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.
Let’s leave Zenits apart a little bit now and talk about another immense, glorious, immortal, victory of the USSR in the consumer goods field: the Kiev SLRs. Well, the first generation of them. It is not that the second generation wasn’t an immense, glorious and immortal victory, but I have two hands only, so I can only bash one generation of Soviet victories at a time.
If you think Zenits are not a nadir of design, here above is a Kiev 15. You can call it whatever you want, I call it butt ugly. But I kinda love ugly cameras, you know.
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.