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Medium format freak show



Medium format SLRs for non-specialised use are a totally different breed than 35mm cameras. The current shape of the 35mm SLRs were defined between the 1930s and the early ‘50s, and the most critically influential design is, without the shadow of a doubt, the Kine Exakta. What we identify as an SLR today is, almost without exception, a scion of the Exakta. The other is the Contax S, which ported the concept of the Kine Exakta into the Contax rangefinder body, which was inherently superior, plus, they added the pentaprism, without which most of us don’t understand an SLR. For medium format cameras, designers followed different strategies.

The main influencer in medium format SLR design is the Hassy. The original Hasselblad is allegedly based on a German aerial camera. Should we trust their founding myth, and you know what do I think about founding myths, it is a military tool adapted for everyday use, which is creepy enough.

Anyway, most 120 SLRs since the ‘50s are Hassy knockoffs and were conceived for pro use. But you know, I like swimming upriver so pro cameras are not really my primary choice when I want to shoot some square frames. I know most of you old schoolers like to shoot pro gear from back in the day, but I have a less discriminating taste and I like freaks of design like the Kiev 60 above.

The Kiev 60 is a monster of a camera. It is a more or less exact copy of the Praktisix, another medium format camera, itself inspired in the first Exakta 66. What is surprising about the Kiev 60 is how hard their designers tried that it looked like a 35mm camera. People call it an Exakta on steroids but what it really looks like is a Praktica turned into the Hulk. GNAAAAARGH, KIEV PHOTO YOU. That’s the spirit. I shit you not: the shutter is so loud that once I almost knocked a brickey off a scaffold by spooking the shit out of him when I shot him unnoticed.

I have a fetish for Kievs, both the 60 and the 88, which is a total knockoff of the first Hassy, and I’m not the only one. These guys have the same bug as I do. Yes they totally cuckoo, and I love it. And they’re right: Kievs really have something that a normal medium format camera won’t give you. They’re cool for amateurs, I guess, and when they want to work, they’re as good as any other half-serious medium format camera. The glass is quite decent: I have tried all the normal primes for the system, some of them made in Germany, and they’re all great… but man, don’t take it to a pro assignment, cause they are commie products and they hate capitalist photographers like you, and they will for sure break at the worst possible moment. It’s not because they’re not well built, it is because they’re a bunch of commie bastards.

Yes, from time to time, I have some Kievs and other medium format cameras for sale. If you’re man enough for a medium format camera, I mean.

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