom of choice, and it’s certainly a film line I plan on trying more of this year, the Foto 100, FN64, and Tasma NK-2! If you want to try your hand at some of these films you can pick them up through the Film Photography Project Store: Svema Foto 200, Svema MZ-3, and Micrat-Orto. We’re also building up a database of developing times in the group on Flickr.

Long Live Film!
Comrades.


Foto 200:
Nikon F4 – AF Nikkor 35mm 1:2D – Svema Foto 200 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 12:00 @ 20C

MZ-3:
Roll 1: Nikon F4 – AF Nikkor 35mm 1:2D – Svema MZ-3 @ ASA-3 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. E 6:30 @ 20C
Roll 2: Nikon F4 – PC Nikkor 35mm 1:2.8 – Svema MZ-3 @ ASA-3 – Kodak HC-110 Dil. E 6:00 @ 20C

Micrat-Orto:
Roll 1 & 2: Nikon F4 – PC Nikkor 35mm 1:2.8 – Svema Micrat-Orto @ ASA-0.75 – Kodak Xtol (1+1) 14:00 @ 20C

ICCD or How I learned to stop worrying and just Shot from the hip

Comrades!

May 1st (well the whole week apparently) was International Commie Camera Day. Of course to the average person wouldn’t know a communist camera from a regular one. So what makes a camera communist? Last time I checked Cameras don’t hold to political ideologies (or do they?), but rather what makes a camera communist is where it was made and when. For the most part a camera is communist when it it well made in a communist country (so yes, those Chinese cameras that are still produced today, yep, communist). But for the most part a “Commie Camera” was one that was produced in the Soviet Bloc during the Cold War.

The Collection - September 2012

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Soviet cameras. I’ve had several pass through my collection such as a Lubitel 2 (great camera btw), a Keiv 88, and a Zorki 4. My current Commie Camera (pictured above) is a Smena 8m which I got from Michael Raso of the Film Photography Project after helping guest host several postcasts back in 2011 and 2012 (and continue to write show notes for). The Smena I have was built in 1979 and is an interesting camera to use. The photos it produces are surprisingly sharp for a plastic bodied camera but the real power is the T-43 40mm f/4 glass lens. However the camera itself is pretty hard to use, first off the film counter doesn’t work, at all, well it does, but it’s impossible to use to track your frame count. Advancing the film does not cock the shutter, you have to do that separately, which gives great opportunities for double exposures. No light meter, zone focus, aperture and shutter speed are done…weird. But it’s oddly fun, and when you can get a good image out of the camera, it’s good.

International Commie Camera Day - 2013

But despite all the troubles I have with this little camera, I like using it, not all the time of course, but it is oddly fun.

International Commie Camera Day - 2013

International Commie Camera Day - 2013

Having a new area to photograph helped alot, with nice abstract lines, a campus with lots of light, it really helped.

International Commie Camera Day - 2013

Maybe before next year’s ICCD, I’ll have another Commie Camera to break out.

ЛОМО ϹМЕНА 8M – T-43 4/40 ЛОМО – Kodak Tmax 100 (100TMX)
Dev: Blazinal (1+50) 12:00 @ 20C

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