can someone give realistic review of russian lenses and cameras

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by nzeeman, Oct 15, 2005.

  1. nzeeman

    nzeeman Member

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    i read a lot of argues about russian camera- there r only 2 types of people - one that hate them and one that think they r best.
    but what is truth??
     
  2. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Russian (or FSU, many of them are Ukrainian) cameras are a bit like magic: Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. Chances are better for getting a working one if you believe in it - just like magic.

    And like every fairy tale warns us: Even when the magic works, you sometimes get unexpected results :D

    They're not the best. But they're not the worst either! When they work, they're good. Mostly they are also so cheap you can buy several to test out before you begin to aproach the price of a good second-hand "western" camera.
     
  3. eumenius

    eumenius Member

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    The question is not simple - the RUssian cameras, first of all, are no uniform even inside one breed :smile: So everything depends on a particular case. Personally I find some of Russian cameras very good in common - for example, Kiev I, II and III rangefinders (copies from Contax) and their lenses, as well as Iskra 6*6 folder. Some of FEDs and Zorkis are quite good, and the early Zenits and lenses for them. 85/1.5 Helios-40, though it lacks automated aperture and weighs a ton, is an excellent performer for portraits - and it's very cheap. Industar-61 L/Z and L/D are capable of very good pictures. I can give more examples - but it has no reason, because you should ask about any particular system :smile:) The worst part of Russian cameras is poor craftmanship and unsuitable materials - but this trend had begun maybe after 1968, so almost everything made beflore this year is usually good.

    Cheers from Moscow,
    Zhenya
     
  4. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I've got a collection of probably close to a dozen Russian, Ukrainian, and Soviet cameras, as well as lenses. Most of these cameras are simple. The most popular ones (FEDs, Zorkis, Zenits, and a few variants like the Kristall) are derived from (or simply are) clones of early Leica designs, but they lack the quality control of Leicas, or even of typical Japanese cameras. Up until they stopped production just a few months ago, some cameras made by KMZ (the main Russian camera factory) used a shutter design that was based on the original Leica II shutter design. It had a few improvements, but was still a simple cloth focal-plane shutter with speeds of 1/30s to 1/500s. If this sort of simplicity appeals to you, mechanical Russian/FSU cameras are worth investigating, with the caveat about quality control not being that great. You can still get the latest of these cameras new, although production has stopped. Of course, if you're buying an older camera used, the camera's current condition is more important than out-of-factory condition.

    A few of the more modern Soviet and Russian cameras have automatic exposure electronics, metal vertical-travel shutters, and so on. Again, quality control can be an issue. When they work, they can be decent cameras, but getting them to work can be a frustrating experience. Interestingly, the Soviet Kiev 10 was one of the, if not the, first SLR with automatic exposure. I've got its descendent, the Kiev 15. It's a heavy beast and the automatic exposure feature no longer works on mine, but considered as a manual-exposure camera (using a handheld exposure meter), it's a perfectly useable camera. It's also got a very unusual metal fan shutter, if you're interested in such details.

    All this said, IMHO Soviet and Russian lenses are better than their cameras, as a group. I can't say that they'd beat the very best Japanese or German lenses (I don't have access to such expensive glass), but they're certainly on a par with the Fuji, Pentax, Chinon, Tamron, and other consumer-grade Japanese lenses I've got. If you track down spec sheets, keep in mind that the Soviets didn't exaggerate their performance numbers in the way capitalist Japanese and Western companies have done for years.

    If you're interested in learning more, check out the Zenit Camera Group on Yahoo. It's a very friendly group, although of course the people there tend to like Russian/FSU gear, so don't expect an unbiased discussion of the quality of the cameras.
     
  5. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    They aren't the best, and I don't hate them, so I don't fit into either category. These cameras fascinate me - enough so that I have six of them. I shoot with them because they're fun. I have some problems occasionally - I don't always get sharp results - but part of the photographic experience to me is the enjoyment I have making the images. Simply using these cameras is fun.

    If that works for you, get one, or ten. Don't get them as a substitute for good gear - get them as something to use in addition.
     
  6. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    As my lengthy reply suggests, I tend to agree; however, I do strongly adhere to the principle that the most important piece of photographic equipment you have is behind your eyes, not in front of them, when you trip the shutter release. Russian/FSU cameras are perfectly capable of taking excellent photos. The trouble is that they may not be quite as flexible or reliable as many other cameras, which can make it harder to get certain shots with them.
     
  7. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    Absolutely I agree.

    The fun factor, though, may inspire people to take photos they wouldn't ordinarily take. This can lead to some pretty terrific images.

    I have the same problems with my Nikons. My F100 is fast but heavy and large. My FM2n works better in the cold but is slower to operate. Pick the right tool for the job. :smile:
     
  8. sajianphotos

    sajianphotos Member

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    I am also one “in the middle”. My Kiev 60 is fun and reliable but it took two purchases to get a good one. I can’t say I wouldn’t use it for critical photos (i.e. weddings) because I have but it definitely is not a “fire-and-forget” camera. If one is going to use Russian gear for critical use, buying from someone like http://www.kievcamera.com/hartblei.shtml or http://www.kievusa.com would be advisable, although I don’t know how many different Russian choices they have.

    Actually I think one of the beauties of Russian cameras, the Kiev MF in particular, is the flexibility. Glass (very good glass, I have experienced) one can get for reasonably low $$$. I take pictures from macro to landscape to portrait to nature and even racing with my MF Kiev and have had MUCH more good luck than bad with the equipment. But that is a MF camera and this is a 35mm forum. Still, it seems to me that there are many Russian cameras that accept lenses from M42 to Nikon mounts.

    I use old Zenits in the camera club I lead for youngsters. They seem to get a thrill from the weight (go figure). Practically the lenses are inexpensive, the kids have snapped some great pictures and the cameras have all seemed to hold up to the kids use.

    Nikons, Canons, Minoltas, Olympus’s they are not but they are not bad and, I believe, for the money they have a place in the photog community.

    I agree, mostly it's the one holding the camera that really makes the difference and Russian cameras can be a lot of fun.
     
  9. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    A 35mm forum?
     
  10. sajianphotos

    sajianphotos Member

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    Did I say something wrong?
    This is the
    35mm Cameras and Accessories
    forum, isn't it? I seemed to have rambled on about a MF camera.
     
  11. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Yes Jim, This is a thread in the 35mm Cameras and Accessories
    forum.

    However, it got derailed into MF almost immediately.
     
  12. sajianphotos

    sajianphotos Member

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    Yeah, I guess you're right.
     
  13. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Zorki-1 printed "Leica"

    http://page11.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/n26780856

    The address above is a Japanese Yahoo auction site, which is more popular than eBay over here. I found a Zorki. The auctioneer says it's a Zorki-1 with a type-e lens, but in the picture, it simply says "Leica" on the camera body. I know the Zorki series are Leica copies but usually printed with "Zorki" letters, right? So, is this fake Leica model any remarkably different from other Zorki cameras? I'm kind of thinking about bidding it actually.
     
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  15. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    There was an article in Pop Photo a few years ago about the Leica copies, and it was telling about all the different copies out there and how they are actually becoming quite collectable on their own, they were talking about people paying large dollars for some of the Leica copies, this looks very simular to the one they used to lead into the story.

    Dave
     
  16. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    !±?=?atinsnow]There was an article in Pop Photo a few years ago about the Leica copies, and it was telling about all the different copies out there and how they are actually becoming quite collectable on their own, they were talking about people paying large dollars for some of the Leica copies, this looks very simular to the one they used to lead into the story.

    Dave[/QUOTE]

    Thanks for your input. I'm aware of the market, too where collectors pay quite a lot for old Canon, Nikon, Nicca, Kiev and other rangefinders just for the sake of getting Leica and Contax copies. I have a real Leica, but sometimes I get too serious with it, so I need something more like a toy to take it easy.

    The highest bid for the Zorki I mentioned is still around 40 U.S. dollars, and there are two more days to go. So, I might give a shot.
     
  17. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    A while back, enterprising and ethically challenged craftsmen in the FSU countries began removing the FED or Zorki marks from these cameras and re-engraving them with copies of Leica markings. They could then sell the copies for much more than unmodified FEDs or Zorkis would sell for. Sometimes they even added gaudy gold plating, Nazi symbolism, and so on -- anything to further increase the value of the camera in at least some peoples' eyes. Collectors caught on pretty quickly, though, and I get the impression that today these "Leica-fied" FEDs and Zorkis are more often sold as "legitimate fakes," where the sellers are up-front about the modifications, so nobody's being deceived. That seems to be the case in the auction you mention, based on your description. A market seems to have developed for these fakes, so they crop up pretty frequently on eBay.

    One caveat: I've heard, but cannot confirm from personal experience, that most of these "Leica-fied" FEDs and Zorkis are in cosmetically very good condition but are unlikely to actually work. They're often created from cameras that never worked, and so were tucked away in a closet and forgotten -- hence their good cosmetic condition. If you just want something as a novelty or conversation piece, go ahead and buy. If you want an actual useable camera, question the seller carefully on this point, and check the seller's reputation as best as you can.
     
  18. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    Way back in the 1960s, there seemed to be some sort of special trade agreement between the UK and the USSR, and a variety of Russian photo goods was available, including Leica screw lens in 28, 35, 85 and 135 mm focal lengths. I had all of these plus a Leica IIIa body - the lenses were excellent, I would not say Leica standard, but highly usable and very good value. I have always wanted to know if these lenses are still made, as the FSU is still making Leica-thread cameras, it would be logical if they made lenses as well, but I haven't seen anything but 50 (-ish) mm lenses bundled with cameras available for years.

    My take on Russian cameras was and still is - it doesn't matter if they are "built like tanks", the shutters will break soon, they will be uneconomic to fix.
     
  19. Seele

    Seele Member

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    Like to point out that there is a big difference between "Leica copy" and "fake Leica". There are also some eBay sellers who call "fake Leicas" as "Leica copy cameras", makes you think that they are cameras for copying made by Leitz/Leica :mad:
     
  20. haris

    haris Guest

    Here where I live, Bosnia and Herzegovina, that is Eastern Europe, we have tons of FSU cameras. Prices from 5 USD to 50 USD (depends of accessories included, camra with one lens are up to 25 USD). Hey, my mothers brother once buyed secondhand lamp on flea market and seller gave him Smena 8 for free. My friend bought Smena 8 for 1 USD. For those prices I would buy several of different cameras, use ones which works, and when those are broken I would buy another one(s). I don't see need for long discussion about this issue.

    Of course, I dont know, maybe in USA or Western Europe those cameras are more expencive. If that is case, one year make your hollydays in Polland, Czech, Bosnia, Hungary, Russia, Romania, etc... and get some of those cameras cheap.
     
  21. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I have a Zorki 4K. It was bought for me as a Christmas present by my father back around 1976/7. I have used it fairly regularly between then and now and it still works as well today as it did back then.
     
  22. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    In my opinion the best made Russian 35mm camera is the Kiev 4A. This camera is based on the Contax III and is very well made. Lenses use either the Zeiss Sonnar or Biotar formulas and are very sharp. It has a metal vertical focal plane shutter. My only criticism is that the number of lenses available is somewhat limited and is less than that for the Zorki's. If you get a change to compare the Kiev and the Zorki the quality difference is immediately apparent.
     
  23. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Thanks for all of your comments here for the fake Leica Zorki. Now I've got more fair and balanced point of views on this product. Although I did some reserach read reviews before written by the Zorki owners, these owners seemed too afectionate for their cameras to actually tell the truths to potential users like me.

    So, I should ask the auctioneer a few questions and decide if I really bother to bid or not. The price he's asking is about 200 USD, which is way too much for me and perhaps the maximum amount for someone to pay for such a camera.
     
  24. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Do you want to collect a FSU fake Leica?? If so, then the Zorki 1 you are considering may be ok at $200.USD (IMO it would need to be a particularily nice one, though).

    On the other hand, if you are looking for a USER Leica Thread Mount (LTM) camera, a Zorki 4K is a good choice, IMO (for a lot less money).

    If a LTM is not a requirement, the Kiev 4A is a good alternative (but make sure you get one with a good shutter!)
     
  25. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    re: Russian Leica thread mount (LTM39) lenses

    I'm not positive, but I think that both camera and lens production of LTM39 equipment has ceased in Russia (in the KMZ plant, which produced Zorkis) and in Ukraine (in the FED plant). I know that KMZ recently shut down production of SLRs. That said, you can still find some of this equipment new (old stock; NOS). It crops up on eBay from time to time, and a few Internet retailers who specialize in Russian/FSU gear may have it. I bought a NOS FED 5 about a year ago. It works well, but I personally find it awkward compared to an SLR because of the need for an auxiliary finder for lenses other than the standard 50mm lens, so I don't use it much.
     
  26. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Thanks for your comment. No, I'm not a collector but a shooter. What I was and am still looking for is a kind of a used (and old) rangefinder camera that that I could buy for the price of a used old Nikkor lens or something, meaning anywhere between 20, 30 and maybe 100 or 150 USD at the most. So, maybe a Zorki 4k and a Kiev 4a are worth thinking about.

    If I would spend a couple of hundred bucks or slightly more, I personally would go for a old Canon rangefinder because they are far more reliable.