The Soviet camera industry didn’t copy too many american designs. Most of the time they designed cameras based on German and Japanese concepts; They were not fools: German and Japanese stuff are as good as it gets when you talk about cameras.
The Moment is a strange beast in the Soviet camera world. It is to the Polaroid 95 what the Kiev 6C was to the Pentacon Six: a model very much inspired in the original, so much that it couldn’t be sold in the West because of flagrant patent infringement. It wasn’t an exact copy and there are a few different details, but the Soviet Pola has Land genes in it. The insides are pretty much the same, as the instant photography system was copied exactly, but there are many different things.
Today you gonna read me delve even deeper into madness and talk Russian lenses. Shall we? Ok, now. Once the bug has bitten you and you have the old glass flu, russky lenses are so conspicuously there that you can’t ignore them. Many despise old Soviet glass out of plain prejudice: because it’s a product of the commie economy. Which sure had its issues, but we are talking glass & helicoids now.
For all of those who talk crap on Soviet lenses without knowing shit: you should know that when most Soviet lenses first hit the (very controlled commie countries’ only) market in the 1950s, they were on par with its Western counterparts (I won’t say ‘competition’ because they didn’t share markets), both mechanically and optically. Take into account that many optical legends like the Biotar, the Macro-Switar, the Zoomar, the Angeniéux Rètrofocus, the first Summicron… were mass marketed for the first time in the 50’s.
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.
Look at this. Just LOOK AT THIS. No? Nothing special? Look twice. It might look like a Leica II with a Leitz Summar but it is not. This, boys and girls, is a FED S with a 5cm f2 “FED Summar” collapsible lens attached.
Why is it special, you say? Well, first of all, less than 2000 (yes, two-thousand) samples of this camera were ever made, and not all of them were supplied with the “FED Summar” lens. Add to this that this was produced in 1940, before WWII spread to the Soviet Union, so we can assume that at least some of them were lost during the war; plus, it’s 75 years since it was made… in short: it is a very exclusive item.
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…
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.