In honor of "Red Oktober," we will be featuring a short series of FSC members' musings on their favorite FSU cameras.
First, the Belomo Agat18K is a ridiculously fun and fancy free half-frame 35mm camera that seems like a toy until you begin to realize how capable it actually is. Ukranian made, it has an Industar lens that is quite great, really. Coupled with the fact that a regular roll nets you 72 exposures, you can snap away while out and about, all on a tiny little thing that you could likely throw down a flight of stairs and it’d be fine.
Photos above taken with the Belomo Agat18K
I love the feel and operation of my Fed 2E – it has limited shutter speeds but the operation of the thing is just so very nice. If only I could find the light leak that pops into half the pictures or more to varying degrees, seen very clearly in the one with the church. That’s the risk you take with these cameras – some defects are endearing, some not so much. Lack of quality control with these little beauties was not a myth. Still, I like this camera a lot. It came with an Industar61 50mm f/2.8 lens, which I use on my Bessa quite frequently.
The Kiev4M and Kiev4A… ohhhhh these cameras. I could go on for quite a while. I have never owned a Contax II, but these make me want to. Their quality and build blew my socks off. The Helios-103 that I shoot with most is truly, and completely unexpectedly, one of my most favorite lenses for ANY of my many cameras. The earlier Jupiter-8 came with m Kiev4a and it has problems I’ve not bothered to sort out (very very soft and seems to have a severe back-focus problem – I haven’t included any shots using it) because the Helios is just so damn good I always use it. I like it so much I’ve NEARLY purchased an adapter made by a gentleman in Venezuela for adapting Contact mount to LTM or M-mount – it isn’t cheap so I’ve not done it, but I’m still tempted. Lately I’ve been shooting the slightly smaller (sans selenium meter on top) and lighter (as well as black color) Kiev4a more than the Kiev4m simply because I like the look of it even those it’s not *quite* as smooth operating. The Helios doesn’t care which one it’s mounted to, so nor do I. Truly, I love the Kiev/Helios combo leagues more than I ever expected I would.
And now the Zorkis… I have a Zorki-4 and a Zorki-4K which was produced later with some “improvements”. Both came to me with problems, as so many FSU cameras do. I adore the look of the older one, but it has a very bad shutter capping problem preventing the use of speeds greater than 1/125 (a pity, since it goes all the way to 1/1000 – impressive for that era), and the Jupiter-8 which came with it, though a beautiful aged silver version, focuses poorly even though I’ve re-lubed it now twice. The Zorki-4k I purchased to replace it has an advance lever instead of the knob found on the older version but is roughly the same camera (though they omitted strap lugs on the body which I’ll never understand). It *should* feel like a nicer camera but for some reason, somehow, it just doesn’t. It’s CLOSE but no cigar. It also had a hole in the trailing curtain which took me a couple “what-the-hell-is-that-light-leak” rolls to discover. I fixed it with liquid e-tape. Try this at home. If I did not have my Bessa R3M and many Pentax SLRs I might shoot with it more often, but overall, when I choose to shoot with one of these Reds I nearly always pick up one of the Kievs… And the results always speak for themselves.
The best thing about getting into these is learning about them and playing with all of them. I have a total five cameras from the former Soviet Union and, all told, they cost me about the same as one nicely cared for and serviced Pentax MX. Got nuts.
Kevin Rosinbum is a light collector and loves to shoot color, mostly medium format and 35mm. He is from the Pacific NW and current living in Seattle until such as time the rural Northwest calls him back, which could be soon. You can see more of his work here.