Best photographs ever – Part II.

1 – Tiananmen Square [1989] Stuart Franklin

2 – The Power of One [2007] – Oded Balilty

3 – Nagasaki [1945] – U.S. Air Force

4 – Gandhi [1946] – Margaret Bourke-White

5 – U.S. Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima [1945] – Joe Rosenthal

6 – Olympic Games, Mexico City [1968] – Associated Press

7 – Earthrise – Apollo 8 mission [1968] – By astronaut William Anders

8 – Spanish Civil War [1936] – Robert Capa

9 – Marylin Monroe [1954] – Matthew Zimmermann

10 – The Asanuma assasination [1960] – Yasushi Nagao

Best photographs ever – Part I.

The Last Roll of Kodachrome – Frame by Frame.

Photographs by Steve McCurry.

Two years ago, photographer Steve McCurry heard the whispers. Due to the digital-photography revolution, Kodak was considering discontinuing one of the most legendary film stocks of all time: Kodachrome, a film which was to color slides what the saxophone was to jazz. McCurry spoke with Kodak’s worldwide-marketing wizard Audrey Jonckheer, hoping to persuade Kodak to bequeath him the very last roll that came off the assembly line in Rochester, New York. They readily agreed. And recently, McCurry—most famous for his National Geographic cover of an Afghan girl in a refugee camp, shot on Kodachrome loaded his Nikon F6 with the 36 exposure spool and headed east, intending to concentrate on visual artists like himself, relying on his typical mix of portraiture, photojournalism, and street photography.

Herewith, presented for the first time in their entirety, are the frames from that historic final roll, which accompanied McCurry from the manufacturing plant in Rochester to his home in Manhattan (where he is a member of the prestigious photo agency Magnum), to Bombay, Rajasthan, Bombay, Istanbul, London, and back to New York. (The camera was X-rayed twice at airports along the way.) McCurry’s final stop, on July 12, 2010: Dwayne’s Photo, in Parsons, Kansas—the only lab on Earth that still developed Kodachrome—which halted all such processing in late December.

What did he choose to shoot on the last frame of that last roll? A statue in a Parsons graveyard (in the section reserved for Civil War veterans), bearing flowers of the same yellow-and-red hue as the Kodak package. (See Frame 36.) “I saw a statue of this soldier, looking off in the distance,” says McCurry, age 60, “and he’s kind of looking off into the future or the past. I figure, This is perfect. A cemetery. Kodachrome—this is the end of this sort of film—[suggesting] the transience of life. This is something that’s disappearing forever.”

And what, pray tell, will McCurry miss most about his old trusty chrome? (He happens to have shot, at last count, 800,000 Kodachrome frames over the past four decades.) “I’ve been shooting digital for years,” he insists, “but I don’t think you can make a better photograph under certain conditions than you can with Kodachrome. If you have good light and you’re at a fairly high shutter speed, it’s going to be a brilliant color photograph. It had a great color palette. It wasn’t too garish. Some films are like you’re on a drug or something. Velvia made everything so saturated and wildly over-the-top, too electric. Kodachrome had more poetry in it, a softness, an elegance. With digital photography, you gain many benefits [but] you have to put in post-production. [With Kodachrome,] you take it out of the box and the pictures are already brilliant.”

Never more, alas. Unless, of course, some chemist some day comes up with a way to replicate the complex, expensive developing process. Until then, McCurry is biding his time. “I have a few rolls of Kodachrome in the fridge,” he claims. “I’m just going to leave it there. My fridge would be kind of empty without them. If they ever revive Kodachrome like they did Polaroid, I’ll be poised and ready to go!”


Victor Hasselblad.

Victor Hasselblad (born March 8, 1906, Gothenburg Sweden – August 5, 1978) was a Swedish inventor and photographer, known for inventing the Hasselblad 6×6 cm medium format camera.

In 1940 Swedish Air Force officers requested Hasselblad to construct a camera that rivalled the one found in a German reconnaissance aircraft shot down over Sweden. Hasselblad founded the Victor Hasselblad AB company in 1941 to produce cameras for the Swedish Air Force.

Hasselblad was famous for always trying out Hasselblad AB’s new camera models by photographing birds. For example Hasselblad 2000 was tried a week at Nidingen, the only place in Sweden where the Black-legged Kittiwake nests.

By 1948, the company introduced the first civilian Hasselblad camera, the 1600F, in New York City. Over time, Hasselblad has become a standard camera for many professional photographers.

On his death, Hasselblad willed, SEK 78 million (USD $8 million) to the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation.


Here it is a very interesting video about Victor Hasselbad, the F.W. Hasselblad & Co, best cameras ever made by Hasselblad and historical events which the brand was been involved.

Hope You enjoy it.

Best photographs ever – Part I.

1 – Vulture Stalking a Child – Kevin Carter.

2 – Afghan Girl – Steve McCurry.

3 – Migrant Mother – Dorothea Lange.

4 – V-J Day in Times Square – Alfred Eisenstaedt.

5 – Napalm girl, Vietnam – Nick Ut .

6 – Uganda Famine – Mike Wells.

7 – Albert Einstein –  Arthur Sasse.

8 – Fire on Marlborough Street – Stanley J. Forman.

9 – Nagasaki 1945 – U.S. Air Force.

10 – Che Guevara – Alberto Korda.

Best photographs ever – Part II.

Nikon F2.

Nikon F in full flower and evolution to Nikon F2

Demand for Nikon F exceeds production

The introduction of the Nikomat series on the market in 1965 triggered an additional surge in the demand for high-end SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras, after which SLR cameras reached the zenith.
We, at what then was Nippon Kogaku K.K., phased out of producing the unprofitable popular models and placed emphasis on production and sales of high-end models. Nikon F, the leading model of high quality SLR cameras, played the driving role in changing the policy and contributed to an increase in sales.

In April 1967, Nikon F Photomic TN went on sale as a successor to Nikon F Photomic T (released in September 1965); following the redesign of the Photomic T finder assembly and changing the exposure measurement system from averaged brightness measurement to center-weighted metering, which concentrates the meter’s sensitivity on the center of the picture frame (φ12 mm).
This model evolved into Nikon Photomic FTN in September 1968, featuring an expanded metering range (giving the exposure time of 4 seconds at T shutter speed) and an easier way to set the maximum aperture when changing lenses.


American bank and airline makes advertisement motivated by the spirit of Nikon F

In response to the surge in demand, the Camera Division expanded the production plant and made organizational changes to increase the production capacity. The streamlining of production, and the increase of production through expansion of production facilities in subsidiaries followed. In actuality, however, all this while the sales volume continued to increase sharply, and production had a hard time catching up with the demand for a long period of time.
This situation was remarked upon by writer Saburo Shiroyama in the 1970 March issue of the “Camera Mainichi” magazine, in an article entitled “Why can’t we get a Nikon F?” in which the unavailability was attributed to the corporate culture of Nippon Kogaku K.K. involving the sincere attitude of the engineers, which has helped Nikon in gaining a solid reputation though it is acting as a brake on production increased. His comments ended with the statement that the unavailability would persist unless Nippon Kogaku K.K. abandoned their sincere philosophy of emphasizing the technology.

Nikon F was produced in Yokohama Works starting in 1971, and production was to discontinued in March 1972 after the introduction of the next-generation mainline camera (Nikon F2). However, in response to the persistent demand in the domestic and export markets, it was decided to continue production and an output-increasing system was set up involving the subsidiaries which were asked to share in the production.

Development of the next-generation mainline SLR camera

Nikon F was developed originally as a system camera and then was brought nearer to a perfect system through the successive introduction of accessories designed to be detachable from the body to allow a wide range of shooting distances.
The needs of the users became sophisticated and the request for improved functionality and performance increased. Then, we devised a plan to develop a new model A Camera which would follow the basic features of Nikon F and share the interchangeable lenses and other accessories with Nikon F, in consideration of the fact that the body mechanisms would have to be redesigned for a thorough improvement of functionality and performance with an eye to the near future, and started the prototype manufacturing in September 1965.


Nikon F2

Nikon F2 Photomic

The development was started with the emphasis placed on fulfilling the four requirements listed below:

  1. The highest possible quality,
  2. Ease of operation and the fastest possible shooting,
  3. Full compatibility, and
  4. Automatic operation

In July 1970, a pre-production prototype was completed as the embodiment of “system camera” which successfully achieved the four objectives. This A Camera inherited the technical philosophy for designing the highest quality SLR cameras, which had been accumulated and refined in the evolution of Nikon F, and added the novel features as listed below.
For the shutter system:

  1. The shutter blind running speed was increased by two times to 10ms (milliseconds) and the high-speed shutter speed of 1/2,000 sec. was newly incorporated in the shutter system.
  2. A high-precision variable speed control cam was adopted to allow intermediate shutter speeds from 1/80 to 1/2,000 sec.
  3. The flash synchronization was at 1/80 sec. (at 1/60 sec. in Nikon F).
  4. An ultra slow shutter speed between 2 and 10 sec. was attained with the use of a self-timer.

These enhancements of the shutter contributed to the further expansion of the shooting range.

For the finder system, a large mirror was adopted with the mirror vertical length increased to 30 mm from 28 mm to prevent possible eclipse on the mirror in the finder system of long-focus lenses.

In addition, Photomic Finder was improved to allow the indication of the shutter speed and an aperture value in the field of view, as well as reading on any coupled exposure meter despite its reduced size.

Furthermore, the hinged opening/closing design was adopted for the back cover (the back and bottom covers in Nikon F were removable), and the shutter release position was moved to the front on the top cover (from the rear on the top cover in Nikon F).

In terms of the profile design, the battery holder and switching mechanism for the exposure meter, which had been integrated in the Photomic finder in the Nikon F Series, were moved to the body to help downsize the camera head. In addition, the body was redesigned with both ends rounded to fit snugly in the palm of the hand with consideration given to tactile feeling.

The completion of the prototype was not followed by immediate entry into mass production. It took about one year from completion of the prototype to the appearance on the market for these reasons: The pace of startup of mass production of any new product was decelerated since the production line had been busy with boosting the production of Nikon F for a prolonged period of time, and particularly greater importance was attached to quality assurance including the achieving the stability of the high-speed shutter for use by professionals and the performance of the 500,000 lux-minute light leak test (to expose the articles under test to 10,000 lux for 50 minutes).

Specifications of Nikon F2 Photomic
35 mm single-lens reflex focal-plane shutter camera (finder interchangeable)
Interchangeable among 6 different types
Finder screen is interchangeable among 17 different types
A vignetting-free large reflex mirror with the quick return mirror mechanism, upper fixing available (mirror-up)
Lens aperture
Instant-return type with lockup facility
Exposure measurement
Center-weighted exposure measurement at open aperture, Manual exposure control.
Metering range EV1 to 17 with ASA/ISO 100 film
Titanium foil focal-plane shutter,
Shutter speeds: 10ms, T, B, 1 to 1/2,000 sec. with intermediate shutter speeds available from X (1/80 sec.) to 1/2,000 sec.
ultra-slow shutter speeds possible from 2 to 10sec.
Flash sync. at X (1/80 sec. or less)
(Approx.) 152.5 x 102 x 65 mm (body alone)
(Approx.) 840g (body alone)

Disclosure of Nikon F2

Roll-out of Nikon F2 (Osaka)

The A Camera which successfully fit the needs for increased performance and greater versatility was named Nikon F2 (with eye-level finder) and Nikon F2 Photomic (with Photomic finder incorporating a new TTL exposure meter), which were disclosed to the news media in August 1971.

Then in September, a preview was held at Tokyo by inviting a total of about 3,000 guests including professional news photographers, distributors, and selected users. Additional previews were held in succession in six big cities, Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Sendai, Hiroshima and Nagoya.

In addition, in the Tokyo Nikon Fair held in the same month (September 17 to 22) at the Keio Department Store in Shinjuku, Tokyo, to commemorate the appearance of Nikon F2 on the market, 260,000 camera fans rushed in exceeding the 230,000 visitors to the Japan Camera Show in that year, causing a large turnout at the Fair.

In other countries, a preview was held in August in New York, U.S., and an announcement was made at the meeting of sales agencies in European countries held in September in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which was followed by the release in October.

Nikon F2 Photomic S with EE control

Nikon F2 Photomic was evolved into Nikon F2 Photomic S in March 1973 by replacing the Photomic finder with the Photomic S finder which adopted the LED (light emission diode) indication and expanded the metering range in the lower luminance to -2 EV.

Nikon F2 Photomic S implemented the shutter-priority automatic exposure control with the EE Control Unit which went on sale in conjunction with it. This, combined with the automatic film wind and rewind function available with the specifically designed motor drive MD-1, and the later described automatic focusing achieved with AF Nikkor 80 mm f/4.5 (trial manufacture), contributed to meet the three requirements for automatic cameras: 1.) correct exposure, 2.) film wind and rewind function, and 3.) focusing, and provided the first step toward “full-automatic cameras”.

With the emergence of the Nikon F2 Series, the production of Nikon F Series, which had been a favorite for 15 years, was discontinued in September 1973 with a total sales volume of around 862,600, and sales were concluded in June 1974 with the clearance of the inventory.

Expectations for electronic cameras

Nikomat EL

From 1960 onwards, technological innovation made remarkable progress with the use of computers and ICs. Cameras were also becoming increasingly electronic with the introduction of cutting edge science and technology. In fact, a camera with electronically controlled shutter made is market debut in 1965, and in 1968 TTL automatic exposure control 35 mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera appeared.

We released the Nikomat EL in December 1972 as the first electronically controlled shutter SLR camera aimed at the electronic camera market.

A key feature of EL was, needless to say, the adoption of an electronically controlled shutter, which allowed step-less automatic control and selection of the proper shutter speed in the range from low 4 sec. to high 1/1,000 sec. for a (aperture-priority) correct exposure once an aperture was set.

The core of the shutter speed control circuit was configured with a single monolithic IC. This camera was the first to practically apply to cameras the monolithic IC, which was made up with 74 transistors, 27 resistors and aluminum-deposited lead wires printed directly on a 2 mm-square silicon chip.

For the power supply for the electronic circuit, a silver oxide battery (one 6V 4G13, the present 4SR44,) was used for its superior low-temperature resistance and long useful life.

This camera was also configured with the FRE (a metal foil resistor that delivers the information such as film sensitivity and lens aperture value to the control circuit) and a storage circuit that made good use of the automatic exposure control. This provided any intended correct exposure even during shooting in backlit condition. The product was a full-scale electronic camera making full use of our electronic technologies.

On top of the penta prism, there was a JIS-compatible hot shoe.
In addition, giving consideration to the limited availability of silver batteries for cameras in those days, provision was made to allow use of a mechanical shutter at 1/90 sec. whenever and wherever the battery went dead. The interchangeable lenses and accessories were mostly shared with Nikon F Series.

AF Nikkor 80 mm F4.5

In 1965, the Laboratory launched the development of an automatic focusing (AF) system for single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras and succeeded in April 1971 to implement the automatic focusing lens AF Nikkor 80 mm f/4.5. It was designed to identify the position at which the image of the subject at the center of finder became sharpest, using a photoconductive element.
The lens was put on display in the Photo Expo held in the same month at Chicago and attracted considerable attention. It was exhibited also in the 12th Photokina in September 1972 together with the Nikon system configured primarily with Nikon F2 Photomic S and the Nikomat EL, and the world’s first developed autofocus interchangeable lens was hit by a barrage of questions from earnest visitors.

Responding to higher public estimation

Nikon for recording expeditions

In April 1961, Major Gagarin in the former Soviet Union succeeded in making one orbit of the earth in the first manned spaceflight in the spacecraft Vostok 1. Then, in May the U.S. launched a manned satellite ship and the astronaut Colonel Shepard used a 16 mm cine camera (of special design manufactured in U.S.) first in space to take photos from the ship.

Since then, cameras have been playing an increasingly important role in spaceflight. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) selected Nikon products as payload cameras for the spaceships Apollo 15 to 17 in the Apollo Program which had been launched in 1961 aiming at manned lunar landing, and in January 1971 we entered into a contract with NASA to supply our cameras.

Nikon Photomic FTN was selected as the base model for the cameras for the Apollo Program. However, the lubricating oil and other materials and equipment used were all based on the special NASA specifications, and product specifications also included special requirements. The requirements were exacting as follows: the cameras should pass the tests to demonstrate that camera operation never affect the electrical systems in the spaceship; the outside of cameras should be black matte finish to eliminate any problem due to reflection of sunlight; adequate reliability should be assured against extremely high and low temperature, humidity, and vibration and impact (approx. 7 G) during the launching; and delivery times are shorter.

We delivered 9 cameras (with 55 mm f/1.2) and relevant accessories in June 1971 that had successfully satisfied all of the NASA requirements, and the spaceship Apollo 15 with the Nikon products was launched in July.

Nikon Photomic FTN on the basis of NASA specifications

Nikon Photomic FTN was also selected as a special camera system for use in the space station “Skylab” which operated in 1972 for the objectives of proving that humans could live and work in space for extended periods and achieving rendezvous and docking with artificial satellite in addition to the above described application for the Apollo Program.

In the Skylab, the Photomic FTN cameras were primarily used to take pictures of the ozone layer over the earth and the aurora at dusk at regular intervals using the interval meter. One camera model was designed to the same specifications as for the Apollo Program, and the other one was a motor-driven camera equipped with the specifically designed long-loading magazine with the UV Nikkor 55 mm f/2 lens for ultraviolet rays to allow shooting in the UV range of 200 – 400nm (nanometer). These products were all supplied successfully by March 1972.
Also installed aboard the Skylab was Nikon Portable Microscope Model H (put on sale in December 1958) that was modified to take micrographs when coupled with a camera.

By the way, in the Antarctic expeditions involving exacting requirements, a variety of Nikon products have been adopted as formal observation equipment since the first Japanese Antarctic expedition in 1956.

The project of Antarctic expedition was interrupted once in 1962, but it was resumed in 1965, and in November a total of 27 various cameras including various spectroscopes for aurora observation, microscopes, Nikon S3, NIKONOS, Nikon F, Nikon F Photomic T, Nikomat FT and Nikomat FS and a lot of various NIKKOR interchangeable lenses to be coupled with theses cameras were dispatched as formal equipment for observation and research with the 7th Antarctic Expedition Party.

These pieces of equipment had all passed the low temperature tests as eligible equipment for polar expeditions to demonstrate that they could perform fully even in the extreme cold at 60° below zero, and they delivered their performance in the observation and research of auroras, terrestrial magnetism, ionosphere, weather, living things, geological feature, and earthquake.


Abbreviated History of The TLR – Twin Lens Reflex.

The exact history of the twin lens camera is frequently a shade obscure. However, here is a few of the highlights to show how the idea evolved.

Double-lens cameras were around from about 1870, when someone realised that having a second lens alongside the taking lens meant that one could focus without having to keep swapping a ground glass screen for the plate afterwards, making the time delay in actually taking the shot rather less. This sort of approach was still used as late as the nineteen-sixties. Where the TLR came into its own was with the idea of using a reflex mirror to allow viewing from above, thus allowing the camera to be held much more steadily if handheld.

The same principle of course applied to the SLR, but early SLRs caused delays and inconvenience through the need to move the mirror out of the focal plane to allow light to the plate behind it. When this process was automated, the movement of the mirror could cause shake in the camera and blur the shot.

The text extract bellow is from Edward Holmes’ An Age Of Cameras (1978), which is a prime source from early TLRs. George Matthews Whipple was a scientist and Superintendent of the Royal Observatory at Kew. It seems the design concept was his – to build a mirror reflex camera for cloud photography. As far as I can divine, the idea was to use a camera with lenses pointing upwards, but be able to compose the picture whilst looking horizontally. It seems this camera also used geared linking to synchronise the lenses.

Holmes implies the London Stereoscopic Co’s “Carlton” model, was the first off-the-shelf TLR from 1885. Interestingly, McKeown dates it from “c1895”, a significant difference at a time of rapid camera evolution.
However, it seems the Carlton was produced for an extended period with a number of variants (differing front cover/lenses, etc.), so perhaps both are right.
With some research, it seems probable London Stereoscopic never made cameras, but bought in from other sources. The two cameras below are other TLRs it sold – The Artist Hand Camera (left) was a rebadged French Kinegraphe (c1889) and the Artist Reflex (right) an evolved model from around 1910. All these cameras used plates of various sizes.

There were a number of other types of TLR marketed between about 1890 and 1910, but they were gradually overtaken as more effective SLRs became available and cured the problem of parallax which bedevilled the TLR. The ability to see and compose the subject exactly in the taking lens outweighed the disadvantage of the moving mirror as SLR mechanisms improved.

Then came the Rolleiflex…This is not the place for a proper Rollei history; that has been done at great length and detail by others more expert than I about the story. For those wanting detail, I’d refer you to the Global Rollei Club’s excellent site or to Ian Parker’s various books. Suffice it to say that many people believe that Reinhold Heidecke, 50% of the Franke & Heidecke partnership which grew into Rollei, invented the TLR. As You have read above – not so! Even Ian Parker, says in the Introduction to his 1993 Complete Rollei Collector’s Guide that “the original idea of the TLR was born in 1916 … 1927 the first prototype was completed … 1929 the first Rolleiflex TLR went into production”.

Clearly Heidecke didn’t invent the TLR, and as a long-time professional camera designer he must have known of earlier large-format designs. What apparently sparked his interest in reviving the concept was his realisation in the Great War trenches that photography over the parapet was an extremely hazardous business with enemy snipers on watch. His idea of an upside-down TLR of fairly compact dimensions, which could be held above one’s head like a periscope on a pole with remote shutter trigger, was not realised in commercial terms until after he and Paul Franke had been in business together for seven years – mainly making stereo cameras.


A Guide to Russian & Soviet – Former Soviet Cameras

Germany has Leica, Zeiss, Voiglander and Rollei. Sweden has Hasselblad. Japan has Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Olympus. If you’re a photographer, you know these brands. You probably own cameras and lenses made by one or more of these companies. But there is a dark horse in the camera world, Russian and former Soviet countries also produced some great cameras, and some still do. It’s an intriguing story and a branch of photography that can yield some incredible value.

In this tutorial, I’ll present a brief history of Russian cameras, cover many of the major brands that are available, and talk about some of the great lenses that were made for these cameras!

A Brief History

First, let me say that “Russian” is a catch all term for a variety cameras that were produced in Russia and the USSR, and then in the former Soviet states after 1991 when the USSR collapsed. I use the term “Russian” out of convenience, and I don’t want it to imply anything too specific.

That being said, the vast majority of the Russian camera industry came into being after World War II. Germany, a camera-making powerhouse, was split into sections. One of these was controlled by Russia. Also many German companies were forced to give up their patents and designs. So companies in Russia started producing copies or similar cameras and lenses to the famous German models. Some of these were great, others suffered from poor quality control.
russian and soviet cameras

Benefits to Exploring Russian Cameras and Lenses

The first thing you’ll notice about Russian cameras, and the thing that initially draws most people to them, is the price. They are incredibly affordable. A Leica from the 1960s might cost you $600, a Zorki or Fed from the same period might cost $60. The same principle applies to the lenses.

Initially I just wanted to get a rangefinder camera. At the time, Leica, Contax, Zeiss, and even new Voigtlander cameras, were just too expensive. After browsing the internet, I stumbled across a huge number of cameras that I’d never even heard of. Thus began my journey. If you’ve read my previous tutorials, you’ll know that I’m always looking for a deal. And let me tell you, dollar for dollar, some Russian cameras are the best in the world. The following image was made with a Lomo LC-A.

russian and soviet cameras


There are many brands and types of Russian cameras and lenses. For the record, these are film cameras. For those digital diehards out there, keep reading. Many people use Russian lenses with adapters on their digital cameras for their value and unique look. I’ll be covering brands in this tutorial to give you a tour of what’s our there.

Keep in mind that brands are different than companies. Several of the brands below are produced by the same company. Sometimes a single company produces a single brand. But that’s just something to keep in mind.

What’s important is that every major type of camera was produced in some form by a Russian company. If you’re looking for rangefinders, SLRs, modular medium format SLRs, folding cameras or TLR camera, they’re all here.

russian and soviet cameras


Zenit is a 35mm SLR camera brand that most people have heard of. The Zenit was created by KMZ, which produced many different brands that I’ll be describing here. The brand was then produced by BelOMO. Information about the brand’s current status is hard to find in English, but it looks like they can still be purchased new from several websites.

The old Zenits have a strong legacy of being extremely heavy and extremely simply built. People say Russian manufacturing puts a large emphasis on easy repair rather than initial quality. I cannot speak for this personally, but in my research, I can say that the reliability of certain cameras is always a concern. Zenits can be found in many varieties, but the Zenit-E is one of the most famous with over 12 million being produced. Later Zenits used the Pentax-K mount for their lenses.

russian and soviet cameras


The Zorki, specifically the 4K model, is my favorite Russian camera. It’s classic design and apparently great reliability make it a winner in my book. Zorki cameras were also produced by KMZ and were initially direct copies of the Leica II, due to the World War II situations I discussed earlier. But Zorki did go on to develop it’s own unique variations.

Like the Leica, they are rangefinder cameras. The original Zenit SLRs were just hacked Zorki cameras. Zorki is no longer produced, but models can be purchased online for as little as $30. They make a very unique sound when shot due to the rubber shutter, most cameras from this era had cloth shutters.

russian and soviet cameras


The FED is also a rangefinder and again started out as a straight Leica II copy. But FED was its own company and did produce cameras before World War II. The history of the company is very interesting. It was based in modern-day Ukraine and, in the 1930s, even produced limited-edition cameras for Stalin’s secret police.

The FED and the Zorki both use the the M39 lens mount – also known as the Leica Thread Mount or LTM. In theory, early screwmount Leica cameras and the FED and Zorki could also use the same lenses. I say in theory because the quality control on the Russian cameras and lens were often so low that things didn’t always fit together in the same way.

russian and soviet cameras


The Moskva was a KMZ camera as well. It is very different from the previous cameras because it shoots medium format film and uses the very early technology of bellows. This type of camera is a very enjoyable way to shoot medium format film. Many of the Moskva models have rangefinders and can shoot 6×9 cm negatives. This type of “folder” camera was produced by most camera companies at one stage, including the famous Zeiss Nettar and Kodak Autographic.

The biggest concern with these cameras is the bellows. Bellows are fragile no matter who made them. Heat, humidity and prolonged use just wear them out. You can check bellows with a flash light in a dark room to see if they have any holes or wears.

The Moskva is a very portable and easy to use, and some film shot in a 6×9 cm format can beat the resolution of many modern digital cameras. The folding camera format is my favorite way to shoot medium format.

russian and soviet cameras


The Horizon camera is one of the few film cameras that does something digital cameras can only imitate, and they imitate it poorly. The Horizon is a swing-lens camera that has had many different models produced. It produces long, panoramic images by using a lens that moves and pans the scene. The results can be stunning.

There are over 120 versions of this camera, but KMZ still produces a couple of models. In the U.S., they are available as the Horizon Kompakt and the Horizon Perfekt. Older models were made of metal and had the same manufacturing qualities as other Russian cameras (emphasis on simplicity rather than quality). The current models are plastic, but seem to be more reliable.

russian and soviet cameras


The Lomo company has enjoyed a recent surge in popularity due to the Lomographic Society, which sells a wide variety of cameras from all over the world. The original Lomo company is still in existence in St. Petersburg, but most produces military and medical optical equipment.

The Lomo branded cameras such as the LC-A are often produced in China by the Lomographic Society, which works closely with Lomo itself. The most popular vintage Lomo cameras are the LC-A compact point-and-shoot and the Lubitel Twin Lens Reflex camera. Both are still produced by the Lomographic Society.

In my opinion, the LC-A is fun, rugged and unique camera. The Lubitel is capable of very professional results, but a mainly plastic construction is worrisome.

russian and soviet cameras


The Kiev brand of cameras is produced by the Arsenal Factory in Kiev, Ukraine. The factory was in business for 245 years, before it quietly closed in 2008. Cameras and lenses are still being sold through old distributor, but apparently these sales are coming from stockpiles instead of newly manufactured products.

There are three important Kiev cameras. First, the Kiev 88 is a medium format modular SLR modeled after the early Hasselblad. The Kiev 60 is also a medium format SLR, but looks like a big traditional SLR with a fixed back. Finally, the Kiev 4 is a 35mm rangefinder, but it’s a Contax copy rather than a Leica copy.

Kiev also produced a number of other 35mm SLRs and rangefinders. The Kiev 88 especially suffers from reports of horrible quality control, and is often sold pre-refurbished by companies for around $500 USD. It has been said that Kiev cameras are “pre-assembled kits” requiring a lot of work – not out-of-the-box consumer products like we’re used to.

russian and soviet cameras


There are more Russian lenses out there than one could ever possibly use. Almost every Russian camera company also produced it’s own lens brand. While these lenses are used by film enthusiasts, they are also purchased and mounted to digital SLRs using adapters. The cheap cost and sometime fantastic quality of the lenses makes them a great alternative to spending hundreds on expensive new lenses.

KMZ produced Jupiter lenses for their rangefinders, and the famous 50mm f/2 Jupiter 8. They also produced Helios lenses for the Zenit, and the incredible Helios 40 85mm f/1.5. FED produced Industar lenses. The Industar 22/50 is a collapsible lens that holds it own against rivals of the same period.

Finally, Arsat lenses are produced by Kiev and their 35mm f/2.8 Tilt-Shift lens is an extremely inexpensive alternative to modern tilt-shift lenses. The following image was made with an Industar:

russian and soviet cameras


I hope you’ve heard something today that is new to you. But as someone who loves Russian cameras, I’d like to ask that don’t tell your friends about them! I don’t want them all going online and driving the prices up…

Russian cameras were produced by companies with a very different set of priorities than most current camera manufacturers. When you find one that works, which happens more often than you think, it will work forever.

Even if you’ve abandoned film for digital, the lenses are incredible deals and, in the Russian tradition, you can take them apart and fix them yourself if you ever have a problem. Try doing that with your image stabilized 70-200mm f/2.8 lens!