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.
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.