Someone recently asked me if there was a camera that I yearned for. Well, I have tried quite a lot, but I always loved the look of this one or rather the original Contax version. I don’t think I will ever own the real thing, but the Kiev however…maybe. I have looked at listings on eBay in the past many times, listings for the Contax and the Kiev. Even getting a good Kiev 4 was out of my price range, especially now right now. 😦
And then, one dark night, just before the lockdown I was browsing Facebook marketplace and there it was, a Kiev 4 only 10km from my house. And for a very reasonable price. I rushed out to get it, which was a weird experience as there was nobody on the roads and I felt quite guilty being the only one. Taking a few precautions I met the seller and bought the Kiev and one other camera. Look at it…
I tried the other camera on an exercise walk, but I could not get the Kiev to work at all. It was so disappointing. Every time I tried to load it, the film would get caught in the spool and jam.
I asked the internet gods and the message I got back was that the spool was not the correct one for the camera. Actually that was after I tried to fix and fiddle with it and lost a tiny, tiny screw that was important and almost threw the whole damn thing away. Then I calmed down and reminded myself I was stressed due to the current situation. I thought about it calmly and got a fridge magnet and slowly moved it over the area where the screw might have fallen. Yatta, I found the screw, put the camera to one side and ordered a replacement spool…and waited, a lot more patiently.
My example is from 1978, made towards the end of production run. Though I have to say, every single piece I read about this camera gave different dates for the production run. What is certain is that you can tell by the first two digits of the serial number when an individual piece was made, so I know mine is 1978 for sure. My example’s lens was also produced in 1978 which made me think it was the original lens.
Once the new spool finally arrive, the camera would load, but it didn’t feel right. It was a shame as everything else seemed perfect. The light meter responded as it should, which was quite a score. The viewfinder was nice and clear, and the rangefinder second image was easy to see. When winding on the film, I watched the rewind knob turn, it seemed a bit inconsistent. Oh well, might as well try a film and took it on my next exercise walk. Once finished and home I immediately developed the film. I could see a bit of fogging and a bit of overlapping. I was right about the wind on issues. The overlapping was not so serious that I couldn’t crop it out. You can see on the few images below where it is present, it is on the edges only.
I was impressed by the light meter. The exposure settings for these photos were based purely on the readings I got from the selenium cell.
As the camera had not been used for at least 30+ years, according to the seller, I thought I would give it another go. This time I wrapped some electrical tape around the places where I thought light leaks might occur. I would have used gorilla tape, but I count find any in my local shops. Covid times. The electrical tape fell off quite quickly.
By the time I used the camera again, the lockdown had eased and I could go for a longer walk. So I did, I visited Beaumont Park in Huddersfield and walk around the surrounding area with my one allowed friend. Holy moly, the park was lovely and I intend to go back.
Here are some photos from the second roll. The same issues are apparent, overlapping and light leaks. Though on these ones the overlapping was much less of an issue and I could crop the areas out.
Again, I relied on the selenium meter to set the exposure. I found using the camera a bit awkward. Firstly, you focus the camera with a wheel on the top of the camera. It locks if you move it to infinity, then you have to press a button to release it. Also, at times I could not see the rangefinder image while trying to focus. One minute it was there and then it was gone. I figured it out eventually. My hand was covering the second window when I held the camera. I needed to hold the camera in a different way. I later learned this was the Contax Claw.
“…loading them can be a bit worky and you have to wind consistently and deliberately to avoid uneven frame spacing (mine’s a bit uneven but has never overlapped frames), but once you get accustomed to the “Contax claw” grip they’re really rather pleasant to use.”https://www.photrio.com/forum/threads/any-thoughts-on-the-kiev-4a.159585/
Reading that made me feel better about the overlapping and vowed to keep trying to get the wind on more consistent. Winding on was a bit of a struggle so I know I might have caused the overlapping. I need more practice with the camera. Rewinding the camera was also tricky. You have to keep the button underneath pressed throughout the process and the small knob didn’t help the situation.
But, I still love it. I love that my example has a working light meter. It is just so damn cool looking.
You can read a lot more about this camera and others from the series on the links below: