Kiev 4AM Feels A Little Rough

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by stevebrot, Oct 19, 2010.

  1. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    Well actually, a lot rough.

    I am a total FSU Noob. I got my Kiev 4AM yesterday and am a little disappointed with condition, both cosmetic and functional. It was made in 1983 and while it generally does not look too bad, I noted the following problems in decreasing order of importance.
    • Rangefinder does not attain infinity focus
    • Shutter is very difficult to adjust when going from longer to slower speeds. The wheel is difficult to turn and the mechanism feels rough.
    • Film advance/shutter cock is VERY rough, is fairly difficult to turn towards the end of its travel, and does not reliably arm the shutter
    • Light seals appear to have been removed but not replaced (no light seals for the most part)
    • Shutter curtains appear slightly askew and bottom curtain "latch" has signs of abrasion
    • Lens mount cover is dented
    • Fair amount of brassing and scratches on painted surfaces
    • Camera cover material is in poor condition and is lifting from the body in multiple places
    The camera was listed in EXC condition and I am negotiating with the online dealer for a replacement, but I need some perspective on what to expect from the next one he sends. Here are my questions:
    • Is the wind supposed to be rough and "jerky" with significant resistance at the end of throw?
    • Is moving from higher to lower shutter speeds supposed to be difficult to almost impossible? I thought I was going to break something.
    • Where are the light seals? I expected to see black cord somewhere, but could not find any. Where are they supposed to be?
    • Is the mount/focus mechanism supposed to feel sort of loose with a fair amount of play?
    What makes the condition of the camera even more difficult to understand is that I also bought a Zorki 4K, also advertised as EXC. The Zorki is in extremely good condition with all controls working smoothly and apparently accurately. The shutter speed dial is a little finicky, but I sort of expected that. All told, it is a pleasure to use. I don't know about light leaks and shutter accuracy yet, but am running a test roll through it today.

    Thanks in advance for your help and advice.


    Steve
     
  2. chrism

    chrism Member

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    Just so you know, on the internet (except KEH), EXC condition basically means it looks like it tumbled down the grand canyon. Doubly so for anything originating in the Eastern Bloc countries. What you need was EXC+++ or Mint-.

    DO NOT change shutter speeds without cocking the shutter. You will break the camera.

    You can send it to a gentleman in Brooklyn who specializes in these Russian cameras if you want it repaired. His name is Edward Smolov. PM me and I can give you his contact info.

    Try and find an early one, I think the quality went seriously downhill after the early 70s. The Stoli was free flowing in the Kiev factory at that point, I think, and the quality shows. The slow shutter speeds on them never seem to be really accurate. I have a Kiev 4a that is in excellent condition and works pretty well but I had to have it repaired and I recovered it as well from cameraleather.com
     
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  3. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    The controls on a AM can be rather variable but if the dealer is supplying it to Western customer he should really describe it better.

    I don't have an AM to hand to check but the black cord should only run around the top of the camera chassis - from memory, but Contax and early Kievs seemed to do without it.

    The shutter is best set before winding on, as it wears the ribbons less (for the faster speeds). If the camera is badly worn then there can be a difference in shutter speed depending on if you set the shutter before or after winding.

    It is best to buy a Kiev in country with a prior inspection some are in nice condition, and might only need glue on the covering. Otherwise you will need to rebuild. Even in country somelook cusometically nice but are rust buckets underneath, too many Ru winters of condensation.

    The focus mount helicoid can be slack when it is lube free, that is characteristic, of many Kievs.

    Noel
     
  4. Captain Slack

    Captain Slack Subscriber

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    The 4am was the last of the Kiev Contax clones. 1983 is pretty late in the run, so I'd expect it to be of rather "rough" quality. This might have been around time a delegation from Moscow arrived at Arsenal & proceeded to throw six months worth of inventory in the garbage because it was of such bad quality. (That's a true story, BTW.)

    I'd definitely send this to Fedka in New York & see if he can overhaul it.
     
  5. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    I got it from Fedka and we are working on getting a replacement. I don't believe that this camera represents the general quality of his stock, though it may be that the condition of this camera is typical of late run Kiev. According to Yuri, the "roughness" often improves with use. I will continue to play with this one for a few days to test that theory, though I may go with an earlier version if that is what it takes to get one that is mechanically sound.


    Steve
     
  6. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    For shooters I use cameras from '62 to '68, the finish and smoothness is better than a post '72 camera, but an AM is still a reasonable shooter and its normal kit lens the (Helious) is better then a J8 if both are in reasonable condition, it does look ugly though.

    Noel.
     
  7. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Is this really true of the Kiev RFs? I know about the Fed/Zorki cameras, but the Contax of which the Kiev is a clone doesn't have this requirement, and I thought in this case the Russians followed the original closely.

    -NT
     
  8. vedmak

    vedmak Subscriber

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    here is the manual for Kiev cameras in English,

    http://www.keithberry.telinco.co.uk/kiev4man.htm
     
  9. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    Maybe I'm missing something---it lists the steps that are needed to prepare for a shot, and it does mention cocking before setting the shutter speed, but I couldn't find anything that said "don't do it the other way".

    I'd like to know for sure, as I've considered getting a Kiev as a backup to my Contax body, but I'd find this restriction to be pretty annoying.

    -NT
     
  10. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    Here is the pertinent text from Keith Berry's manual (referenced in the above link):

    And here is a similar section from the Kiev 4M manual at Mike Butkus' site (transcribed from the export version of the manual from Arsenal):

    The Kiev 4/4A manual reads the same.

    Just today, I read on one of those "expert" sites that changing speeds with the shutter un-cocked is easier on the mechanism, but that on some cameras that practice may result in different shutter speeds than with it cocked (same as the comment above by @Xmas). So...

    Is the water muddy enough yet?


    Steve

    (Has been doing altogether too much Kiev research lately...)
     
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  11. vedmak

    vedmak Subscriber

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    it does say and I quote "Set the exposure time after shutter cocking. " If you want to know the technical things, if you do not set the high speeds i.e. 1000-60 right, it will not break the shutter, however when you need to engage the slow speed mechanism and the shutter is not cocked, you sill break the little lever that connects to the slow speed gears or jam the shutter.
     
  12. chrism

    chrism Member

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    I've heard it in a number of places. Karen Nakamura also says the same thing: http://www.photoethnography.com/ClassicCameras/index-frameset.html?Kiev4a.html~mainFrame

    You can always ask some russian camera repair guys. Why not just buy another Contax as a backup to your contax? They aren't too expensive on the used market and for the cost of buying a Kiev and having it repaired you can probably get one.
     
  13. elekm

    elekm Member

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    Also, European cameras generally don't use foam seals. That was a shortcut by Japanese manufacturers in lieu of a properly designed back.

    When it comes to the Kiev (and many Soviet cameras), the quality of construction seems to vary considerably.
     
  14. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    I stand corrected on the order-of-operations thing---evidently I managed to read right past it. (In my defence, I've had terrible jet lag the last couple of days.)

    It's a thought. There don't seem to be too many fully-functional ones kicking around the used market, though. I see a Contax II at KEH, but it's US$275, which is a fair cut above Kiev prices even from a reputable Western reseller like Fedka. So, hmm.

    -NT
     
  15. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    Well, the Kiev 4AM is on its way back to Yuri (Fedka) to be traded for one with a working rangefinder and smoother movements. Joining it on its journey is its earlier travel companion, my Zorki 4K (I ordered both cameras together). It turns out that the Zorki, pretty and clean as it may be, suffers from shutter shudder (sticky and/or slow curtains) that causes banding on the originating side of the frame and underexposure on the other. Yuri has promised it a CLA. What a guy, eh?


    Steve
     
  16. Craig Swensson

    Craig Swensson Member

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    So, a guy buys a Keiv and all is not good, then some conclude that it was purchased from an Eastern Euro country..but it came from Fedka..right? and Fedka is where?

    Lets not become another Rangefinder forum aye:sad:
    regards
     
  17. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    Yep, that sounds accurate, though I really did not want to vilify Yuri (Fedka) or his camera ratings. Sometimes things get in the wrong bins or the wrong camera is shipped. I have had that happen twice with KEH when EX stuff turned out to be closer to UG. For his part, Yuri has been extremely responsive and I am satisfied with the business aspects of the purchase.

    The main intent of my original post was to determine if my expectations were too high in regards to how clunky the camera should feel. I was hoping to get responses from other owners indicating their experiences with similar cameras, so as to temper my expectations or reinforce my disappointment. What I have learned from this thread, other purchases, and a ton of other research is that condition ratings for FSU gear is variable depending on the item in question. Example: "Good" may mean "Good, for a camera made 40 years ago and for which no truly good examples exist". I.e. Not really good, but better than most of what is out there.

    Steve

    (Owns several FSU SLR lenses and loves them all. Never bought a FSU camera before this though...)
     
  18. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    I'm probably going to get slated for this but.........My kiev 4 ('64) was working OK, but wind-on was a bit stiff, and slow speeds seemed a bit slow. Opened it up according to kiev survival guide and sparingly lubed the works with a little wd40 (I know, I know not recommended as it has a tendency to go everywhere, but I was careful). reassembled and it feels like a different camera. The wind on particularly is now really smooth, and gained a completely different action - more like part wind the film on - easy, then click, then a little more resistance in the second part of the turn as the shutter is cocked. Originally the intermediate click was missing and the whole wind on had the same pressure - stiff.

    Not really recommending using WD40, but it worked for me. I think the cleaning action of the stuff loosened a lot of old solidified gunk.
     
  19. stevebrot

    stevebrot Member

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    Thanks @ mr rusty! I am thinking that lube/adjust may be the key to getting a smooth working camera.


    Steve