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E is not for Excellent

A nice all black export version
A nice all black export version

Back to Zenits it is, then. Now, what’s after Zenit 6? Zenit 7? After the 6, them guys at KMZ decided that they were done with numbers and that they would start using letters. ‘E’ was as good as any other, I guess. Numbers weren’t the only thing over, as you can see: the external design departs fully from the Leica-ish rounded corners body and becomes more Contax-ish: an irregular octagon. It’s arguably a more comfortable design. Maybe. No, I’m not going to admit that the Contax handled better than the Leica.

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Central shutter X-travaganza: Zenit fourfivesix

Yes, the filter thread is bent. Geez, will you always see only the bad side of everything?
Yes, the filter thread is bent. Geez, will you always see only the bad side of everything?

You know, in the 1960’s central shutter 35mm SLRs were the rage. Big camera makers, specially German but also Japanese, incorporated them into their offer as a cheaper option for those who wanted to see what they were shooting through a lens. This means they aimed them at amateurs, universally. Those camera systems were pretty limited if compared to the pro focal-plane shutter systems: most models were fixed lens cameras, specially the Japanese, so if you wanted to shoot a different focal length than that of the native lens you had to use an optical adapter, similar to that crap used in the cell phones nowadays when them hipsters want to shoot ‘fisheye’ or ‘tele lens’. The adapters did the job, but optical quality was quite meh. Kodak’s approach to this tech was a system with three optical elements built in camera with a bayonet for objectives that could contain one or more elements for different focal lenses. Anyway, the range of focal lengths was quite poor.

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Zenitology: lost chapters

Yes, you're cute
Yes, you’re cute

It looks like Baron I, as enthusiastic as he was about telling you everything about the Zenit 3M, missed one key link in the Zenit ¿evolutionary? line.

For, behold, here’s the Zenit 3, without an M, only 3. I simply assume that the Zenit C, being nothing else than the original Zenit with a flash synch socket (hence the C, which is cyryllic for ‘s’, which in turn stands for synchronised), is the Zenit mark 2, since, AFAIK, there is, officially, no Zenit 2, not even at blueprint stage.  

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3M, the ¿evolution? of the Zenit line

Yes, back to Zenitology it is. I’ve been doing some assignments with my alloy digital camera in the last weeks so I haven’t had much time to shoot something classic and classy like this Zenit 3M. I didn’t plan on doing Zenitology today but when I went to my studio and almost casually picked this Zenit 3M its sensuality numbed my reasoning. As if I ever had much of it.

While I was touching it, caressing it, feeling it against my face… yes, we left-eyed folks are just so lucky that we must push the camera with our whole face in order to get our good eye actually see something through the viewfinder. I mean, while I was doing all this, the urge to shoot something analog and chrome and SLR came to me. Hi, my name is Baron I, and I am a cameraholic.

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And finally, the Zenit, a glossy black dream

It’s Zenit, not Zehum. Cyryllic joke. Ha. Ha.


And finally came the first Zenit. Zenit = Russian for zenith. Zenith = directly above from you. Well, well, what are you, Soviet Union, trying to tell me here?

Serious now. Yes, I know what you guys are thinking: it looks like a Leica II with a pentaprism on it. God, you’re sharp. See, I don’t know why, maybe it’s because copying has stuck so hard on Russian culture since the good ol’days of the Soviet Union, but all descriptions of an old Zenit in evilbay auctions look very much the same. Try to google this sentence: “the simplest approach was taken”, and you will find a zillion pages speaking about the first Zenit. All those people are literally and shamelessly copying from a JL Princelle, a prophet of sorts, of whom someday we will talk here…

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Farther from Leica… nearer to Zenit



Lo! Back to Zenitology! This is the last Leica-2-like Zorki, the Zorki 2. It is a somewhat rare camera today, as not too many were made. They’re more collector items than shooters as they don’t offer anything that a regular Zorki or FED can’t do, besides the self timer, which is a feature I have yet to use in a camera. The Zorki 2 is not an o9k camera.

At the time the Zorki 2 hit the market (or its commie counterpart, whatever it is), the Alpa Reflex and the Contax S, the first practical SLR cameras, saw light. They were simple models that exploited the technology of the first 35mm SLR camera, the Exakta, implemented it on more convenient rangefinder-based bodies, and gave them a feature that today we give for granted on an SLR: the pentaprism finder. The first usable SLRs were born. Yes, I’m saying that the Exaktas were a disaster and completely unusable, get over it.

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The Leica led to the FED, the FED led to the Zorki…


…and the Zorki led to the Dark Side. Or to the Zenit, which is the same thing for all of us who own one.

We were saying in the last article about Zenits that they basically came from the Leica. Let’s see how.

In the 1930s imports in the Soviet Union were scarce and the official economic doctrine put great emphasis on autarchy, so the great plan of the commies became to produce everything at home… by breaking any patent laws if necessary. Many implements of Soviet manufacture, especially consumer goods were close copies of Western models, and cameras were no exception. Well, as close as the Soviet production model, which clearly didn’t favor quality, allowed.

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In the beginning, there was only Leica…


…and God (Oskar Barnack) saw that it was good, but it had no rangefinder, so in the second day He created the Leica II… It was more or less like that.

What? Leica? Barnack? Weren’t we talking about Zenits? Fear not, for everything will become clear… as Lynda Blair said in The Exorcist, in time.

Serious now. Why did I put the Leica here? Because the Leica is a not-so distant relative to the Zenit. Genealogically we could put it all like this: the Zenit comes from the Zorki, which comes from the FED, which in turn comes from the Leica II. In other words, the Zenit is the grandson of the FED, Leica’s Soviet evil twin.

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Parental Advisory: we’re talking Zenits

Zenits. Look at them. They’re immoral.


Am I going to write bout Zenits in the same blog I write about Leicas? Did I go crazy for good? Do we photogs make love better than common rabble? The answer to these and other relevant questions is Yes Madam, Yes Indeed.

We will save questions number two and number three for the future, as each deserves a post of their own for sure. About question number 1, I’m not only writing about Zenits, but I’m dedicating a whole section to this. No, I barely sell any Zenit, but there’s the remote chance that someone reaches this blog innocently looking for info about them and inadvertently misclicks into my store, which would be great, instantly to be mesmerised by the sight of that very expensive Zenit I’m selling. So maybe it’s worth the shot.

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