It is a lovely Easter holiday and the sun is shining. I am sat in the garden with my computer writing this review…well, trying. The sun is shining and I am having trouble seeing the screen, but it is a small price to pay. Yesterday the weather was much the same so I took this little camera for a walk along the Leeds Liverpool canal. I walked until I ran out of film. I had intended to walk all the way to Kirkstall Abbey, but it was sweltering by UK spring standards, so I decided to wait for another day when I was more prepared.
There are many versions of this camera, but according to this site I have the PK3470. The Smena was first produced in 1970 and ceased production in 1995. This site says the first two digits of the serial number indicates the camera’s production date. Mine starts with 94, so it was one of the last made.
I got mine very cheaply from a Ukrainian seller on eBay. It came with the rangefinder you can see attached. I was actually looking for a cheap rangefinder attachment to try out. This one was much cheaper than some others I saw and had a camera attached to it too.
There is a lot written about this camera online. It is easily, cheaply available. So I will stick to the notes I made while using the camera. Yes, I made notes! That’s quite well organised for me, but as I said it was a lovely day, taking time to sit along the route and write was a welcome break.
I used a Fuji 200 film that was not in a box so I was unsure of its expiry date. Therefore I set the camera to 125 ISO as the choices were 16,32,64,125,250. These do not corrolate to ISO but are GOST. Therefore, they just about mean 250=400, 125=200, 64=100, 32=50, and 16=25. So phew, good guess by me.
The camera does not react to light and has no power of any kind. Setting the ISO is actually setting the default aperture based on the film choice, 125 ISO meant a default of f11. Then to change the exposure you move a dial on the lens between different weather symbols.
As you can see from this diagram found in the manual, changing the position does not change the aperture but changes the speed. That is important to know if you want to avoid camera shake. Another factor that can cause an issue is the location of the shutter cocking mechanism. To take a shot you have to cock the shutter on the lens barrel. When you press the shutter, this lever flicks back up…unless your finger is in the way. When I first used the Smena, my finger caught it twice before I remembered to switch finger positions. The sound the camera made indicated the shutter was also affected by it catching, the photos I got back proved it. By this cocking method you can take multiple exposures, which I completely forgot about and didn’t try. I will next time.
When you load the film you have to set the film counter manually to 0. My example’s counter didn’t really work and I gave up on it. To rewind the film you press the shutter release without cocking it and turn the rewind knob.
And that is it, simples. On the day I used mine it was very sunny so I swapped between the top two symbols. I used the rangefinder for closer shots, checking the distance then setting the camera to match. For everything else I set the camera to infinity.
The walk along the path was something I have wanted to complete for almost 30 years. I know, bit of a long time. I used to work in a photo lab right next to it and would sit on the wall during my lunch break. I always wondered where it went but being younger and not really interested in walking, I never actually did it. Here I am older and wiser and I finally found out. The photo lab is long gone with a hotel occupying the location, but the path and wall are exactly the same.
One thing I noticed when I saw the results, what I saw through the viewfinder was much less than I got on the photo. Many times I took a step back thinking I wasn’t getting everything I wanted in the frame. That was especially true where writing was included in the shot.
I simply love this camera. I love it doesn’t need batteries. I love the combination of the rangefinder attachment and the glass lens. How sharp are they? The rangefinder does slow you down, but it is worth it. The film is super too, nice colours and great latitude. Interestingly as I was preparing this post I got an email from someone about their post on different film types including Fuji200. Here is that post. The great performance of the camera reminded me of another post about the outdoor eight rule. Basically this camera followed the default setting and I didn’t change it much. Like the article says, the film could cope with the various conditions though he does say use black and white for the best results.
I am keeping this one, it is too cheap to sell 🙂