Zenit 122

I saw this camera in a charity shop near my house. It was during the phase when I said I was not going to buy a camera this year, one of the many times I have said it. But here was this camera, in perfect condition with instructions, original bag and in a shop where there was NEVER a camera. I thought I was safe going in there to look for a book, but right there at the checkout was this camera where a camera never was before.

I picked it up, always a mistake, and it worked at all speeds, plus the battery compartment was so clean. I put it down and walked back to my car, cursing my luck. Goddammit, a clean zenit with a 44M-7 lens, a lens I have not seen before, and I have to walk away because I said I was not buying any more cameras. I sat in my car and sulked, for about 3 minutes then I walked back into the shop and bought the camera. Of course I did. And that was it, the no-buying streak was over. It lasted 4 months. I have bought a few since then.

This was one of the last cameras made by Zenit, being in production from 1990 to 2005. Like most Zenits, this camera is a beast. Though the body is plastic, the camera is still quite hefty with a clunky mirror slap mechanism. If you like Zenits, this camera will seem very familiar with the regular film speeds of B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, and 1/500th. There is a rudimentary light meter powered by two LR44 batteries. In the viewfinder, you can see a red light for over and underexposure and green for just right.

There is also a self-timer that is operated in a rather interesting way. First, you cock the shutter, then move a dial on the side of the camera which changes the front red window to a green one, letting you know the self-timer spring is charged. Then you press the button above the now green window. Voila, cogs turn, mirror slaps, shot taken after giving you enough time to run back to the front of the camera and smile awkwardly for a few seconds more. Oh and the quite bright viewfinder has a split image focusing screen.

You can find out more about how the 122 works in this video. It does relate to the 122K, but the only difference is the lens mount. On the 122K, the mount is the Pentax K; on the 122 minus the K, it is the M42 mount. You can also find an online manual here.

I loaded mine with one of the many rolls of expired Kodak RAR film I had and headed to Worcester. I was there for the Analogue Spotlight event. I went to that event with some of the people I met in Liverpool, a few of us have remained in touch and three of us drove down together. It was an awesome day and I finally met Hamish from 35mmc, who swore we had met before ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus there were other people from the analogue community who you would recognise. Plus plus there were a number of talks and discussions. Plus plus plus we all got 2 films in a goody bag with our ticket. Plus x 4, I won another film by having a prize sticker in my goody bag. At the end of the day, there was also a photo walk which I did with two of the Liverpool friends…who were so slow that we lost sight of the main group for ages. Honestly, it was one of the best days out I have had for ages.

Anyway, here are my very grainy shots from that walk.

The camera worked well mechanically. At times I was unsure if the light meter was working perfectly as it never seemed to show green. In the end, I used the light meter on my phone and set the camera manually. After using the camera again, I realised it worked fine and I was turning the asa dial instead of the speed one, I blame that on brain fog.

As I have a penchant for Zenits, I decided to load the camera again with one of the films I got at the event, a Kodak 200. I then took it to the Himalayan Gardens with some of my family, a walk around Leeds and finally at the local Jubilee celebrations. Before the second location, I forgot that I had reloaded the film and opened the back of the camera. I haven’t done that for ages as I now use the notebook I made to write down details of the films loaded. After that mistake, I used masking tape to mark the back of the camera which worked even better.

So I knew a few of the shots would be somewhat fogged. There seem to be some scratches on a couple of shots, I have no idea what made those. I will inspect the negs when they come back from the lab.

I don’t shoot colour very often as it is expensive right now, but wow, this film is so bright. The camera worked so well and the lens is so sharp. I love it. I love this zenit more than the zenit 11 as it just seemed smoother. I highly recommend this camera if you want a simple camera that just works. I am glad I broke my “fast” for it.

15 thoughts on “Zenit 122

  1. Darrell Meekcom says:

    Now I know that Worcester is farming land but that much grain?? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    The colour shots are astounding really when you consider the basic nature of the Zenit and 35mm film! They’d put to shame shots taken by an upmarket digital. I love my Zenits, they’re a bit like having hold of an anti-tank gun.
    Nice one Peggy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy says:

      Yes, the grain is huge. I am going to try developing a roll with a shorter time and more agitation. That should help. But it is perfect to test the functions of a camera.


    2. Richard Kraneis says:

      Your blog is re-inspiring me to take photos again.
      In the BW I liked the river scene with dark canopy of trees. Foggy since you almost opened the back of the camera. Reminds me of early French photos when photography was young.
      On color, the wooded path was my favorite. It seems to emphasize the uphill journey ahead.
      And you tell camera stories also.
      Thanks from Chicago, IL USA

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Clare Williams says:

    I resent being called slow… But its true haha.
    Great Post, love the grainy Worcester ones and the colours too. I’m using my free roll in the 4 lens Revolver this week ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Francis.R. says:

    I have spotted a couple of Zenits but I didn’t get them, which is a pity because I have a Jupiter 37A lens, I hope to get a Pentax SP or a M42 mount Chinon to use it. I got a M42 to EF adapter to mount it in my Canon Eos 7 film camera but it gets stuck in low battery error. In the end I got a Canon 135mm f2.8 EF lens. My fear of Zenits is that there are no way to repair cameras that old in my country (and I feel bad saying this as you repair them wonderfully, your skill is quite good that makes it look easy), the Japanese cameras are a bit nicer to my eyes, and tend to have more hope of getting fixed.


  4. brineb58 says:

    I am a huge Zenit fan … basic and fun. I have a few of them, even the last model The Zenit 122K Plus that is autoexposure and needs DX encoded film a far cry from my 12cd with the m42 lens mount!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Toby says:

    Wow those colours. Never noticed Kodak 200 look that good before they’re great. I look forward to reading more about you extracting what you can from the ortho film you’ve been experimenting with lately.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Roger B. says:

    I agree with other commenters: The grainy shots are a treat, especially the vertical riverside one. They look like they’re 80 years old. Best thing about Zenits (well, at least pre-Putin) is that they’re dirt cheap. Shutter broke down? Buy another. No surprise, though, that the Ukrainian sellers I’ve worked with are now few and far between. On a side note, Kodak rolled out that beautiful 200 Gold emulsion in 120 size a couple months ago. If you shoot medium format, you might give it a try!

    Liked by 1 person

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