Tag Archives: russian

Kiev 88

This is one of the cameras I bought in order to play with it on my return to England. I had read a lot about it online on various blogs. I read this article which called it the “Beast from the East”. At the time that I ordered it, the UK news was full of details about their own beast from the east, kismet I thought.

Due to the fact this takes 6×6 photos, there seems to be more photos of the camera here than the 12 test shots that I will add later. The article I linked to before says that you will need at least 2 backs as the loading part is complicated and you might want to do it at home rather than out and about.

I agree I wish I had two. This 1980s camera was one of the most annoying cameras I have ever had to load. Before loading the film I read the manual a couple of times, but still struggled. It didn’t seem to make much sense. The first issue I had was actually getting the cassette back in the holder, it would not go in easily. The second was that I had forgotten to wind the film to the first frame in the cassette and cock the shutter before reattaching the holder to the body. Really, I had read the manual…maybe I have to make a video to remind myself. The body’s film advance also cocks the shutter, so I had royally screwed things up.

Once I did have the film loaded, actually using the camera wasn’t that tricky. Mine had a waist level finder, not TTL, so it didn’t need batteries. I used an app on my phone for a light reading, then adjusted the aperture when the lighting changed. The next mistake I made was forgetting to take the cassette plate out. In the manual, they call this a “shutter”, anyway, with this plate inside the camera’s actual shutter is locked on my version. So you can’t waste film by forgetting to remove this, you just get confused as to why the damn thing isn’t working. Don’t start throwing the camera though as the thing could kill a cow.  This brilliant website has a funny review of the camera and says that it “weighs a f*****g ton.” He also used the word crap a lot, but he does give a lot of technical details if you want them.

So did mine actually work? Here is my roll of Fomapan 400.

As you can see I missed the first shot on the roll completely through my bad loading skills. There are a couple of shots of the swan where I think I forgot to change the aperture and the one blank one…no idea what happened there. The ones that did come out are nice and sharp, especially the non-moving log.

I don’t know why, but there is something about this camera I love. It is big, fat, and heavy. It clunks and groans while you use it and is prone to breaking. There are many websites detailing how finding a good one is hard, but if you do it is worth it. I think I have found a fairly good one, despite my issues with loading it. I am going to use it again and maybe upload more photos here. I find it beautiful and funky. This website compares it to the Hasselblad it was originally based on, it makes for an interesting read.

Keep or sell: Keep, for now, it is waaaay too heavy to post it anywhere I would get a good return for what I paid.




Zorki 4

When I returned to Japan I tried hard not to buy cameras. I mean how hard can it be, just say no. But then I got a full blown attack of GAS. This camera was first on my list to rebuy. I say rebuy because it was one I bought a couple of years ago but gave it away to a friend. I shot one roll in it to make sure it worked and was impressed. Then to avoid buying a Leica I bought it again. Of course, that didn’t work. So here is my ‘new’ Zorki 4.

I tried the lens on the Leica as they are the same fit. It was clear and bright. There isn’t much to say about this camera, apart from it is solid and reliable. It is not a Leica, but compared to the Barnack I find the images comparable, like the Fed 2. Also, like the Fed 2 and Zorki 1, this camera is waaaaay cheaper. I mean not even a 10%, but you get way better than 10% of the results. Using these three cameras has cured me of ever wanting to buy a Leica again. It was produced between 1956-73 meaning there are quite a few out there. I chose this one for the lens as my Fed has an industar lens, and the Zorki 1 has a collapsible one.

So without further ado, here is my test roll.

There are a couple of shots that have fogging, I think due to how I was carrying the camera. On the whole, I was pleased with the results. Clear and sharp.

I sold this camera to a school’s camera club. It would make a good project due to the mechanical nature, the script, and its date. Can you imagine what this camera might have seen?

Kiev 35A

Most of my friends and acquaintances know about this blog and my love of cameras, how could they not? I always have a camera with me and I talk about cameras all the time. A few people have started to lend me their cameras to add to the blog or have asked me about their camera. This camera falls into the former category. Someone I knew gave me two cameras to try. The Kiev 35A and another I will write about later.

This camera was boxed, with the original Russian manual, and taken care of. Unfortunately, it is not the sturdiest of cameras, so it was still in a bit of a state.

I added the brown tape to try and hold the batteries in place, but there was already some silver tape there that had lost its stickiness. If you have been following this blog for any length of time you know I love old Russian cameras. They are rough and temperamental, but fun to work with. This one was produced between 1985-1991 and based on the Minox 35EL. You pull the front cover down and the lens pops out. That is where you find the battery compartment too. This one’s battery cover had a thread issue and would not stay on, hence the tape. I have read this camera needs a PX27 5.6V battery, but when I opened this version I saw two 3V batteries that were dead. I put in four LR44 and hoped for the best. You can read some technical details here. You can set the aperture and distance on the lens barrel and the meter works out the speed. The meter did seem to work if I keep pressing the cover with my finger. I then put my eye behind the lens the check the shutter was firing….it kind of was…sometimes. Then other times it would open and slooooooowly close. There was obviously an issue. Also, it was very tricky to even cock the shutter. After reading all the terrible reviews, I decided not to try a film in it. The decision was due to the expense of film and the camera’s obvious issues.

Keep or sell….returned to owner – but would I try to get another, working one – No it felt very plasticky and seemed a lot like the LC-A, but not as cool OR the Makinon with no flash. It just has too many bad reviews of light leaks, and I hate those.

Zorki 1

This is another camera that I actively searched for. It is Russian, based on a classic Leica, and looks cool – what more could you want.

Seriously how cool is that? And easily found on eBay for not even 10% of the cost of the original, but is it just 10% as good? That would be very disappointing. According to this website, mine is a Zoki 1D from around 1953. It has a Z instead of a B symbol on the speed dial, zeit being the German word for time. As you can see by the photos this camera is a bottom loader and as such you need to cut the film to a certain length and shape before trying to put it on the removable spool. This website has details of the shape. If you don’t do that it might get caught on the shutter…or worse still damage the shutter. Actually getting the film in the thin slot is a bit of a pain, trimming the film is a pain too. Golly, I hope it is worth it.

Anyway as for all rangefinders of this type you cock the shutter before changing the speed. DO NOT FORGET THIS.  To focus the camera look through the viewfinder on the left and frame the shot through the viewfinder on the right. That is a bit of a pain too. Also, do not forget to extend and lock the lens before taking the shot. DO NOT FORGET THIS…I did a couple of times.

Anyway using this camera is not the easiest ride in the world, but look at how cool the camera is 🙂

So for my first film, I decided not to trim the film, just to see what would happen and because I am a rebel and because I did not read the manual. Ooops. Then I went to a coffee expo thingy in Shibuya, Tokyo. Cool coffee and a cool camera, see buddy I am cool (love of Justin Beiber aside).

These are a few of the shots, but they all came out. AND my absence of trimming the film did not seem to make a difference.

For my next film I did trim the leader and loading the camera was so much easier. The round circle is what happens if you forget to extend the lens.

Overall I am really pleased with the camera, but I think I prefer the Fed 2 if I was forced to choose between them. There are a couple of shots here that I really, really like. Seriously, these cameras are so cheap why get yourself one or two.




Lubitel 166B

I wanted a Yashica Mat, but I couldn’t afford one. When I did finally get one at a reasonable price it didn’t work. That is the gamble with junk bins sometimes. Actually, not only did it not work, I crashed my car when taking it to a camera repair shop. They said it was beyond repair…the camera not the car, that was just a brake light. So, I did a bit of research and given my love of Russian cameras I decided to get a Lubitel 166B. According to this site there is no comparison with the two cameras, but I was happy to try the Lubitel for the price, while I keep looking for a reasonable medium format camera. (ignoring the Bronica and Koroll I have).

As with most Russian cameras, they can be found on eBay in abundance for a reasonable price. This one was clean and everything seemed to work, but the pop up magnifier which helps with focusing didn’t really do the helping part. I really could not see the difference when I tried to focus. In the end I used the camera like a rangefinder, I guessed the distance and set the lens to that. To be honest it did look focused in the viewfinder.

This website says the camera was initially produced from 1980, which seems late for a twin-reflex camera. Mine is set to take 6×6 photos, but masks can be inserted for the 6×4.5 format. I have read that the camera is prone to light leaks and the back catch is weak. I did find mine quite weak and I when using it I was worried it would pop open, but it never did. There are a few Lubitel versions out there. On this website you can find details of this and other versions. This one is fully mechanical, no batteries are needed so you have to use a light meter. The speeds go from 1/15 to 1/250 with a B option with the aperture going from f4.5 to f22. There is a reminder dial on the side so you can remember what type of film is inside. That is as technical as it gets. you can find a full manual at butkus.org.

For my first roll I chose a black and white film, fuji acros 100 (I think), so I could develop it myself.

I really like the photo of my dad’s chair..he is alive right now, but it is still poignant. As you only get a few photos from a roll I tried another film, this time colour.

Using the camera by range only is tricky as you can see by the out of focus shots. Maybe I just need practice…or a Yashica Mat or Mamiya. But I do like the quality the shots have and I do like using the camera. Unless I can actually compare it to one of the more expensive versions of this type of camera I cannot comment on how much better they are. For me, this one is fine and fun.

I am keeping this until I get a better one…..I got a better one so, sold.

Fed 2

This is by far my favourite camera. I know I said in the past that the Olympus OM4 was my go to camera and it is, but this is the camera that “means” the most to me. This is due to the circumstances surrounding when I first used it.

At the very beginning of my journey back to film and when I only owned one other film camera, which I hadn’t even tried, I bought this camera on eBay. I did this mainly because at the time I knew nothing about film cameras other than a fully working one in Japan is quite expensive. I read some information and found this camera was a Russian copy of a Leica. I could not afford a Leica so this seemed a good alternative. It was quite cheap and arrived from the Ukraine fairly quickly.

It was in great condition, coming with a box and case. I got a test roll through and was amazed by the results.

The photos had a quality about them that you just don’t get from a digital camera. Every shot was focused, sharp and had great levels of exposure.

Then I got an email calling me back to the UK. My mum, who was sick when I left, had suddenly got worse. A few days later, there I was holding on to my camera sitting by her bed. I got into the habit of carry the camera almost everywhere. The people around me got use to seeing it so didn’t over pose and seemed fairly comfortable having it pointed at them. So the next sets of shots I got were very poignant.

This camera gave me something else to focus on rather than the very real situation I found myself in. Unfortunately there was no miracle, no magic pill and life took its intended path. I used the camera, and others I got along the way, to document mum’s journey. I also tried to figure out how to use ibooks so we could write a small book  together. Eventually, she was able to share it with the wonderful nurses. It gave us all something to focus on and talk about. When mum wasn’t up to chatting I wandered around the grounds taking photos. We were very lucky to live very close to Wakefield Hospice where mum stayed, which has beautiful grounds.


I found focusing on and learning about film calmed me. Now, when I am sad or feeling a bit down, I buy a camera or take a roll. I know this about myself, it was the reason for this blog. I feel I am almost over this habit. I have a few cameras left that I have yet to test and write about, but I intend to stop this blog on the anniversary of Mum’s passing. That is in about a month…so I better get cracking.

Ok, so the Fed 2 – It’s a rangefinder with the two images needing to be aligned. The most important thing to know is to COCK THE SHUTTER before changing the film speeds. Otherwise you might break the thing. There are loads of technical details here. You will need to use a light meter as this camera is completely manual. No batteries required. No meter system. I use this one on my iphone or itouch. It has not let me down yet.

There is a solid weight to the Fed 2 and it exudes quality when you hold it. There is a self timer and a diopter adjustment lever, but that’s about it.

It is a pleasure to use and relatively easy. I would highly recommend this camera and think all film lovers should own one. I would also recommend sitting down with your family and making your end of life wishes known and clear, or finding out about their wishes. Don’t leave it until it is too late.

I know this is a camera blog, but here are some resources on this subject.
Five Tips for Families Facing End-of-Life Care