Kiev 4 (Киев 4)

My most recent acquisition is this Soviet Kiev 4. It is a straight copy of the Zeiss Ikon Contax III (with only very slight changes).

Kiev 4 – front view

  At the end of WWII, the Soviet army had Zeiss Ikon rebuild their production line for the Contax and then, once the line was working properly, they shipped the production line to Kiev in Ukraine. They also renamed the camera Kiev. This camera is a Kiev 4 and is a copy of the Contax III – there was also a Kiev 4a which was a copy of the Contax II. The difference between the 4 and 4a is the presence of a light meter in the Kiev 4.

The Soviet Union produced cameras both for the home market and for export. Those intended for home consumption had their logos and indicators in Cyrillic while those for export used the Latin alphabet. My camera has the logo in both Cyrillic and Latin but other writing is all in Cyrillic, indicating that the camera was not intended for export (сделано в CCCP = Made in USSR ) 

The camera has a very Zeiss Ikon look about it and the body is broadly similar to the Pentacon F and Contaflex – both German derivatives of the Contax, the Pentacon F being East German and the Contaflex being West German (younger readers should consult their history books!). This camera cost, in 1965, £44-18-6 (in old British money, or £44.92 in new British money). This equates to £1,451 in 2020 values.

The camera is heavy – 768g with the standard Jupiter 8 lens – and the controls reveal the camera’s design date (1936). the film advance is a knob (usual in the 1930s, very old fashioned in 1969 when my camera was made) as is the film rewind. The viewfinder is very small, hard to use while wearing glasses and (because it is bare metal) likely to scratch modern plastic spectacle lenses. The last anochronistic item is the tripod boss which is 3/8 inch Whitworth. Standard for consumer cameras had been 1/4 inch for some time (currently 1/4″ UNC rather than 1/4″ Whitworth but the two are close enough to be interchangeable).

 
The knob on the right hand end of the top plate has three functions
  1.  in the centre is the shutter release, threaded for a standard cable release.
  2. around the shutter release is a knurled ring to wind on the film and reset the shutter.
  3. The shutter speed selector – operated by lifting and turning the film advance ring.

The manual says that the shutter speed can be selected either before or advancing the the film but that it is better done after advancing then film.

 
Kiev 4 – top plate
Next to the right hand knob is a window showing the frame numbers. This is nice and large and shows 12 numbers with a red dot indicating the current frame. This counts up from zero and goes to 36. It is reset manually by a toothed wheel on the back edge of the top plate.
 
Being a rangefinder camera, there is no pentaprism hump but where you might expect to see one there is a light meter. This has a selenium sensor and so has no need for a battery. One drawback of selenium meters is that they can lose sensitivity with continued exposure to light. To prevent this from happening, there is a cover to the meter window on the front of the camera. thesis opened by pushing the cover slightly to the right when it will spring open.
 
On the top of the meter is the meter window. This has a central lozenge and -2 and -4 marks. The meter is used by turning the control knob on the left until the meter needle is centred on the central lozenge. The -2 and -4 marks are used in low light conditions – they are each one stop away from the central position. If there is insufficient light to get the meter needle to the lozenge, you line it up with the -2 or -4 and then multiply the indicated exposure by either one stop or two stops.
 
Also on the top of the meter is the accessory shoe. There are no electrical contacts here so this is a cold shoe. It was intended that this accessory shoe would hold an auxiliary viewfinder when longer focal length lenses were used. In the centre of the accessory shoe is the legend сделано в CCCP (made in USSR) and the serial number 6968008 which indicates that the camera was made in 1969 (the first two digits of the serial number being the year of manufacture).
 
Kiev 4 – accessory shoe
On the left end of the top plate is another multi-function knob. 
  1. The outer knurled ring adjusts the light meter.
  2. The inner ring which is adjusted by two studs to set the film speed.
  3. The centre is a pull up knob for rewinding the film.

The film speeds are indicated in гост which translates as GOST. This is basically the same as ASA (or ISO). The Gost scale is awkward as it does not have the usual ASA numbers. There is 65, 130, 250 and 500. Using ‘western’ film, ASA 100, 200 or 400 film requires guessing the position of the film speed selector. If this scale was in DIN, it would be 20 DIN (65 Gost), 23 DIN (125 Gost), 26 DIN (225 Gost), 29 DIN (500 Gost) which is probably the reason for the choices – the camera having been designed in Germany where DIN is usual.

The front of the camera is dominated (as always) by the lens mount. This is the Contax bayonet mount (not to be confused with the Contax/Yashica mount of SLR cameras). There are actually two bayonet mounts here. The 50mm Jupiter 8 lens fits into the mount and latches onto three lugs inside the mount. There is a second, larger, bayonet mount around the distance scale which is for longer focal length lenses.
Kiev 4 – lens mount
 
This lens mount is connected to the rangefinder and either rotates to focus the lens when the rangefinder wheel is turned (more later) or turns the rangefinder mechanism when the lens is turned. When the lens is focused on infinity it locks inlace. When locked, the lens cannot be focused. It can be unlocked in two ways.
  1. there is a small pointed stud near the upper left of the lens mount which can be moved away from the lens to unlock it.
  2. there is a lever by the rangefinder wheel which you depress as you turn the wheel.
On the right of the lens mount (right as in when using the camera) is a delay action lever. This rotates through just over 90 degrees to wind-up the action. It is activated by sliding a small button which is usually hidden beneath the lever. On the other side of the lens, just below the viewfinder window, is a PC socket for connecting a flash gun.
 
The rangefinder shares the same eyepiece as the viewfinder. To give as much accuracy as possible to the rangefinder , the two windows on the front are kept as far apart as possible (9 cm centre to centre). This is much further apart than on the Leica which was the main competitor when this camera was designed in 1936 and also than the FED and Zorki copies of the Leica.
 
Kiev 4 – rangefinder wheel

Just to the right of the light meter and slightly below it is the rangefinder wheel mentioned above. I find this very hard to use as when my index finger is on the wheel ready to turn it, my middle finger naturally falls over the rangefinder window, rendering it inoperable. For me, it is much easier to focus by turning the lens. The rangefinder spot is easy to see and is slightly yellow for maximum contrast. This yellowing is achieved by ‘silvering’ the internals of the rangefinder with gold.

 
For those who do not know, a rangefinder works by producing two different images in the viewfinder.
As you change focus, one of the images moves. To achieve accurate focus, you make sure your subject is in the centre of the viewfinder and turn the rangefinder wheel or lens until the two images are superimposed on each other. With practice, this is quick, easy and accurate.
 
Kiev 4 – rear view

To open the camera, it is necessary to remove the back and base as one unit. At home, working on a table, this is slightly easier than a hinged back. In the field, it is a nightmare. You need to find somewhere to put the back/base while manipulating the film. To make matters worse, the take-up spool is loose and liable to fall out.

The reason for the loose take-up spool is that it can be replaced with an empty cassette, removing the need to rewind the film when finished. This gives a faster reload time – good for studio work but not good elsewhere. I think, in general, this camera was designed with the studio in mind.

Kiev 4 – back/base removed

To release the back/base there are two folding lugs to turn half a turn. Inside the camera is as you would expect a 35 mm camera to be. Until, that is, you look at the shutter. Instead of the rubberised cloth usual until the 1980s, it consists of brass slats which move vertically and are held on cloth ribbons. this works the same as a cloth shutter as distinct from the modern metal shutters. Speeds provided are impressive – up to 1/1250 seconds and down to 1/2 second. The speed range is the modern one of 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 etc.

T
Kiev 4 – detail of brass shutter
The lens supplied is the Jupiter-8M. This is a Soviet copy of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar lens. This lens has six elements in three groups. How well it performs remains to be seen. Someone has attempted to dismantle my lens (never a good sign) evidenced by the aperture adjustment ring being out of kilter. Hopefully, that is as far as they got – none of the internal black paint is scratched which his a good sign. Ro-orienting the aperture ring was simply done.
Jupiter-8M lens – front bezel
The aperture has nine blades which gives a good shape to the aperture. What is curiose is that the aperture blades are curved (see photo) producing a clearly less than circular disc. I will try to produce some booked shots with my test film to see if this makes much difference.
detail of lens showing curved aperture blades
 
 
 

The Jupiter 8 M is a 50 mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/2 and a minimum aperture of f/22 – quite a useable range. f/22 is about  the limit in 35 mm photography before diffraction softening starts to be a nuisance. The aperture ring has click stops but can still be set between these values  The finish on this lens is shiny chrome with a black lens bezel. – contrasting with the matt chrome on the camera body.

Test film is developed and here are the results. I am quite impressed. Soviet execution of German design is as good as it always is. There are no light leaks – always a bugbear of old cameras, neither in the seals around the base/back nor in the sutler blinds – an advantage, I would think, of using brass rather than cloth. Exposure is even indicating that the shutter blinds are both moving smoothly. There is no lens flare – although these test pictures were mostly taken in rather overcast conditions.

The rangefinder test (see below) shows both that the rangefinder is accurate at close distances and that the lens produces sharp images. The picture of the iron shutter shows the one draw back of a rangefinder camera (or any viewfinder camera, come to that). I had the shutter central in the viewfinder but it is distinctly off-set in the image – parallax problem. Some cameras adjust the viewfinder when focusing closer but not here.

The pictures:

Rangefinder test – focused on the nearest finial
Enlargement of the finial showing it to be in good focus.

 

Metal shutter showing parallax error in the viewfinder

 

Lincoln City Square

 

Witham looking west

 

Witham looking west
Old bicycle that I use as a test piece for all my old cameras

 

Indoor shot of Lincoln Central market – fairly slow shutter speed.

 

Fisherman as Easington, East Yorkshire

Olympus 35 ECR

This is a small, compact 35mm camera from Olympus. It is a part of the Olympus 35 line – 12 models with varying complexity. This model came out in 1972 and was produced for two years (as far as I can gather).
Olympus ECR, front view (C) John Margetts
lens: E. Zuiko
focal length:  42 mm
apertures: f/2.8 automatic
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Seiko ESF
speeds: 4 seconds to 1/800 seconds
flash: hot shoe + PC socket
film size: 35 mm
Olympus 35 ECR, rear view (C) John Margetts
First, a description. The camera measures 110 mm wide, 75 mm high and 30 mm deep, not counting the lens, or 50 mm deep, counting the lens. It weighs 450g including a 24 exposure film. The top plate is sparse. On the right is the frame counter. this is reset to ‘S’ when the back is opened and counts up from zero. 30 mm in from the end of the camera is the shutter release. This is a chrome button and is threaded for a standard cable release – a conical thread to make fitting easier. Just behind the shutter release is the camera serial number. My camera has the number 215752.
Incidentally, to date Olympus cameras (Olympus Trips and Olympus 35 ECR, at least) you take out the film pressure plate and look on the reverse. There are three characters printed on the metal. The first character is a code for the factory where the camera was assembled, the second character is a year number and the third character is a month code.   Months run from 1 to 9 for January to September and then X,Y and Z for the last three months. The code on the pressure plate of my ECR is X2Z. (I cannot type the Japanese character in the first position so ‘X’ instead)) The 2Z signifies the camera was made in year 2 (i.e. 1972) and month Z (i.e. December).
Just to the left of the mid-point is a square orange light. This lights up when the shutter release is pressed part way. This indicates that the battery is good and the camera is ready to use. It does not indicate that the exposure is good as it still lights if the light sensor is covered. Next to this is the accessory shoe. This is a hot shoe and allows for automatic flash use – more later. On the end of the top plate is a PC socket. using this does not to invoke the automatic flash system.
The front of the camera has an anodised aluminium strip (the front of the top plate). On the left this bears the legend “OLYMPUS 35 ECR”. to the right are the small rangefinder window (5 x 3 mm) and the larger viewfinder window (12 x 8 mm). The lens/shutter housing is almost central. This houses the Seiko ESF electronic leaf shutter. The lens itself is an E Zuiko lens. The ‘E’ designation indicates five glass elements (A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4, E=5 etc.). this is a multi-coated lens with a definite blu tinge. Above the lens is the small light meter sensor – a CdS sensor – and below the lens is a window showing the selected film speed. This is marked in ASA but that is essentially the same as ISO. Just around the lens is a serrated ring which turns to select the film speed.
Olympus ECR bottom view
The lens takes 43.5 mm filters which cover the light meter sensor as well as the lens so no exposure correction is required for any filter being used. Around the shutter housing is the focusing ring which has a fairly short throw of about 15 degrees and focusses from 0.91 m (3 feet) to infinity. The scale is marked in both metres and feet but that is really academic as the focus ring is connected to the rangefinder and there is no need to look at the scale. The spot in the rangefinder is green and quite visible making the camera quick and easy to focus.
Between the focussing ring and the body is another ring to set the guide number of the flash being used. This has two scales – one in metres (black) and one in feet (red) – which scale you use depends on the guide number given by the flash gun maker. To the left of the lens/shutter housing is a small horizontal lever marked ‘LOCK’. Pushing this down locks both the shutter to prevent accidental shots and also switches off the light meter to preserve the batteries.

The base of the camera has four items on it. On one end is the 1/4 inch UNC tripod boss. next to this, and recessed, is the rewind button (black). In the middle is the battery compartment. This is designed to take two mercury batteries giving a working voltage of 2.7 volts. As mercury batteries are no longer available, I am using two A640 batteries which give a working voltage of three volts. This probably affects the exposure system but the % difference is going to be less than half a stop on the exposure and so is nothing to worry about. Next to the battery compartment is the rewind crank. this folds out and is nice and large – much larger than is usual on an SLR.

Just about all 35mm cameras of this age use foam seals to prevent light coming in around the join of the back. As with most 35mm cameras of this age, the light seals have deteriorated and, in fact, have almost disappeared. These will need replacing before the camera can be used – quite a simple job with the foam being available on the Interweb. When this is done, I will run a test film through the camera and post the results here.

Test film results:

Not good news, I’m afraid. The camera has a serious fault in the film advance. Winding the film on cocks the shutter to allow another photograph to be taken but does not always move the film so my test film has many multi-exposures. I have 12 frames with an image on them but they are all repeatedly exposed. The negatives are all about the density that I would expect but, as they are all more than one exposure, this would suggest that the camera is under-exposing to a significant degree. Anyway, here are a few of them:

7421000374210005742100087421001174210012

Yashica Minister D

I already have an article on Yashica Minister III rangefinders. This Minister D is clearly from the same stable.

The camera is about the same size to look at  – I suspect the Minister II and D both use the same main casting. The most obvious difference is with the light meter. With the Minister III, the meter cells are selenium cells in a ring around the lens and do not require a battery. The Minister D meter has the sensor on the left edge of the top plate and it does require a battery.
lens: Yashinon 
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/16
focus range: 0.8 m to infinity
lens fitting:  fixed
shutter: Copal SVL
speeds: 1 second to 1/500
flash: PC socket
film size: 35 mm

The camera measures 135 mm long (not including the strap lugs), 85 mm high and 40 mm deep – 75 mm including the lens. In 1965, this camera cost £33-14-3 (in old British money, or £33.72 in modern British money). This equates to £1,089 in 2020 values.

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(C) John Margetts
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The controls are as had become standard on (non-SLR) 35 mm cameras. On the right is the film advance lever. this lever moves through about 120 degrees to advance the film one frame which is easily achieved with one movement of the thumb. Between the film advance lever and the right edge of the top plate is a window to the frame counter. This counter is automatically reset to ‘S’ when the back of the camera is opened. This is two before the counter shows ‘1’ allowing for the film to be wound on two frames to move the fogged film leader past the film gate once the back is closed.
Just to the left of the film advance lever and slightly in front is the shutter release button. this is chrome plated and is 5 mm is diameter. It is threaded for a standard cable release.
To the left of these three, the top plate is slightly raised. on this raised portion are the light meter display and ASA setting. ASA (effectively the same as ISO) can be set from 10 to 400 – about the range of film speeds available in the early 1960s. the film speed can only be set in ASA numbers – there is no DIN scale – but for those who prefer DIN (me!) there is a ASA/DIN conversion scale on the inside of the back door.
The light meter consists of a window to a black and white scale and a pointer – see forward on how to use it.
Left of the light meter is an accessory shoe – no electrical contacts so a ‘cold’ shoe. On the far left is the rewind crank. This pulls up to release the film cassette when loading/unloading but plays no part in releasing the back.
The front of the top-plate has the viewfinder window – fairly large at 20 mm by 13 mm – and a small rangefinder window at the end of the ‘Minister D’ logo. To the right of the viewfinder is the light meter cell. This is circular and is around 5 mm diameter in a 15 mm diameter enclosure.
The lens is central in the Copal SVL shutter. Just to the left of the shutter housing is a PC (Prontor Compur) flash connector.
The base plate is uncluttered. It has a button to release the rewind mechanism, a 1/4 inch UNC tripod boss (the old standard for tripods was 1/4 inch Whitworth which is very close to 1/4″ UNC), a battery compartment and then usual Yashica recessed catch for the back. This is marked O-P – ‘O’ for open and ‘P’ for closed.
The back of the camera, as well as having the hinged back, has the light meter actuating button, the viewfinder eyepiece and a grey plastic plug. This plug hides the rangefinder adjusting screw. last thing to note is the presence of strap lugs at either end.
The lens is a Yashinon f/2.8, 45 mm lens (actually described on the lens fascia as 4.5 cm as was usual up to the 1940s but was old hat by the 1960s). I am told the lens has five elements in four groups. It is, of course, coated as was usual by the 1960s. The camera focusses by moving the whole lens; this is the high quality method of focusing compared to the cheaper method of just moving the front element of the lens.
The lens is set in a Copal SVL shutter:
S – for flash synchronised
V – for Vorlaufwerk (delayed action)
L – for light value settings
The shutter clearly takes its name from the German Prontor shutters – S, SV and SVS.
The lens can focus down to 0.8 m (2.8 feet) and is coupled to the rangefinder. this camera is now 50 years old and the rangefinder patch is fairly dim. However, knowing this is in the centre of the viewfinder it is not necessary to actually see it. It is still quite easy to the secondary images of strong verticals and so the rangefinder is straight forward to use. On the rear of the top plate is a small (5 mm) grey plastic plug. This is easily removed to reveal a small screw which is used to adjust the rangefinder. This camera seems to be already adjusted correctly.
Incidentally, it is possible to improve the contrast of dim rangefinder patches. this can be done by inking in a small black circle in the middle of the viewfinder using a Sharpie or such.
Another nice feature with focusing this camera is parallax adjustment. As you focus the camera closer, the bright lines in the viewfinder move progressively to the right and down. You will still get some parallax error in your framing but you should be able to avoid cutting peoples’ heads off.
There is a usable range of f stops from f/2.8 to f/16. This couples with shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/500 seconds. With films rated between 100 ISO and 400 ISO there will be few conditions that this camera will not cope with – at least in the UK; Florida beaches might be a problem.
Setting the exposure takes several steps.
1) press the red button on the rear of the top plate to switch on the meter
2) while holding the red button in, note the number the meter needle is pointing to
3) transfer this number to the outer-most ring on the lens/shutter housing
This sets the exposure but to the camera’s choice of aperture and shutter speed. To get either the aperture or speed you want requires a fourth step.
4) turn the inner, gnarled, ring until either the aperture you want, or shutter speed, is against the red index mark. Not every aperture or shutter speed will be available for a given LV setting. For instance, with an LV setting of 17 you are stuck with f/16 and 1/500 and at LV 3 you only get shutter speed of 1 second and an aperture of f/2.8.
This is essentially a shutter priority system as altering the LV will alter the aperture, the shutter speed staying constant until the aperture required is outside the available range.
Most Japanese cameras use black foam in the recess the back fits in. this acts as a light seal. Unfortunately, this foam eventually turns to goo which has happened to this camera. Before I can run a test film I need to clean out the remains of the light seals and fit new black foam – easily secured on the Interweb.

Fed 2 (B4) (ФЭД)

I wanted a Fed camera since I first saw one many years ago. The external design is very much "form follows function" (and I suspect the internals is as well). When I finally bought a Fed, it was a Model 5B which was box-like and anodyne - it also leaked light and I got rid of it after my test film.  This Fed 2 is much better.
Fed-2 (C) John Margetts

A brief history: the Fed was originally conceived as a training project for boys in a Ukrainian children's home. The idea was to teach the boys basic engineering by making quality cameras - the model selected being the German Leica II. They are often decried as being poor copies of the Leica but I don't think they are either poor or copies. The Fed 1 was essentially a copy of the Leica II redesigned to allow it to be made on less sophisticated machine tools by trainee engineers. The Fed 2 (the camera this blog article is about) is a complete redesign so it is more accurate and meaningful to say that it is inspired by the Leica II rather than a copy of it.

After the Germans destroyed the Fed factory in Kharkov, Ukraine during World War II, production was transferred to the KMZ factory near to Moscow - this resulted in the Zorki-Fed and, ultimately, the Zorki line of cameras. I bought one of these  - a Zorki 4 - and I am very pleased with it. The joint lineage of these two cameras is clear but they are very different.
So - both the Zorki and Fed line of cameras are based on the German Leica II. The Fed 2 was made between 1955 and 1970. The Ukrainian seller tells me mine is a Model 2, Type B4 so it was made between 1956 and 1958. The quality of the Soviet engineering is shown by the fact that the camera is working well after 60-odd years.
In 1963, Wallace Heaton (a retailer in London) was offering the Fed 2 for £23-19-6 which is 6d short of £24-0-0. In modern decimal money, this is £23.975 and at todays values would be around £750 or so.
This camera is a 35mm rangefinder camera. the top plate measures 140 mm by 32 mm. There is a raised "L" shaped hump in the middle of the plate. This houses the rangefinder mechanism. In the front of this are two windows - the viewfinder window and the rangefinder window. They are 67 mm apart which means that the rangefinder will be very accurate - this aspect of the Fed 2 was taken from the Zeiss Ikon Contax camera. The rangefinder windows on the Leica II are much closer together.
Fed-2 top plate

On the left end of the top plate is the rewind knob. This pulls out to make rewinding the film easier. At the base of the rewind knob is a lever to adjust the diopter level of the viewfinder. This excellent device means I can use the camera without wearing my glasses.

On the left end of the top plate is the film advance knob. This turns clockwise which I find to be non-intuitive but it works well enough. Beneath the film advance knob is the frame counter. This counts up from zero to a maximum of 36. Beside the film advance is the shutter release. This is towards the back of the top plate which I find to be a less than natural position but, again, it works well enough. The shutter release is threaded for a standard cable release. Around the shutter release is a milled collar. This is the rewind clutch - you press it down and turn it clockwise where it will lock in position while you rewind the film. Once the film is rewound, you must turn the collar anti-clockwise before loading a new film.

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Blog (C) John Margetts, 2015
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Next along is the speed selector dial. This is set by lifting the dial and rotating to the required speed. There is a central post with an engraved dot to mark the selected speed. This is a big improvement over the usual Soviet system as the shutter on this camera can be set either before or after the film is advanced. The usual advice for Soviet cameras is to only change the shutter speed after winding on the film. Actually, as far as I am concerned, I always advance the film immediately after taking a picture - I do this so that the camera is always ready - so I am always going to set the shutter speed after advancing the film.

Also on the top-plate, in line with the lens, is an accessory shoe. There are no flash contacts here - 1956/8 is much too early - so a 'cold' shoe in flash terms.

The rear of the top plate has the camera serial number. This does not match the usual Soviet system of starting the serial number with the year of manufacture so dating the camera by this number is not straight forward. The front of the top plate is engraved with the model name in Cyrillic - ФЭД-2 or FED-2 in Latin script - and ФЭД is repeated on the top near the rewind knob.

Fed-2

The front of the camera is simple. There is the M39 (also called LTM) lens mount offset to the left of centre. At the top of the mount, the rangefinder cam slightly protrudes. In fact, this is in the way of screwing in the lens and it is essential to set the focus on the lens to its nearest point (1 metre in this case) to make fitting the lens practicable.

To the right of the lens mount is the flash PC socket. In later versions of the Fed -2 this PC socket gets moved onto the top plate - this is one of the ways of determining the type of Fed-2 you have. This camera has no shutter delay lever - again, added to later versions of the Fed-2. What I do appreciate is the presence of a strap lug at either end of the camera.

The base of the camera has a fixing cam at either end. Turning both half a turn allows the back/base to be removed to allow fitting and removing of the film. The base also has a tripod bush (the old standard of 3/8 inches Whitworth so none of my tripods will fit unless I 'borrow' a 1/4 inch slug from one of my Zeiss Ikon cameras to fit into the 3/8 inch thread).

Fed -2

The lens that came with this camera is an Industar-26M which is a 50 mm, f/2.8 Tessar type lens. I suspect this is the original lens for the camera - it is certainly of the correct type and date. The lens focusses from 1 m to infinity and has apertures available from f/2.8 to f/22. There is also a depth of field scale which is invaluable if, like me, you use hyperfocal focusing (at f/22, everything from 1.5 m too infinity will be in focus if you set the focus at 3 m). The lens is coated - as is to be expected in the late 1950s - signified by a red п - on the lens bezel.

In use, this is a capable and pleasant camera. The shutter is as quiet and vibration free as a cloth focal plane shutter is going to be and much more gentle than either my Zenit E or Zorki 4. The viewfinder eye-piece is rather small and is surrounded by a milled steel ring which is bad news for modern plastic spectacles. On the plus side, there is a dioptre adjustment for the viewfinder so I can use this camera without wearing my glasses. Also, the viewfinder is not as bright as it could be. It is tinted green/blue to give maximum contrast with the yellow rangefinder spot which is really clear and makes the rangefinder easy to use.

On the negative side, I have had a serious problem with loading the film. On the face of it, loading is really easy - you insert the end of the film beneath a brass strap on the (brass) take-up spool and then wind-on. Unfortunately, my first film slipped out of place after I had replaced the back. When I thought I was advancing the film, the film was winding around the sprocket shaft rather than around the take-up spool Once there was five or six frames around this shaft the camera completely jammed. This was quite easy to sort out but involved opening the back of the camera with the film in place and cost me half a roll of film.

Despite the seller assuring me that the rangefinder had been correctly adjusted prior to sale, it is clearly not. When the lens is focussed at infinity, the rangefinder split image will not coincide.  As adjusting this is fairly simple, I might have a go myself, but I am not really bothered as I usually use hyperfocal focusing rather than precise focusing. On the other hand, it would be nice to have the camera as it should be.

Examples from the test film to follow.

3 April 2015

Test film was a disaster!  One picture from a 24 exposure cassette.  I am hoping that this is me leaving the lens cap on (I certainly did that for some shots) and I am trying a second film with the lens cap left at home.

Fed 2 test film

Apart from the appalling light differences from left to right (entirely down to me) this shot is quite good. Focus is good, contrast is good, exposure is good.  With an older focal plane shutter there is a likelihood of the two shutter curtains not moving smoothly together leaving differently exposed strips.  Hopefully with the second film I will be able to report more thoroughly on this camera.

 Second film

This is no better. I am certain the lens cap was not left on as it was left at home.  Three images from 24 frames - not very good and shows that the shutter is not opening most of the time. This is strange, as with no film loaded, and the back removed, the shutter definitely opens every time. My best guess is that the back is either fouling something or is distorting the body.  In addition to the shutter not opening, there are very clear pin-holes in the shutter curtain. This shows up in the black frames below are three bright spots. These are also visible on the three images I got. The camera is useless.

 

Fed 2 - with three very clear pin-holes
Fed 2 - pin-holes not so clear but still there

 

Fed 2 - clear pin-holes
Fed 2 - pin-holes with the film not wound on for some time
Fed 2 - pin holes with the film wound on fairly quickly - so smaller spots.

Balda Super Baldina

This is my second Balda Baldina. The first is a folding Baldina from the 1930s. The Super in the name indicates that it has a coupled rangefinder. This new Baldina is from the 1950s and is not a folder but nods in that direction with a collapsible lens. This is fairly effective – it reduces the thickness of the camera by two cm which means it easily fits in a jacket pocket. The camera leatherette is stamped “Made in Germany” and the focus scale is in feet, indicating that this is an official import into the UK.

Balda Super Baldina (C) John Margetts
  • lens: Baldanar
  • focal length: 50 mm
  • apertures: f/3.5 – f/16
  • focus range: 3 ft tom infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor-SVS
  • speeds: 1 sec to 1/300 seconds
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35 mm

The top plate is as you might expect from a mid-1950s German camera. In the middle is a large hump containing the viewfinder and rangefinder. This has both the viewfinder and rangefinder eyepieces in one – my Franka Solida of the same period has separate viewfinder and rangefinder eyepieces which makes using the camera awkward. On the top of the viewfinder/rangefinder hump is an accessory shoe – no electrical contacts at this date, so a cold shoe.

Balda Super Baldina top plate.

On the left of this hump is the rewind knob. This is surrounded by a film type reminder. There are four options for this – film speed in DIN, film speed in ASA, colour positive or colour negative.  To the right of the hump is the film advance. This is a lever with a large, coarsely milled thumb post.This moves through 180 degrees to advance one frame which is easily done in one throw of the thumb. At the base of this is the frame counter. This counts up from one to thirty six. In front of the film advance is the shutter release. This is a fair-sized button, threaded for a standard cable release. I have a slight niggle here as the shutter release button is slightly below the level of the film advance level which makes finding the release button by feel less obvious than it could be.

On either end of the top plate is a lug for attaching a strap – this is far more important than camera manufacturers seem to understand.

With lens collapsed.
With lens extended.

The front of the camera is dominated by the collapsible shutter/lens housing. This is quite well organised with the parts easy to get at. The shutter/lens housing is mounted on a square stainless steel bezel. On the top right of this bezel is a button to release the collapsible housing. When pressed, the shutter/lens housing pops out with a satisfying clunk.

Around the base of the housing is the focusing ring. This has a large knob on it below the lens which makes focusing at eye-level with the rangefinder very easy. Between the focusing ring and the lens release button is a depth of field scale – something regrettably missing from more modern cameras.

The next control on this housing is the aperture selector. This varies between f/3.5 and f/16. There are no click-stops so intermediate positions can be selected. Outside of this is the shutter speed selector – this is a conventional ring. The shutter is a Prontor SVS (a Compur Rapid was also available) so shutter speeds are from one second to 1/300 seconds.  The ‘S’ in the shutter name tells us it is synchronised for flash – two ‘S’s tells us it can be synchronised for M (bulbs) or X (electronic) flash guns. The V stands for Vorlaufwerk which indicates a self-timer is available.  There is a PC (Prontor Compur) socket set into this housing for attaching a flash gun.

Balda Super Baldina rear/internal view.

The shutter controls have Happy Snapper settings – f/8 is in red and there is a red dot at nine feet and a green dot at around thirty feet. The red dot is intended for portraits and will give you a focus range of six feet to twelve feet – suitable for a head-and-shoulders shot or a small group. The green dot is for landscaped and is the hyperfocal distance at an aperture of f/8 – it gives a focal range of 12/13 feet to infinity.

The focusing knob moves the whole shutter/lens assembly. this means that the whole lens moves to focus rather than just the front element. This means that the lens always performs at its optimum – whatever that optimum might be. The lens is a Baldinar which is made for Balda rather than by them. There were a host of lens-makers in Germany making lenses for camera manufacturers and this could have come from any of them or, indeed, several of them. The lens is a triplet (three pieces of glass) which is unlikely to perform well with a wide aperture. My experience of German triplets is that they perform very well once stopped down to f/8 or smaller. At the date this camera was made, the lens will be coated – and there is the tell-tale blue sheen to the lens to confirm this.

The inside of the lens front is threaded for filters. I make it to be 35mm diameter but that could be plus or minus a millimetre or so.

On the rear of the top plate, to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece, is a large screw. I suspect this is to adjust the rangefinder but as the rangefinder is working fine I am not going to fiddle with it to find out for sure. The rangefinder works as they usually do. There is a central spot that needs to be aligned to the main image by moving the focusing knob on the front of the camera. This spot is clear, even in poor light, which makes the rangefinder useful in practice – not something I find you can safely assume. One quirk here is that the rangefinder spot is pale blue in colour rather than the more usual yellow but that does not affect its usefulness.

Mamiya EE Super merit (AKA Mansfield Eye-tronic)

Mamiya made cameras both for themselves and for re-badging by other companies.  This camera is re-badged by the USA company of Mansfield. It is badged as a Mansfield Eye-tronic but is actually a Mamiya EE Super Merit. This model was also available in the USA as a Honeywell Electric Eye 35 and in the UK as the Vulcan.  The camera is well designed and well made as I would expect from the Japanese in 1962 (the year of this model’s introduction, in September).  That makes this camera 55 years old (give or take a year) – and it is in very good condition. It all functions as it should, the only real deterioration being the foam light seals – as is usual on Japanese cameras of any age, these are reduced to a sticky goo and I have partially replaced them. The seals I have replaced are the two ends: around the hinge and around the catch. The long seals top and bottom of the back look to be recessed enough not to cause any trouble – I shall see for sure when my test film is completed (12 exposures of Fomapan 200 Creative).

lens: Mamiya-Kominar badged as Mantinar
focal length:  40 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 1 m to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Seikosha
speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250
flash: PC socket
film size: 35 mm

Front view – lens with a Petri UV filter in place

This camera is about the standard size and weight for a fixed-lens Japanese rangefinder camera of the period. it measures 130 x 60 x 80 mm and weighs 610g. Of the three Japanese rangefinders I own, this is the most thoughtfully designed.

The top plate is spare. On the left is the rewind crank which is slightly proud of the top plate when not in use. In the centre is the accessory shoe – a cold shoe as it has no flash contacts. In front of then accessory shoe is stamped the name “Mansfield” – this would say “Mamiya” on a non-re-badged version or “Honeywell” or “Vulcan” for the other brands of re-badged Mamiyas. On the right of the top plate is the frame counter – this counts down to zero so needs to be set at the film length when you load the film. I don’t usually bother with frame counters – I just keep using the camera until the increased tension in the film advance tells me the end has come. With this camera it is, if not essential, then very useful to set the frame counter as when the film is finished the film advance lever keeps moving with no change in tension. What this camera does is when the frame counter reaches zero the word “END” appears in the viewfinder. You can keep winding the film and pressing the shutter release but the film is not moving and you are repeatedly exposing the same last frame.

Top view

The front has no surprises. The viewfinder bezel is at the top. This is black plastic with a very worn (on my camera) chrome outline. The viewfinder is slightly to the left of the lens and the rangefinder window is slightly to the right (both as when using the camera).

The viewfinder has bright-lines and the display for the light meter. There are no parallax markings for close-ups as the viewfinder physically moves as you focus the lens. This is quite a sophisticated facility for a mid-range camera. The viewfinder also includes the word “END” when the frame counter reaches zero.

The rangefinder spot is yellow (as is usual) but is an undefined blob which makes using the rangefinder harder than it should be. Having said that, it does work in good light – test photos will tell me how well. Both the light meter and the rangefinder are coupled.

Inside

Below the viewfinder bezel is the shutter assembly. The shutter is made by Seikosha and is a leaf shutter. the camera offers a choice between automatic and manual exposure control. In auto, the required shutter speed is set and the diaphragm set to auto – the camera selecting the aperture. See the notes on the test film to see how well this works. If you want manual control of the exposure, you can set the aperture as well as the shutter speed. the light meter display in the viewfinder will tell you the required aperture for the set shutter speed (the only time you need to look at the light meter display) or you can use a hand-held light meter to gauge exposure (see below where I have tried all three methods on one picture).

back

On the bottom of the shutter housing is the selector for the film speed. this shows the camera’s age as it goes as low a 10ASA/11DIN but only as high as 200ASA/24DIN. The lens itself is surrounded in common Japanese fashion with a circular selenium light sensor. This means it is always pointing the same way as the lens and gets covered by any filter used. In turn, this means that no exposure compensation is needed with filters – as good as you can get without TTL metering. Incidentally, selenium means that no battery is required for the light meter to work.

Underside of lens showing DIN/ASA selector

To the right of the shutter housing is the shutter release button. Personally, I do not like face mounted shutter releases but I have to admit that this one is fine in use. There is a screw socket for a cable release but this is on the top plate. On the opposite side of the shutter housing is a PC socket for flash. There is no means of synchronising  the flash so I assume it is intended for FP bulbs or electronic flash.

The back of the camera is very plain – just the viewfinder eyepiece and the film advance lever. Inside, film attachment is very simple and is about the easiest I have ever come across. There is a generously wide slot with a prominent tang to fit into a sprocket hole. Most 35mm cameras have a shaft with top and bottom sprocket wheels. Not here. There is a single large sprocket wheel below the film gate. This does nothing with the back open making it easy to secure the film to the take-up spool – the film advance will keep moving the film without the user having to repeatedly press the shutter release. Once the back is shut, this sprocket wheel will only allow one frame to advance at a time.

Shutter set to shutter priority automatic exposure

The base of the camera is also bare – just the tripod boss (1/4 inch) and the rewind button.

Shutter set to manual exposure.

Test film results.

The results are good. In the pictures, the horizontal bars to be seen in the sky in some pictures are a scanning artefact due to the negatives being a bit thin (i.e. under-exposed). Overall, both focus and exposure are as they should be producing usable negatives. Although not all the negatives have scanned well, they would produce reasonable silver -prints.

Derelict factory, Stamp End, Lincoln

Social housing estate, Lincoln

River Witham, Lincoln

Footpath

This next photograph is a test of the rangefinder. I focussed on the nearest pale ball on top of the black steel fence. It is not quite in focus – focus being just a bit closer than it should be (look at the black top rail of the fence just this side of the pale ball).

Rangefinder test

Stamp End lock, Lincoln

River Witham, Lincoln

This is what happens if you continue to take pictures after the film has ended. The camera does nothing to stop you (apart from displaying the word “END” in the viewfinder) and you end up with multiple exposures on one frame.

The last frame of test film – multiple exposure

These last three show the effects of 1) using automatic exposure, 2) manual exposure using the built-in meter and 3) manual exposure using a separate hand held meter. All three are exposed well enough to be usable with the automatic exposure perhaps being the best exposure. it is a bit surprising that using the built-in meter automatically differs from using the same meter manually, but the difference is there.  This is possibly due the the camera being able to select in-between aperture values while with manual exposure you have to use one of the marked aperture values. The last exposure, using my trusty (and trusted) Ikophot meter is of more concern as it is clearly rather underexposed.

Child’s bike – auto exposure

Child’s bike – manual exposure using built-in meter

Child’s bike – manual exposure using Zeiss Ikon Ikophot hand held meter.

Petri 7s rangefinder

I recently made a decision to add a few rangefinder cameras to my collection. I have had a Minolta Uniomat for a few years and recently bought a Zorki 4. These two cameras represent the two lines of rangefinders that were available in the world of film.

 The Zorki is from the line of interchangeable lens rangefinders that follow on from the Leica. Most of these are fairly straight copies of Leicas – all German patents were declared void after the end of WWII – with varying degrees of development.

The Uniomat is from the other – fixed lens – line. These fixed lens rangefinders are cheaper, though never cheap. Not having an interchangeable lens means they can – and do – have between-the-lens leaf shutters.

Petri 7s rangefinder
Petri 7s - front view [(C) John Margetts]

My collection of fixed lens rangefinders now numbers five (I am only including those with a coupled rangefinder) - Vitomatic II, Contessa LKE, Uniomat, Minister III and now this Petri 7s.

This Petri 7s is exactly the same size and shape as the Minister III – I could almost suspect they used a common casting for the body. The weight is not too different, either – 632g with a film loaded. The price in 1965 was £29-17-6 ( in old British money, or £29.87 in new British money) for the option of a ƒ/2.8 lens or £37-16-2 (£37.81 in new money) for the option of a ƒ/1.8 lens which equates to £965 (ƒ/2.8) or £1,221 (ƒ/1.8). Only a very keen photographer is going to pay this sort of price.

lens:  Petri
focal length:  45 mm
apertures: f2.8 to f16
focus range: 0.8 m (2.6 ft)
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Petri MVE
speeds: 1 s to 1/500 s
flash: PC socket
film size: 35mm

The top plate of the Petri 7s is uncluttered. On the left is the rewind crank. This is the now standard fold-out crank which I personally find hard to use. The crank pulls up to allow for the insertion/removal of the film cassette.
Petri 7s rangefinder
Petri 7s – top plate [(C) John Margetts]
Just left of centre is the accessory shoe. By the time this camera was designed (1963) this was usually for a flash gun. It is a cold-shoe – accessory shoe contacts had to wait a further decade to become standard. To the right of the accessory shoe is the light meter window. This is fairly small – the actual window is 5 mm diameter – and incorporates a lens to make seeing the needle and mark possible.
Next along is the shutter release button. This is fairly large – no bad thing – and is threaded for a standard cable release. On the rear right-hand corner of the top plate is the frame counter. This is also a bit on the small size but still usable.
The front of the camera is dominated by the shutter housing. This is fairly large for a fixed-lens camera – the size is necessary because of the light meter sensor around the lens (as in the Yashica Minister III).
Petri 7s rangefinder
Petri 7s shutter housing [(C) John Margetts]
The lens is a 45 mm f/2.8 lens. It has no name on it apart from Petri. A green ‘C’ signifies that it is a coated lens – normal for the time – but does not tell us if it is multi-coated or single coated. As far as I can find out, it is a Tessar copy – four elements in three groups for the technical minded.

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Blog (C) John Margetts 2014
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The shutter housing has several controls on it. There are the expected control rings – focus, aperture and shutter speed – a flash synchronisation selector (X or M), a delay action lever, film speed selector and a PC connector for the flash. The shutter housing carries the name ‘Petri MVE’. The shutter itself is a leaf shutter which means it is quiet in use – excellent for street work.
Above the shutter housing is an elongated window containing the rangefinder window and the viewfinder window. The viewfinder is a reverse Galilean finder (like looking through a telescope the wrong way) and the image is coloured a pale green. On the right-hand end of the front, just below the shutter release, is another window but one that does not seem to have any purpose – perhaps for a facility intended but not implemented. The viewfinder has bright lines with parallax markings. It also has a repeat of the light meter needle. This is much easier to see than the one on the top plate. It is not, however, easier to use as it is very hard to distinguish between the shutter speed and aperture rings by feel.
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Petri 7s spurious window [(C) John Margetts]
The rear of the camera is plain. There is the eyepiece of the viewfinder and the film advance lever. The base of the camera is also plain. It contains a tripod boss in line with the centre of the lens (1/4″ Whitworth is what I usually say, but it could well be modern enough to be 1/4″ UNC. The ISO standard for tripod threads is UNC rather than Whitworth but there is not much difference between the two and Class 1A threads (to be tightened by hand) are sloppy enough to be interchangeable between Whitworth and UNC), and a recessed button to allow for rewinding the film.
Petri 7s rangefinder
Petri 7s rear view [(C) John Margetts]

Using the camera is quite easy. Setting the film speed for the light meter is a matter of rotating the black tab in front of the shutter speed ring – this is on the lower right of the shutter housing. The selected film speed appears in a small window in the shutter speed ring to the left of the fastest shutter speed. This is in both DIN and ASA and goes from 11 DIN/10 ASA to 24 DIN/200 ASA. (ASA is broadly but not technically the same as ISO) This seems a bit of a slow range by today’s standards but when the camera was made, it would have covered all the films likely to be used.

To set the exposure, you can either set the required shutter speed and then rotate the aperture ring until the meter needle is centred, or set the required aperture and adjust the shutter speed ring, again until the needle is centred. The meter is a selenium meter which means it does not need batteries. These can deteriorate if left exposed to light for many years but this one is still fine (actually, I have never come across a selenium meter that was not fine – I think the deterioration thing is mostly theoretical rather than real-world).

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Blog (C) John Margetts 2014

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The focus ring has a large knob on the left-hand side which makes focussing with the left hand easy. There are two options for focus – scale focus or rangefinder. For scale focus, there is a big drawback in that there is no depth of field scale which makes my usual hyperfocal method impossible. The focus scale is in both feet and metres.

Using the rangefinder is not as easy as it could be. Petri have tried to make the rangefinder clear by colouring the viewfinder field a pale green and the rangefinder spot yellow. In my camera, the rangefinder spot is rather faint. In good light it does work, though, and it is quick to focus if you have suitable verticals in the frame.

The shutter release works easily without needing undue pressure but without being too much of a hair-trigger. The film advance moves about xx degrees and makes a very definite ‘clunk’ as it cocks the shutter.

The only other thing worth noting is that there are strap lugs at either end so I can carry the camera on a strap around my neck without needing to use the ever-ready case.

Test pictures.

I am testing this camera with Fomapan 200 Creative film – it is also a test of the film, to some extent as I have never used it before.  I have a 17 metre roll of film and can cut off the amount I need – I am using a 12 exposure length for this test.  This should save me quite a bit of money compared to buying colour film and paying to have it developed.  I should have developed the film in the next few days and will post the results here when I have done so.

27/10/14

As well as testing the camera and film, I am also testing my developing of the film – it is basically developed OK but I can tweak it somewhat in the future to improve contrast. There are some horizontal lines visible – these are scanning artefacts due to the emulsion being a bit on the thin side.

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Yashica Minister III

This is a rangefinder camera from Yashica that is pretty standard for its time.  It is almost exactly the same size as Zeiss Ikon’s Contessa LKE of the same period and looks very similar as well. It is slightly larger than Voigtlander’s Vitomatic II which is slightly earlier.

  • lens:  Yashinon-DX
  • focal length:  45 mm
  • apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
  • focus range: 0.8 m (2.6 ft)
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Citizen
  • speeds: 1 s to 1/500 s
  • flash: PC socket
  • film size: 35mm

The camera is quite heavy – 656g including a 24 exposure cassette of film. This weight is going to tell at the end of a busy day photographing. It is 135 mm long and 85 mm high. The body is 35 mm thick which increases to 85 mm when the lens is included.

Yashica Minister III

There are not many controls on this camera – it is entirely manual. On the top plate, starting on the left, is the rewind crank. This also pulls up to release the cassette for loading/unloading. Next to this is the accessory shoe. In flash terms, this is a cold shoe. next to this is the meter dial. This has two components: ASA setting and meter read-out.  ASA can be set between 10 and 400 ASA (new style). Behind this is the read-out for the meter. This gives you EV numbers between 4 and 18. In use, you choose the EV number the needle is pointing to and transfer this number to the outer most ring on the shutter housing. You are quite at liberty to ignore this if you want to – if you are using a hand-held meter, perhaps – or using the flash.

Next in line is the shutter release button, which is towards the front of the top plate. This is a small (by modern standards) chrome plated button, threaded for a standard cable release. Beside this is the film advance lever. Right on the right-hand end of the top plate is the frame counter. This is automatically reset when you open the back and counts up from 1.

The front of the camera has the viewfinder and rangefinder windows and the shutter housing with lens. The viewfinder is quite large and bright and has bright-line frame lines. In the centre of the viewfinder image is the yellow rangefinder spot. This is plenty large enough without getting in the way and is nice and bright. The rangefinder is coupled to the lens.

The shutter is made by Citizen – no model name is given – and it is a leaf shutter. The shutter housing is fairly large and central.  Partly, it looks large compared to Compur and Prontor shutters of the period as it is straight sided rather than stepped. There are three adjustment rings on the housing. The inner most, marked in green, is the focussing ring. This focusses from 0.8 metres to infinity and is marked in both metres and feet. Strangely, there is no pointer for this scale and the pointer position (where the pointer would be if there was one) is well to the right of centre. I suspect the designer thought there was no need for a pointer as the user is intended to use the rangefinder but I would be more comfortable if there was one.

The outer most adjustment ring, marked in red, is where you set the EV numbers from the light meter. Even though the meter only offers numbers from 4 and higher, the ring is marked for 2. Setting this ring gives the user a range of both shutter speeds and apertures. Once the EV number is set, you can rotate the middle adjustment ring – the shutter speed ring – to change the shutter speed. Doing so also alters the aperture so that the required exposure is maintained. There is no direct method for adjusting the aperture, but there is a small window immediately behind the shutter speed ring showing the set aperture. If you want a particular aperture (which I usually will) you can alter the shutter speed until the desired aperture is displayed in the window.

9c0b5-_mg_8550On the base of the shutter housing is a small lever which sets the delay timer. Although we are always told not to use this on an old camera, I can report that it works very well on this particular old camera.

In the front of the shutter housing, around the lens, is the light meter sensor. This is a selenium sensor and so needs no battery – there is no problem with this camera of having to find a replacement for an obsolete mercury battery. Many ‘experts’ will tell you that old selenium meters are too unreliable to be worth using. This is based on the fact that the light sensitive surface deteriorates with time and then gives low readings. While this is true, if the meter has been kept in the dark except when being used the deterioration over 60-odd years is so slight as to present no problems. I have many selenium meters that are 60-odd years old and they all give accurate readings and I shall continue to use and trust them. I doubt those ‘expert’ who decry using old selenium meter have actually tried using them.

The advantage of having the light meter sensor around the lens is two fold. Firstly, it is always pointing in the same direction as the lens and secondly, if a filter is used, it fits over the sensor and no adjustment of the meter reading is required.

The lens is a Yashinon-DX lens (I do not know the significance of the ‘DX’  I have been told by Flickr’s ‘busy Pochi’ that the DX signifies a multicoated lens). This lens has five elements in four groups and is reputed to give very good results. The focal length is 45 mm so the angle of view is very close to the human eye and accordingly will give natural looking results. The largest aperture is f2.8 which might not seems to be particularly fast, but, to be honest, I never shoot much wider than f8 so I just do not care that the lens does not go to f/2 or f/1.8

This camera has a PC (Prontor-Compur) connector for the flash and this is, idiosyncratically, place on the left-hand end of the camera.

The base plate of the camera has the usual tripod boss – this is the 1/4 inch Whitworth thread – and it is placed centrally behind the lens which means the camera will be stable when on a tripod. Also on the base is a recessed button to free the internals for film rewind and, at the opposite end, a recessed button for unlocking the back. I find this hard to use – you need to slide it to one side and then press it in. Perhaps with time I will find it natural, but not yet.

27/10/14

I have now completed my test film and I am quite impressed.  The camera is easy to use – the light meter works well as does the viewfinder.  I had some flare when shooting into the sun but I did not use a lens hood. Generally, the lens has good contrast and colour rendition.

I took the picture of the reed flower to test the lens at maximum aperture.  The flower is nicely sharp and the background not sharp – as I would want it.  These were all taken in October, so not a lot of sun about.

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Zorki 4

The Zorki 4 camera was made by KMZ ( Krasnogorsk Mechanical Factory) – the same factory that made the Zenit cameras –  in the former USSR near Moscow. The name ‘Zorki’ means ‘sharp sighted’ in English. Over 1,700,000 Zorki 4 cameras were made in total. The original Zorki was a direct copy of a Leica II camera but the camera underwent many alterations and improvements and the Zorki 4 was an entirely Russian design. Zorki cameras were originally supplied with an Industar-22 lens (a copy of a Carl Zeiss Tessar) but the Zorki 4 was supplied with a Jupiter-8 lens which is a copy of a Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar lens. Zorki cameras were made between 1956 and 1973. The Soviet Union made other Leica copies – the Fed range. The Fed 2 is very similar to this Zorki.

Zorki 4, front view (copyright John Margetts)

lens: Jupiter-8

focal length:  50mm

apertures: f/2 to f/22

focus range: 1 metre to infinity

lens fitting: LTM (or M39)

shutter: cloth focal plane

speeds: 1/60 to 1/1000 (there are also slower speeds but the numbers have worn off the dial and I cannot read them)

flash: PC socket synch for M and X

film size: 35 mm

The camera measures 145 by 35 by 85 mm (not including the lens) and the lens adds another 40 mm when focussed on 1 metre.  It weighs a significant 720 grams when loaded with a 24 exposure film.

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blog copyright 2014, John Margetts

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The controls are as you would expect and hold no surprises. On the far right is the film advance. This is a knob – rather antiquated for 1973 (when this camera was made) – which I rather like. I certainly do not miss having a film advance lever, the winding action of the knob allowing a valuable pause for thought. Set into the top of the film advance knob is the frame counter. Next to the film advance knob is a central raised section. On the right of this section is the shutter release button. This is towards the back of the camera which I find a little awkward but it is quite usable. It is threaded for a standard cable release. Around the shutter release button is a knurled collar which you turn clockwise to release the mechanism for rewinding the film.

Next to this is the shutter speed selector. The standard advice for Soviet cameras applies here – always advance the film before changing the shutter speed or risk damaging the selector mechanism. This is important enough for the original retailer of this camera to have supplied a metal sticker on the inside of the ever-ready case to remind the user.

Around the speed selector is a large ring used to set the type of flash synchronisation – either M or X. Next to this is the accessory shoe – this has no contacts so is a ‘cold’ shoe in flash terms.  On the far left, at the same lower level as the film advance, is the rewind knob. This is telescopic to make rewinding the film easier. A very nice touch not often found on cameras is a lever below the rewind knob which allows the user to focus the viewfinder – this means I can use the camera without my glasses on and still have a clear view.
Zorki 4 showing top plate.
The back of the camera is rather plain. On the left of the top plate is the viewfinder eye-piece. This doubles as the rangefinder eyepiece. On the right of the top plate is the KMZ logo of a prism with a ray of light passing through it and the legend ‘MADE IN USSR’ (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for our younger readers). Below this is the body serial number  – with Soviet cameras the first two digits of the serial number frequently give the year of manufacture, in this case 1973.
Zorki 4, rear view
The base plate of the camera has a tripod boss below the lens which is a standard 1/4 inch Whitworth thread. On either end of the base plate are the catches for the base/back which are removed as one to load the film.
Zorki 4, base of camera
The front of the top plate has the viewfinder which is quite large (18 by 12 mm), a centrally placed rangefinder window which is rather small and the PC socket for the flash. Above these is the stencilled legend – Zorki-4. The front of the camera body has the lens (where else?) and the self-timer.
The lens is a Jupiter-8 lens. This is a copy of a Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar lens. Early production was cased is plain aluminium but by this date the aluminium was painted matt black. The use of aluminium gives a very light lens but at the expense of toughness. This specimen has been bashed at some point and the filter thread has a flattened part meaning I will not be able to use filters on this camera – no great loss as I rarely use filters.
The lens serial number has the same format as the body number and shows that the lens was also made in 1973.
The specification of the lens is quite impressive. It has six elements in three groups, for the optical aficionados, and has a maximum aperture of f/2. This is quite a wide aperture for any lens and as wide as you will find on a camera of this age. As a landscape photographer I will rarely use any lens this wide open. The iris diaphragm has nine blades giving a close to circular aperture which should produce nice bokeh.

Using the Zorki-4

This is a rangefinder camera so the first thing to note is using the rangefinder. This is not too easy. For those who have never used a rangefinder – the technique involves turning the focus ring on the lens until two images in the viewfinder are on top of each other. To work well, the two images must be easy to see and that is where this rangefinder falls down. The rangefinder window on the front of the camera is small – 5 by 3 mm – which gives a very dim second image. It does work and I have been using it successfully but it is not easy.  One thing that is common with rangefinders is to ‘silver’ the internal mirror with gold rather than silver or mercury as this gives an orange image which is easier to see. Alas, Zorki have not done this and you end up peering into the viewfinder looking for the secondary image. I shall probably use this camera as a scale focus camera and rely on the hyperfocal distance as I do with most of my non-reflex cameras.
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blog copyright 2014, John Margetts
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Apart from the rangefinder aspect, the viewfinder is bright and clear. As I mentioned above, it is possible to focus the viewfinder to allow for personal defects in vision and I find this to be very useful. The viewfinder is both above and to one side of the lens. This will introduce parallax errors for anything other than landscapes. Parallax is where the lens and viewfinder are both looking at the same object but from different places. For a head-and-shoulders portrait, it will be necessary to keep the person towards both the right and bottom of the viewfinder – experience will tell the photographer exactly haw far to the right or bottom to go. With many camera there are secondary bright lines in the viewfinder to frame close up shots. With up-market cameras the viewfinder adjusts its view as you focus, but this is not an up-market camera.
Focussing the lens is smooth and easy as is setting the aperture. The aperture ring has two scales – the front of the lens turns as you focus and if there was just the one scale you would not be able to read it at both near focus and infinity. The aperture ring has no click stops. This means that you can set intermediate apertures if you want to but also means that you can inadvertently alter the aperture so checking is a good idea before firing the shutter.
Setting the shutter speed is not as clear as it could be. The dot on the scale does not line up exactly with the numbers. The height of the selector knob changes with speed – 1/60 and slower raise up the selector knob – 1/125 is the slowest sped with the selector knob in the lower position – you can then count positions to accurately set 1/250, 1/500 and 1/1000.
Having framed your picture and focussed the lens, pressing the shutter release needs a firm but not excessive pressure to fire the shutter. I do not like too easy shutters as I am liable to fire accidentally as I am still composing – not a problem I shall have with this camera. When the shutter is fired, the camera makes a definite squeak. Exakta cameras are notorious for this and then it indicates that the shutter needs lubrication. I suspect that it is the same with this Zorki but the cost of paying someone to lubricate it will be much more than the camera is worth.
Winding the film on is easy even though the film advance is a knob and not a lever. The one bit I do find slightly awkward is the fact that the knob turns clockwise – the film is wound onto the take-up spool emulsion outwards. Neither really matters but I find moving the advance clockwise to be non-intuitive.

Test pictures

I am quite pleased with these pictures overall. The lab that developed the film for me (Snappy Snaps, Lincoln) told me that some frames were overexposed but mostly they are within the latitude of the film (but see the yellow flowers below). Over-exposure suggests a slow shutter ( or me moving the aperture setting inadvertently). This is a 1973 camera that has most probably never been serviced and not used in some time – there was a film in the camera that had been there long enough to be forgotten about when I bought the camera.
I took a variety of fairly close-up shots to test the calibration of the rangefinder – all seems to be well. I also used the lens wide open and at f4 for the flower shots to see how well the lens performs.
Russian lenses are generally very good, particularly when stopped down. Where Russian lenses do not perform well it is usually down to careless assembly in the factory or an owner messing about with the lens, rather than the glass itself.
In summary, this lens gives good colour rendition and good contrast. The lens is plenty sharp enough. The camera is slightly over-exposing but not to an extent I cannot compensate for. In fact, with use, the shutter might start running correctly.
I am giving individual comments on each photo below.

This is the only photograph to show the white band on the left. It was also the last frame on the roll of film. I am assuming that its position on the film is the cause of the white band. The picture has good focus and good contrast.
Here, I focussed on one of the pink petunias. This shows that the rangefinder is pretty well calibrated as it should be. The result of some over-exposure is visible in the pink.
These buskers are a fairly regular sight in Lincoln city centre. I focussed on the accordion as being the only part of them with the strong lines that the dim rangefinder needed.
This shot did not use the rangefinder but rather my usual habit of using the hyperfocal distance. I am quite pleased with the sharpness of this.
Lincoln Market Hall. Again, using the hyperfocal distance rather than the rangefinder.
For this flower shot, I focussed on one of the yellow flowers (a potentilla). The detail in the flowers is almost completely blown – a result of over-exposure. The leaves, being that bit darker, have retained their detail.
 These lavender flowers did better. Again, I am happy with the focus that the rangefinder gave me. This shot was with the lens wide open (f/2).
The Siemens’ factory on the banks of the Witham in Lincoln. Another hyperfocal picture. I like both the colour rendition and the contrast.
 The same factory complete with reflection. No flare which I had thought might be a problem with this lens.
 A close-up of a disused part of the Siemens’ factory and a part of the Witham sluice. A hint of flare in the upper left of the brick-work.

Factory and sluice from further back.

 For this close-up of the steel rail, I focussed on the top of the first upright. The lens was wide open (f/2) and the metal-work is in good focus. The rangefinder is as well calibrated as it could be.
The Witham in the city centre where it flows under the medieval bridge. It is now usual to have a number of barges moored along here although a few years ago it would have been unusual.
A trio of Rockabilly buskers who play in the city centre on a regular basis. I focussed on the double bass with the lens stopped down. Again, good colours and good contrast.

Zeiss Ikon Voigtlander Vitessa 100 SR

This camera outlines the dangers of buying online.  One is reliant on the written description given by the seller and a photo or two.  Unfortunately, it is just not possible to physically examine what you are buying.

In this case, the camera was described as ‘good and clean’ with the seller saying that they knew nothing about cameras and so could not comment on functionality.  That last should have been a red flag to me – anyone can press the shutter release and tell if anything happens or not.  Similarly, other controls either turn, press or not and any seller can report such.

This camera is missing the battery cover which is blindingly obvious on even a cursory examination of the underside of the camera.  Less obvious but still well visible is the loose leatherette on the top (not visible in the picture supplied on Ebay) which covers two holes from which the screws have been removed.  Clearly, someone has attempted to take this camera apart.  The seller?  Or did the seller buy it in this condition and try to pass their mistake on?  I cannot know which but a small honesty on the part of the seller would have saved me buying an unusable camera.

I could have taken this up with Ebay but the cost to me was less than £10.00 including postage so it is not a major issue.  I just do not like people being dishonest with me and they now have a negative feedback for their troubles.

As to the camera itself, there is much to admire.  This model is one of the last engineered German cameras – Leica excepted – before Japanese plastic took over the world.  I don’t mean that in a derogatory way as Japanese plastic has much to recommend it if only in weight.

This camera is heavy and you are not going to forget that you are carrying it.  The three main controls are easy to find by feel – at this time Zeiss Ikon had taken to putting plastic tabs on the focussing ring, aperture ring and shutter speed ring.

The aperture ring is between the other two and has the widest tabs.  The shutter speed ring is closest to the camera body and has tabs that extend to less than half the circumference of the ring.  The focussing ring is at the front and has only a small tab at the bottom below the lens.

This set-up means that it is easy to find the correct control by feel – the values are repeated in the viewfinder with a rangefinder spot in the centre for focussing.

The rangefinder is the worst aspect of this camera – the rangefinder spot is fairly small and quite faint.  It works fine but could be easier to use.

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