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Camera Estafeta Review

Estafeta is a simple medium format scale camera. was produced in the late 50s, mainly at the Minsk Mechanical Plant.
Despite this, the development and start of production of a new camera happened at another enterprise - at GOMZ, in the mid-50s.

Let's digress a little from history. The very idea of creating such an apparatus seems to me to be interesting for understanding.

It is known, for example, that in approximately the same time period an even simpler medium format Shkolnik camera was also produced at MMZ. I have a review of it.

Now, if I do not go into the chronology, then I personally would have the impression that Estafeta is a direct descendant of the Schoolboy.


It seems logical. It was a very simple apparatus for beginners. Time passed, technologies became cheaper, the population became richer during the Khrushchev thaw. And here you are, for the same beginners, the device is more modern. Already with all the goodies of the entry-level camera, but completely complete.

Everything would be so, if not vice versa! The schoolboy was later Estafeta.

Moreover, the relay race was stopped in 1961, and Shkolnik began in 1962. At first glance, there is continuity.

But Shkolnik is a child's apparatus. It is made as cheap as possible for a child to buy. The medium-format Shkolnik was made because small pictures 6x6 cm from his films can be printed by the contact method - without an enlarger. This is also an opportunity for the user to save money.

Who was Estafeta created for?

The Estafeta could not be cheap. The apparatus is made of metal. Has a soft pasting. Equipped with both sync contact and self-timer. Other performance characteristics are quite at the level.

If in the 60s not every schoolchild could afford the Smena, then in the 50s not every adult could afford Estafeta.

At the same time, the apparatus is scale.

As already mentioned, the project to create a new apparatus began at GOMZ and had the code name "Effect".


Sources give different opinions on the Effect. According to some, the Effect was designed as a scale device, according to others it was a rangefinder.

In this photo, the device with the guessed name "Effect" is clearly scaled


This rangefinder is called the Pennant prototype, but at the prototyping stage, the project was a single one. Photo from the book “Era of LOMO. Cameras and People ”

One way or another, it is fairly reliably known that two lines of devices should have gone into the series at once - both rangefinders and scalers are as unified as possible. This was the trend at the time.

Scalers were given the name Estafeta, and range finders - Pennant. Both appeared in 1957.
Little pennants were released - in piece quantities. The camera is very rare.


Actually, Estafeta produced by GOMZ is also very rare. The GOMZ icon is visible on the lens.

Rare devices because soon the technical documentation for the Estafeta-Vympel family was transferred from GOMZ to MMZ. Already in 1958, the production of Minsk Estafetas began.

The release of the Pennant at MMZ could not be established. There is a version that the device was too complicated to manufacture. Perhaps there were some other reasons superimposed.

Estafeta at MMZ produced about 9 thousand copies, and in 1962 they were discontinued.

In total, Estafeta was produced from 1958 to 1962. Yes, in the USSR, the devices were developed longer.

Estafeta does not differ in a special variety, but there are still some peculiarities between the editions. For example, there are such options with a wavy mirrored front panel.
Estafeta are now rare.

Such a story.

Who cares, but I'm wondering what it was all about?

In the book “The era of LOMO. Cameras and People ”, in the most widely available publication, probably close to the original sources - there are only regrets about the device that did not fly. No specifics.

I believe that no one already knows the real reasons for the unfortunate fate of Estafeta.

Therefore, on the basis of exclusively my own conjectures and fantasies, I would venture to make several assumptions.

I think that in the mid-50s, a narrow 35-mm film had not yet reached the quality level that on prints of the usual household size, such as 9X12 cm, there was no noticeable difference with a medium-format film.

Medium format produced great detail even in home photo albums.

Consequently, despite the already available assortment of good systemic narrow-film cameras, there were many photographers in the country for whom the medium format was, as they say, only and forever.

What did the Soviet photographic industry offer these people in 1955-56?

In principle, the choice was limited. Or the first - the second Lubitel or Moscow of several models, up to the already Moscow-5.

All these devices are decent, beautiful, but let's be honest, not very convenient.

I believe that the Effect project was primarily focused on creating a rangefinder camera. And only with T.Z. the logic of a wider coverage of potential demand - for a scale unified with it, which was a trailer.

The rangefinder Pennant in terms of performance characteristics is not inferior to either Moscow or the Amateur, but having a classic design, it is much more convenient to use.

Scale Estafeta is also more convenient, but at a lower level. Although, despite the fact that Moscow is a rangefinder, and Lyubitel is a DSLR in general, there are many reviews that both of them were often used as scale devices or with a focus on GFR. Both have very specific focusing devices.

Therefore, Pennant and Estafeta were conceived as new medium format flagships. Neither more nor less.

What happened in the end?

By 1958, the Pennant had not flown. Estafeta alone did not pull the flagship concept.

I suppose that narrow film increasingly displaced medium format from the amateur segment, its resolution grew.

LOMO offered users several 35 mm cameras for every taste and budget: Smena-4, Yunost, Leningrad. New ideas were born.

In general, I did not want to cut the project, but it became superfluous at the enterprise. After all, Estafeta is, in fact, a medium format change and nothing more. And the meaning in the medium format was gradually lost.

Therefore, the production of Estafeta is transferred from GOMZ to MMZ.

Further, the year 1962 came.

Professionals who really need a medium format have received a high-level modular Salute since 1957.

Moscow production was curtailed in 1960.

The Lubitel line will live on for a very long time, but this is a tribute to the orthodox medium formatters. And in the mass amateur segment, 35mm film reigns supreme.

Zorky-4, Zorky-6, Zenit-3M are already on sale.

The characteristics of photographic materials are growing. There is even an opinion that soon it will be possible to switch to an even narrower format - in 1961 a very interesting Narcissus SLR camera for 16 mm film was released.

For the sophisticated amateur photographer, Estafeta was already too simple. For a beginner, it is cumbersome and expensive. It's easier to take Smena-6.

And the main thing! In 1960-61, Iskra and Iskra-2 entered the KMZ, respectively. New foldable medium format rangefinders. Very good. Apparatus of the same class with a hypothetical Pennant. Iskra-2 had a built-in exposure meter and immediately took the flagship position without question.

So, the Estafeta concept finally outlived its usefulness, and their production was curtailed.

In 1962, Shkolnik was launched at MMZ for the youngest amateur photographers.

A schoolboy is, of course, not a downgrade Estafeta. Rather, it is a continuation of the logic of the Yunkor apparatus, the production of which was discontinued at KMZ just in 1962.

The simplest lines were gradually transferred to MMZ from all enterprises.

I consider the fate of Estafeta to be something similar to that of Narcissus.

Only Narcissus is an example of how expectations for the quality of photographic materials in the near future were overestimated, and in the case of Estafeta, on the contrary, they were underestimated.

Something like that. I repeat, all the above-described motives of the enterprises are all my hypotheses, not supported by anything.

Today in the review there is a copy of Estafeta in excellent condition, 1959, number 593153. Here, let's take a look at it.

Estafeta camera
The relay was produced at GOMZ in 1958-59 and at MMZ in 1959-62. The volume of production at the first enterprise is single, at the second - about 9 thousand copies.

Scale device, medium format. Designed for standard film type 120. Forms square frames 60x60 mm. The film contains 12 frames.


Tubular (folding) triplet lens T-35 4/75. MDF 1.3 meters. Aperture limit f22. The lens is enlightened, as indicated by the letter P on the front slice.

The shutter is central, it hits the exposures 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and V.

The device is equipped with a "cold" bracket for accessories, wired synchronizer and self-timer.

The weight of my copy is 630 grams.

Control elements:
Estafeta is a rather large device, although it looks normal against the background of Moscow or Lyubitel.


The body is metal. The lower part of the case, including the lower panel (this is unusual), is covered with soft pasting.

In front of the device there is a lens and a front viewfinder peephole.

In the transport position, the lens is pushed into the interior of the device. To shoot, the tube must be pulled out.

This is done by a small button in the recess on the left side of the top panel. When the button is pressed, the spring will push the lens barrel forward. The spring is quite strong and it is better to hold the lens so that it does not hit the stopper too much.



To fold the tube - press the button again and push the lens manually inward.

Behind, in addition to the viewfinder eye, there is a viewing window, covered with red glass to control numbers and frame boundaries on the leader of a medium format film.

In addition to the red glass, the window is also closed by an internal flap. To open the flap, you need to move a small flat leash above the window to the left.

The leash is spring-loaded, it is impossible to forget to close the damper.


Bottom - 3/8 '' tripod socket


On the top panel, from left to right, there are:
- lens barrel lock button;
- bracket for accessories;
- head of advance frame with a reminder of the type and sensitivity of the film on top.

The device does not have a frame cut-off mechanism, the user controls the frame border himself visually through a window in the rear wall.

The broaching head is equipped with a lock against rotation in the wrong direction.

Almost all the controls for the apparatus are concentrated around the lens.

Frame advance and shutter cocking at the Estafeta are two separate operations.


To cock the shutter, you need to pull down the small lever at the top right of the lens. The shutter is released by pressing the lever on the right too - lower. Even lower is the slot for the release cable.

In the photo, all these elements are clearly visible.


To the left of the lens is the self-timer cocking lever and the wired sync contact socket.


Shutter speeds are switched by a narrow knurled ring.


There is a leash at the bottom of the lens to change the aperture. It seems that my leash itself is incomplete - something must have fallen off.

The aperture scale is also marked at the bottom.

Focusing is carried out by rotating the front narrow part of the lens. The depth of field scale is available.


If you look at the lens from the front, it will be surrounded by scales. In addition to shutter speeds, apertures and depths, there is also a scale of exposure numbers at the bottom.

Such numbers could be given, for example, by the light meter Leningrad-2.

Knowing the recommended exposure number, it is easy to choose an exposure pair.

For example, we prefer in this case some kind of excerpt. We expose it.

Then we look at the scale of exposure numbers and set the aperture leash, focusing not on the f-number, but on the exposure. The scales are nearby.

It can be the other way around. We set the preferred aperture, and then, by rotating the ribbed ring, we bring the exposure number to the leash. At the same time, the shutter speed will change.

Not difficult.



To open Estafeta you need to slide down the latch carrier on the right end of the case. The back wall is removable.

Attitude towards the camera.

Estafeta is a recognizable, attractive and therefore a welcome member of any collection.

The bottom line, Estafeta is, of course, a dead-end branch of photo-evolution. Consequence of incorrect prediction of medium format film positions.

However, only the one who does nothing is not mistaken! In the 1960s, the Soviet photography industry developed steadily in all directions at once and was not afraid of mistakes.

This is what commands respect.

Source fotoussr.ru
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