Anyone have experience with ARAX (Kiev)?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Max Power, Apr 15, 2005.

  1. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Hey all!

    I'm starting to get more and more interested in MF. My darkroom is fully equipped to exploit MF and I recently bought a very inexpensive C220 to test the waters. The C220 takes amazing photographs, but I just cannot seem to get into the whole TLR vibe. I'm used to the RF/SLR 'way of life' with my
    Canonet and X-700; and I really am used to the WYSIWYG from an SLR.

    I am an amateur, not a pro, so I honestly cannot justify shelling out a bazillion dollars on a Hassy, and the glass is really expensive. Truth of the matter is that I doubt that I could exploit a Hassy to it's potential anyway!

    I have been searching around and have come across ARAX which is a company, much like KievUSA, which takes Kievs from the factory and reworks them into acceptable machines and sends them out with a money-back guarantee and a 1 year warranty.

    I'm maybe thinking about an ARAX (Kiev) 60 in about a year or so. Does anyone here on APUG have any first or second-hand experience with ARAX?

    Cheers,
    Kent
     
  2. rjr

    rjr Member

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    I´m using a Kiev 88 Six I bought from Richard Wiese in Hamburg - inside in it´s guts it´s probably modified by Hartblei. Mine has P6 mount, MLU, cloth shutter and the body works flawless since I bought it new in 1998 (the backs need service on a regular schedule, thats it).

    "I am an amateur, not a pro, so I honestly cannot justify shelling out a bazillion dollars on a Hassy, and the glass is really expensive."

    Yep. Old beaten up Hassi bodies are cheap and plenty - but they are 40years old and the glass price will kill ya.

    The Kiev glass is decent and affordable, as is the Carl Zeiss Jena stuff - I own a few rather special lenses, the 30mm Zodiak just for fun, the 55mm PCS as "bread and butter" wide angle, the 2,8/180 Sonnar to scare the looters away. ;-)

    "I have been searching around and have come across ARAX which is a company, much like KievUSA, which takes Kievs from the factory and reworks them into acceptable machines and sends them out with a money-back guarantee and a 1 year warranty."

    It depends. The Arax SE kits are not "taken from the factory" - they are used cameras, bought in flea markets etc and reworked. Those can be 20 years old and you never know - Vartanyan grinds old the Kiev serial numbers and replaces them with "Arax SN".

    The 88CM are indeed new cameras - which you actually can buy identically from the factory.

    "I'm maybe thinking about an ARAX (Kiev) 60 in about a year or so. "

    Hehe. A K60 would have been my recommendation for a Kiev newbie - they are cheap, more simple (no backs, which can be trouble), functional. And both big and ugly. ,)

    "Does anyone here on APUG have any first or second-hand experience with ARAX?"

    I know a handful of Arax-Kiev users. Most are satisfied, just one had trouble with his second 88 body - he bought it, left for holidays while trusting the warranty ("we check any back before shipping"). And he came back with a handful of rolls, exposed by a lightleak - he should have run a roll prior to the trip. .-(

    The others are happy users - mechanically they are as sound as a Kiev can get. But please, don´t fall for the SE kits - the leather will wear out, looking horrible, the "black chrome" is just a layer of paint upon the factory chrome rims.

    "Cheers,
    Kent"
     
  3. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    if your interests are to photograph with the use of a tripod I beleive that there is a device available for the Mamiya TLR called a Paramender. This device allows one to focus conventionally with the top lens and then to move the taking lens into the position of the viewing lens and to remove parralax fron the photo taking process. It does not allow for depth of field preview.

    I have never used one of the Mamiya TLRs. I do own though an RZ67. My main disappointment with the RZ67 is the PITA in using the depth of field scales. The camera has very nice depth of field preview but when the light is of very low contrast I would welcome a more user friendly depth of field scale.

    I am to unfamilar with the Mamiya press cameras to talk with authority about them but I believe that they have a ground glass back available. If that is correct and since you like rangefinder cameras this could be an option worthy of investigation. Of course you could also look at the Koni-Omega cameras. I do not believe that they offer groundglass viewing but I could easily be wrong. The Linhof Technika roll film cameras do offer both rangefinder as well as groundglass viewing but you may be getting to closer to Hasselblad prices. They are without about, for a person that uses a tripod, the most flexible of the lot offering both lens movements and a back adjustment. The Horseman press is also similarly flexible.

    Good luck with your search.
     
  4. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    I considered Arax and found lots of people who were happy with them, but when I found I could get a bargain condition Mamiya RB67-ProS from KEH for under $400 I decided to go with something I knew would stand up to actual use.

    The biggest problem with Arax is that they're starting with products from the Arsenal factory, so even if they "get it right" before they ship it to you, there's a chance something will break and you'll end up sending it back. Postage for me from the US to Arax would have quickly added up to more than the system cost. The RB67, on the other hand, is likely to work for longer than I live.

    Since the pro's have dumped MF equipment onto the market at such a high rate over the last few years, there's little reason to consider entering the crap-shoot involved in ex-Soviet products. The prices just aren't justified when you can get high quality equipment for a song.
     
  5. mark

    mark Member

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    Go to www.kievaholic.com it is a very informative kiev site. It also has a link to the Kiev report near the bottom of the home page. The kiev report is a forum dedicated to russian cameras and has a lot about ARAX. Everything you wanted to know about russian cameras and more. The nicest bunch of folks on the net too. There are members from there are here as well and maybe they have first hand experience with ARAX. My experience is only second hand.

    ARAX is a good friendly company to work with, but their cameras are still Kievs, so many are born with defects. What I like about arax is, if your camera is a dud, you send it back to them and they adjust that camera. Other places just swap the camera out for another so you might get a whole new set of problems. Kiev USA is a rip off.

    I got lucky with my Kiev. It has shown no signs of any problems. That said, of the Kiev cameras, the 60 might be ugly but it is the least prone to problems. Plus you have access to the P6 style lenses which include some really nice pieces of very affordable glass.

    The glass is the reason to get a Kiev, there is a lot of great lenses and it is all very, very affordable.

    This was taken with my (real)Hartblei master 88 and Mir 45mm lens. The actual transparency is much sharper than my scanning abilities.

    (I can't get a thumb nail to attach so I'll post it in the standard gallery)
     
  6. mark

    mark Member

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    The problem is the lenses are not falling in prices as fast as the bodies
     
  7. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    I'd disagree...lens prices, at least for the RB system, have plummeted dramatically over the last year. (The same can't be said for Hasselblad...those lenses never seem to get cheaper.) For the RB, 180mm lenses in KEH bargain condition are under $200...actually cheaper than a 150mm from Arax. In general long lens prices are about equivalent between Arax for Kiev lenses and KEH bargain for Mamiay RB lenses. Wide angles are still cheaper at Arax, but Mamiya 50mm lenses are under $350 and falling fast. Although they may still cost more than the Kiev lenses, you are getting Mamiya's build quality. Within a few more months, I expect that an RB system with lenses will actually be cheaper than an equivalent Arax system (unless Arax drops their prices).
     
  8. mark

    mark Member

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    You're comparing new to used lenses. I can see comparing a new kiev type body to a used body from another manufacturer but not the lenses. Those you have to compare new to new and used to used.
     
  9. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I bought a Kiev 6C and a 250mm lens from Arax. All good. But in todays market you can get Pentax or Mamiya 645, Bronica 6x6,Mamiya 6x7 all for similar amounts of money. They all have features that are worth something. With the 645s you can stick the Kiev lenses on the front with a relatively cheap adapter.

    The main advantage of the Kievs is the multitude of lenses. Price a fisheye for any other MF system. I'm going to agree with some of the comments that MF lenses have dropped in prices but they still aren't in Kiev price areas. Nor are they common like the Kievs.

    On reliability my broken MF is my Pentax. My Kievs are just fine.

    I don't know. I personally would be hard pressed to reccomend investing in a Kiev system right now unless you're a lens addict. It's great that I own a 45mm,65mm,80mm,90mm,150mm and a 250mm. Not to mention I intend to add a 30mm. But do I really need all those?

    BTW I find using the waist level finder with all that implies the best way to use the Kiev 60 or 6C.
     
  10. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    Thanks everyone for your input!

    I've also been cruising the Kiev Report. The consensus seems to be that with the K60 there are 3 common issues and that if they are adjusted/repaired right off the bat by ARAX or KievCamera or KievUSA then you will be good for years. The other thing is that repairs and adjustments, outside of the 1-year warranty are very inexpensive.

    I'm going to have to give this more thought...Thanks again everyone!

    Kent
     
  11. ThatOneguy

    ThatOneguy Member

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    I've had a couple modified Kiev 88CMs over the years. Both were by Hartblei and both were pretty good. I wrote a small article about Kiev cameras on my site, you can read it here: http://www.jimadsonphotography.com/info/kiev_info.html

    My current opinion has changed a little though. Although I still think Kievs are decent cameras, I think their position as the best way to get into MF on the cheap is in serious danger. As many people have mentioned already, there is an abundance of used gear on the market that is of dramatically higher quality than the Kiev. Since getting rid of my Kievs, I have had a Mamiya 645 Super and (currently) a Hasselblad 2000FC. I paid less for the Hassey and Mamiya than I did for the Kiev. The difference in fit, finish, and reliability is beyond compare.

    Several people have mentioned that lens prices are not falling as quickly. This is partially true, but depends on exactly which lenses you are talking about. The Mamiya 645 lens prices are falling like rocks, and often you can find them used for the same price as a new Kiev lens of similar focal length. Now you may think it's invalid to compare used to new, but I disagree. The fit, finish, and quality control at the Kiev plant is so bad that new Kiev lenses are often in worse shape than decent (even pretty old) used lenses from better manufacturers. That doesn't even take into account optical performance, which can be hit and miss with the Ukranian made lenses. A few years ago, they were dramatically cheaper than the better brands and that made it worthwhile, but that's not so much the case anymore.

    It gets even closer if you compare the best Kiev lenses- the Carl Zeiss Jena lenses for Pentacon Six cameras- to the other manufacturers. CZJ lenses have not been manufactured since the late '80s, and thusly are available only used. They are much better in build quality and (usually) optical performance than the Kiev lenses, so they are a better comparison to the lenses offered by mainstream companies. The problem is that while Mamiya, Zeiss, and Pentax used lens prices have been dropping like rocks, the Zeiss Jena Pentacon lens values have been steadily creeping up. Most of them are actually more expensive than the Pentax and Mamiya lenses, and are about the same as older Hasselblad Zeiss lenses.

    Overall I think that Kiev's advantages have all but dried up.
     
  12. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    In the days when professional grade MF cameras represented a very substantial investment re-worked Kievs made sense for those on a budget or dipping their toe in the water. However they were a lottery with regards to both the quality of the product and the quality of service. I went down the Hartblei root in 2002 and had the camera modified with a Hasselblad acute matte focussing screen. I was lucky to pick up Schneider lenes for the Exakta 66 and multi coated Jena lenses at a reasonable price. The camera so far has been reliable and I have been lucky with my backs.

    Would I go down the same route now? Probably not their is a lot to be said of the peace of mind resulting from the use of top class equipment.
     
  13. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I agree but if your buying used equipment from anybody then don't be suprised when it has problems. Will a brand new Bronica/Pentax/Mamiya/etc be better then a brand new Kiev? Sure likely 100% of the time. Will a used one be better then an Arax Kiev? I wouldn't depend on it.
     
  14. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    This is a valid comment. However given the quality of manufacture of the likes of Hasselblad, Pentax, Bronica etc if one of these is used carefully and properly maintained it would still, on balance, be a safer bet than a Kiev or its derivatives. The trick, of course, is in the buying.

    That said, there is no reason to suggest that a well made Hartblei, Arax or 88cm will not give many years of good service. Its just that the "big boys" seem to manage this consistently.
     
  15. ThatOneguy

    ThatOneguy Member

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    Many people seem to worry about buying used equipment, but I don't understand why. I buy almost all of my gear used, and often in not-so-good condition, and I've never had a piece of good equipment die on me. Additionally, I tend to treat my gear pretty harshly and still after years have never had anything break. I've had stuff dent, crack, etc. but never quit taking pictures- and that's what I buy it for.

    I have, on the other hand, had a brand new Hartblei-modified Kiev die after two rolls of film for no reason. I had another one that worked fine for years.

    What I'm trying to say is that I believe a brand new Kiev is far more hit and miss than used gear from any better manufacturer. With Kiev, it may just up and quit working whenever it feels like it. With better gear, if it works when you get it, it's probably going to keep working.
     
  16. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The Pentax 645 I bought from Keh started acting up about three days after the warranty expired. It totally quit working at the worst possible time. OTOH I've got two Kievs. One a 60 I bought off a user on Ebay. The second a 6C that only received a CLA from Arax. Not the full treatment. They both work perfectly. OTOH Pentax wants more then I paid for the camera to fix my 645. That assumes nothing serious is wrong with it. :sad: Luckily they still have parts for the thing. Some of the older MF equipment from other manufacturers are totally out of parts.
     
  17. mark

    mark Member

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    If I was a pro would I use only a Kiev? NO! If I was a pro would I only have one Hasselblad? NO. Have I ever had a difficulty with a Kiev? NO. There are lots of working kiev cameras out there. Unfortunately the folks who own these cameras do not write about their good cameras. You hear about the complaints and failed cameras and bitter owners.

    As for other brands being more reliable, maybe, maybe not. No they are not as cheap yet. It is still cheaper to buy a bag full of P6 or B mount lenses when others own 1 or two from their brand. The glass for a Mamiya (very old Mamiya) is still more expensive than russian glass. People say it is better but I bet you could not pick out like images made with my gear and mamiya gear.
     
  18. bohica

    bohica Member

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    my experience with kievcamera cannot be printed here, I will try to be nice, they are disreputable, have no bussiness ethics and to put it bluntly, BALD FACED LIARS
     
  19. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I've heard that.

    Have you any experience with ARAX?
     
  20. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    I have. Arax is fine. OTOH unless you need a fisheye MF prices in general are now so low I'd have trouble coming up with a good reason for buying a Kiev. This from a person with two bodies and a good number of lenses.
     
  21. Jim_in_Kyiv

    Jim_in_Kyiv Member

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    FWIW, most of the pros in Kyiv (Kiev in the days of the USSR/ Russian occupation) use Mamiya for MF. The amateurs? Anything from Voigtlander folders to old Soviet stuff to Kievs to 120 backs on plate camera to the expensive stuff.