A Day Out with my 1957 Zorki 4 | Colton Allen

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I first read about Soviet cameras back in 2011. For a while they didn’t seem that interesting to me. Back then I thought they looked kinda ugly, and after reading about how problematic they could be, I definitely had some reservations about buying myself one. A few years later, after reading a few glowing reviews of the Industar 61L/D lens, I started looking into buying the lens plus a camera to shoot it with. I ended up getting a FED 3 with an early Industar 61L/D 53mm f/2.8 lens. It was during this time, doing research for the FED 3, that my interest and feelings about the old Soviet rangefinders started to change. In particular, I kinda fell in love with the looks of the Zorki 4. So after more research, and too much time on Ebay, I bought myself a virtually unused 1957 Zorki 4,complete with its original Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 lens, original leather case, original box, and original cable release. The camera arrived from Russia about a month later, and as near as I could tell it had never been used, and seemed to work perfectly. I shot a few test rolls and the camera worked great, but it was very difficult for me to use because of my health and lack of arm strength. That was almost 4 years ago. Since then the camera has stayed in my camera cabinet, looking pretty but a bit forlorn.

Fast forward to 2017, and I now have this sweet camera mount for my powerchair. I have way too many cameras now, and I have been busy trying to finish various rolls of film in various cameras, but for the past 6 months I have been thinking about trying to shoot the Zorki using my camera mount. What better time than Red Oktober, that special time of year when camera nerds all over the world dust off their Communist made cameras, and go out and take photos with them. It’s also the 60th anniversary of the year my Zorki 4 was made. Last Friday I pulled a roll of 12 exposure Mitsubishi MXIII 200 (perfect for this situation) out of my freezer,  let it warm up for awhile, and loaded the Zorki. Not long after that, my friend John came by and we went out shooting. 

It was a gorgeous Southern Oregon fall day, so we walked around my small town (Talent), and I managed to shoot most of the roll in the Zorki. I was a little apprehensive because I hadn’t used the camera for over 3 years, and I wasn’t sure how things would go with the Zorki on my wheelchair camera mount. I had a cable release on the camera so that my friend could trigger the shutter easily when I needed him to, and I mostly just preset the focus distance for whatever I judged best for the subject. With the camera mount raised up high enough, I could use the somewhat squinty viewfinder for framing, as well as check focus with the rangefinder. The viewfinder on the Zorki 4 is one of the better finders you’ll find on a Soviet rangefinder, and the rangefinder is actually quite good, but after looking through the finder on my Voigtlander Bessa R, the Zorki finder is pretty small. 

The last roll that I had shot in the camera back in early 2014 ended up having some issues with light leaks. After checking the camera over a bit, the only thing I could think of was that maybe the shutter wasn’t sealing perfectly and if the lens cap was of for too long then light was getting past the shutter. For this outing, I made a point of only removing the cap right before shooting, then immediately putting the cap back on. 

The camera worked flawlessly during our outing. The film advance was smooth and easy, the shutter was quiet and never had any issues changing speeds (only after winding of course, and the camera mount and cable release worked perfectly. I shot 10 frames on Friday, with only the Jupiter-8 50mm lens, then on Sunday I mounted a Jupiter-12 35mm f/2.8 and shot the remaining 2 frames. Today I had the film developed, and I’m very happy to report that the camera shot perfectly. Frame spacing was quite even, and I got no light leaks whatsoever. 


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Film photographer Colton Allen is based in Oregon. See more of his work on his website, and connect with him on Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook.