I have two Zenits, an old one with the meter cell over the lens, and a newer one, that offers a simple TTL metering with two LED's. I also have a Lunitel TLR. The Lubitel is what it is. You can get everything from really decent photos to amost Holga like images (almost), and pieces tend to bend and crack and work themselves loose... but they usually do so only to a point where they still "work". The Zenits are better, but on some level, more of the same. For some reason - mainly sentimental I am sure, the older of mine got most of the work load over the years. I would say the lens is as good as any of the Nikon and Canon standard lenses I have used, if not as fast (its an f2) as most modern 50mm lenses. Also, over the years, I found the viewfinder image is slightly shifted comapred to what actually comes out on the neg - when I used the camera a lot, I learned to adjust. What finally fell my Zenit is a tiny little screw in the rewind knob - it worked itself loose and I have not got around to finding a replacement... Keep in mind - the camera is 30 years old and I have used and abused it from childhood on. As an adult, it became the "always in the car" camera... in the car of a rally fanatic - do the math.
Frankly, I have had much more to complain about with my Canon AE1, and another one I have had experience with - belonging to my friend. Both, much more cranky than the Russian camera. My AE1 now gathers dust, victim of an electronic glitch I gave up on finding. The Zenit, even with its rewind knob held down with a rubber band (!) is a much more reliable picture taker - at least I know exactly what it will do, and that it will do it everytime I ask.
Good Lord - that was a long winded little essay - bottom line is this, you can have a bunch of these ex-Soviets for less money than most people spend on fast food. Try 'em, you will most likely find them quite endearing and better than most people expect. I am done now, I promise.
Reference has been made to Dante's excellent discussion of 'Soviet lenses':
Originally Posted by nzeeman
It was a lot of fun doing some of the grunt work with Comrade Stella sorting out the bushels of LTM lenses available. Based on his work, and my own,
here are the Three Obvious Generalisations that pertain to Soviet lenses.
1. There are some lovely lenses out there for SLRs. The 85 / 2 Jupiter in M42 is dirt cheap, and is nothing less than a wonderful Zeiss Sonnar, one of the finest lenses ever made. Yes, it is a preset lens, which should be no problem for anyone photographing with a modicum of deliberation, and works wonderfully well - with adapters - on Nikons, Canons and darn near anything else. For a 'people lens', it has no flaws and a splendid 'out of focus image'.
Likewise, the Helios 85/1.5 is a splendid lens. Big, heavy, and fast. And cheap. It is very similar to the classic Leitz Summarex and Zeiss Biotars of the late '40s and early '50s, except far, far less expensive. It is a time traveler's lens, and if you like the look of those -classic- days, this is a real winner.
The advantage of the SLR lenses over rangefinder lenses is simply this: if the focus mount is a wee bit off, it doesn't matter.
I have no experience with Soviet SLR lenses beyond these two lenses.
2. Contax mount rangefinder lenses are usually excellent. With a Kiev 4, the Jupiter 35 mm, Industar 53 mm, and Jupiter 85 mm, one can assemble a completely first rate rangefinder kit for very little expense. Because the focussing is accomplished by the camera, not a helical in the lens, it seems there is little bad news with the Kiev system.
Compared to the best Leica makes, and the best Contax made - I'll be honest, I own them and use them every day - these Kiev mount lenses are perfectly fine, and have exactly the same potential to make great images as the Leica and Zeiss.
I use my Kiev outfit for kayaking, and similar risky ventures. Satisfying 16x20s are easy if I do my part right. Given a choice between the Kiev and a Canon Rebel or Nikon N-something-or-other, give me the Kiev every time.
3. The Leica Thread Mount are where we gamble a bit with Soviet lenses. See Dante's page. If you want to try an LTM lens, be able to return it. Recognize you might win, you might lose, and that the problem is that you're trying to do something with the lens it wasn't meant to do: go on a Leica.
For more information on LTM lenses, I highly reccommend Marc James Small's book.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
My first proper camera was a Zenit EM, with the meter on the pentaprism. For the money, they are wonderful things and are great learner cameras. Everything is manual and the meter gives you the whole available range of shutter an aperture combinations for a given light level, which makes you think about why you are picking a particular combination. No the lenses are not as sharp as OMs, Nikons etc, but they're not bad and a great bargin. Mine eventually developed a slight mismatch between the focus on the screen and that on the film, presumably because the mirror had stopped seating exactly right, which meant that focus was slightly off with the lens wide open, but that took many years and by then I had largely moved on to OMs. In short, it taught me a lot that has stood me in good stead since, but once you have learnt, you do then need to move on.
about the (fake Leica)Zorki-1...
Thanks for pointing this out. The camera I mentioned earlier in the Japanese Yahoo auction site seems to follw the path you described since I've asked the auctioneer about it. Despite what he said on his auction page, when I asked about the camera more specifically regarding its condition and his review on it, he kind of dodged my question.
Originally Posted by srs5694
Although he first sounded like he's the one who checked the camera and did some maintenance so he's confident to say the camera is in a working condition, he replied that it's actually straight out of the factory in Russia as a newly modified fake Leica, and no extra maintenance has been done to it ever since.
So, I'm not bidding for it because it's just too risky. I don't enjoy this part of the experience in bidding anyway. But I don't think he's bad auctioneer/seller. It's just he seems to be targeting the collectors, not the photographers who check the auctions.
Camera lenses do not make very good enlarging lenses because their plane of focus is curved whereas that for an enlarging lens must be flat. This would make it impossible to get all portions of a print in focus.
Originally Posted by firecracker
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The idea with the original Leica was that you did just this and used the same lens for both. I'd rather not though.
Originally Posted by Gerald Koch
That's what I heard. Some people did with the old Nikkor lens also from the Nikon Rangefinder. But with the Leica lens (50mm screw-mount Elmar F3.5), I saw some guy attaching it to his LPL enlarger in a photo magazine a while ago, and he produced the images with it, which apparently came out less contrasty than the ones done with the regular Nikkor enlarging lens.
Originally Posted by Woolliscroft
Anyway my point is, if a cheap Russian lens could do this, I would love to try it.
FWIW, I once used a 37mm Mir-1 lens for a Zenit M39 SLR on my enlarger to print an old 110 negative I had. It worked fine, enabling me to get the whole image without jury-rigging something to raise the head higher than its design allowed. (I've got a somewhat limited Durst C35 enlarger.) The results looked fine -- at least, given the limits of the source negative, which was close to 30 years old and shot with a Sears point-and-shoot 110 camera. I'm sure I lost far more in quality in the camera than I did in the darkroom.
Originally Posted by firecracker
As others have suggested, for normal use I wouldn't use a camera lens on an enlarger. It can be a handy trick for some special circumstances, though.
Thanks for your comment. Very helpful. Then I'll wait for a special occasion!
Originally Posted by srs5694
I tried my Jupiter 50/2 in the enlarger. It worked, but sharpness and contrast were very poor. Considering the used prices of first-rate enlarging lenses, it doesn't make much sense to use camera lenses.