Return to the Zorki 1

A while ago I posted about buying some cameras from Ukraine. I am glad to say two of the three I bought arrived. I already wrote about the Agat 18K, the other camera I received was a Zorki 1. It was a beautiful, hand-painted one.

I had already tried one before but I left it in Japan or sold it, I can’t remember which. I couldn’t wait to try this one…unfortunately nothing I did would load a film inside the camera. It constantly jammed somewhere. Using it turned out to be impossible. Not one to give up, I wondered if there was something inside that was catching the film. I searched YouTube for a video on disassembling it and found this one.

It didn’t give me everything I needed but enough to take the insides out to check for obstructions. So I took it apart, using my new magnetic silicone tray thingy to help me keep the parts in order.

I love it. Since I got this I haven’t lost a single spring or screw. Plus I know exactly where things need to be put back together 🙂

Not that it helped, there was a bigger problem with the camera. The shutter curtain was shot. Even if I could get a film to load, it would have loads of light leaks.

The first photo shows you how crinkly it was. The second one gives you an idea of how many holes there were in it. You might not be able to tell how thick the curtain was, but it had clearly been painted a few times. It needed replacing. Of course, I tried as I had nothing to lose, but I failed miserably. I have never done that before and I could find no video guides to help me. This is not a skill I have yet. I carefully saved all the pieces ready for someone more experienced to complete the project. Then I thought some more.

What if, I swapped the inside parts with another Zorki 1, an unpainted one? I could then use the beautiful one and somebody else could use all the pieces and make themselves another working Zorki 1.

So for a while, I kept an eye out for a fairly cheap Zorki 1 in good-ish condition. Eventually, I did find another, it was also in Ukraine. I order it. Of course, given the situation, it took a while to arrive. I wasn’t even sure it would.

As soon as it did, I went through the process of taking out the insides of the unpainted one and putting them in the painted body.

And here I stumbled upon the same kind of issue, light leaks in the shutter curtain. This time they weren’t as bad as before and I thought I could be the one painting them. In the previous zorki 1 post, I said they were very cheap, but they aren’t any more so I have no intention of parting with this one. Previously when faced with this issue, Jim Grey suggested I used Tulip fabric paint. I still had a bottle so used that. I painted one coat, let it dry, and then applied another for good measure.

The light from my torch did not shine through. I left it to dry for another 36 hours, more than was needed. I put it all back together and tried to load a film. It was tricky, but it did load so I took it on a trip to Blackpool.

It felt a little “crinkly” while using it, I could feel something was still not right. The wind-on was not as smooth as it should be. I was sure it would jam again, but I wanted to make sure it was light-tight and the shutter was working as it should before I attempted any other repairs.

Here are the results from that test.

The lens was fine, the shutter was fine, but the film was still jamming and overlapping. There was also some sprocket damage to the film…why wasn’t it working!!!!! I trimmed the film as I should, it should work!!!!

And that is when I noticed the take-up spool was slightly wobbly. Ok, if I needed to fix that then I might as well take it apart again and give it a thorough clean with lighter fluid and a toothbrush. I tried isopropyl before and someone told me it didn’t get rid of the grease very well and that lighter fluid was better. In the process of taking it apart again, one of the screws split. I managed to get it out and replace it from a tub of spares I have saved over the years.

Look at all that dirt and fluff. At this point, I tightened the take-up spool. Then I needed to lubricate it a little, but not with something heavy or too greasy. In my garage, I found a can of silicone spray, not WD-40. It had a berry scent added, smashing. It had been in our garage for years, in fact, it was last used on my motorbike. Someone had thought it would be nice to clean my seat with it and when I used it next I promptly slid off the damn thing. For seats it should not be used, but what about this camera. Reading this information made me think it would be ok. I was very careful, I tested the spray first then sprayed in very small bursts, making sure I was nowhere near the shutter curtain.

I activated the shutter and wind-on over and over before putting it back inside the body. It seemed smooth and smelled lovely.

Not wanting to waste another film, I loaded it with some of the very expired Kodak RAR I got in a bulk loader. I wandered around my local area and developed the film straight away. Fingers crossed.

It worked!!!!!

I now have a working hand-painted Zorki 1…and a bag with the parts for another Zorki 1, if I ever get around to putting it back together.

Phew, that was a journey and a half. Oh and inside the cases of both cameras was a plastic-type card which I think was used as a guide for trimming the film. They were both damaged so I super glued them back together.

And done, if you are in the UK and know how to replace the shutter on a Zorki 1, get in touch as I have a bag you might like. I will swap it for some film.

19 thoughts on “Return to the Zorki 1

  1. c. rúnda says:

    Thanks so much for helping to support the people of Ukraine, Peggy! I too have made a few purchases knowing how very difficult things have become for many. And winter will only make things much harder! …Cailín

    Liked by 1 person

  2. William says:

    What a lovely, lovely camera. The sylized flowers and leaves are actually tasteful, & just naive enough for folk art without straying into twee kitsch. Would never have thought that the crass vulcanite or coal-tar or macadam road-surfacing grit Zorkis are clad with could be made attractive. Kudos, for your customary determined and patient pursuit of fixability. Nice, snappy B&W shots. Sweet! Well-done you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy says:

      Thanks, I didnt know what I was getting so was very pleased to receive this one. I said, just sent me one when you can and was expecting something “loud”. So happy with this design.


      1. Darrell Meekcom says:

        What a beautiful camera, you’ve had to work hard on it to get it working tho so fair play Peggy, decent results too. I am amazed that cameras can still get here from Ukraine.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Roger B. says:

    That’s a challenging heart transplant, successfully executed. Bravo! Pinholed shutter curtains (as well as fabric bellows) can also be treated with Liquitex Professional heavy duty acrylic paint, color “Mars Black”. Comes in a tube, one of which will be sufficient for perhaps a century’s worth of repairs. How this will hold up after, say, a couple hundred coilings and decoilings of the curtain, I cannot say … but it has served me well for the first roll after application on an Exakta VX. Used on bellows, it is (as y’all say) smashing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Peggy says:

      I might try some of that next time, thanks. I have quite a lot of the fabric paint though. It will also last a long time as little is needed.


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