At the end of the 1980s, the leadership of the Soviet photographic industry understood quite clearly that such a phenomenon as a "soap dish" should be taken seriously.
With all the scornfulness inherent in the nickname of these simple cameras, it was this class of photographic equipment that captured the markets.
In the 1960s, not every family had cameras. Photography was still a matter for those who were keen on it. In the West, of course, there was a more developed photo-development and printing service, which expanded the audience. In the USSR, the lack of such a service was compensated by the general enthusiasm of the population for technology.
Manufacturers of photographic equipment understood that photographs are needed, perhaps, for everyone, but for many, the need to control exposure and other wisdom is an insurmountable obstacle.
A truly mass consumer needs a camera with a single button “get a masterpiece”.
The introduction of electronics into photographic equipment by the end of the 80s made it possible to realize this concept. Compact devices appeared in stylish design, with a built-in flash, automatic exposure control, with drag and rewind motors - the very same soap dishes.
And these soap dishes were no longer only in every family, but often every person in the family had their own. The market has expanded significantly.
And most importantly, it became possible to constantly expand the functionality of cameras at the expense of some electronic chips and force users to buy new cameras every couple of years. Fortunately, the price is not high.
The Union was aware of the trend, but there was an obstacle to following it - the lack of a proper electronic base. The USSR did not know how to make compact and powerful flashes, miniature electric motors, digital electronics with a low price.
There have been attempts to create a soap dish. Elikon-35SM (BelOMO since 1989), Elikon Autofocus (BelOMO since 1986), Zenit 35F (LOMO since 1987). The list is incomplete. The devices were actually produced. But all this is not quite what you need.
At KMZ, the topic of soap dishes was taken up later.
For example, the ZENIT-mini project, which was later renamed Zorky-100. The years of development are 1992–1994.
The development was brought to full technical documentation, after which the project was protected, accepted, but the topic was closed. Prototypes were not made.
The reason is the absence at that time on the domestic market of small-sized electronic flashes and element base for them.
The drawdown in electronics did not allow domestic products to compete with imported ones, even if there were high-quality optical devices with glass lenses that were unique for this class of devices.
In addition, the unsuccessful design of the Zorky-100 did not allow obtaining compact dimensions and moving away from the "brick" hull. And this despite the fact that the design and some details were already developed using CAD.
There was also a project in 1988 "Buratino". Photo could not be found.
The project of the simplest disposable camera. It was a plastic case with a paper shell and the simplest plastic optics similar to disposable cameras from film manufacturers - Kodak, FUJI, etc. The central breech is also the simplest type - a flap.
In principle, such a device of the USSR could not go into series, since such devices are supposed to be produced with the sponsorship of photographic film manufacturers with a guarantee of development and printing. The domestic chemical industry was not able to provide this project with either photographic materials or an appropriate level of service.
In 1997, the KMZ completed a small batch of Premier compact film cameras (manufacturer: Premier Camera Taiwan Ltd., Taiwan), marked as Zenit: Zenit-501 (250 pcs), Zenit-502 (258 pcs), Zenit-503 (250 units), Zenit-504 (251 units).
Finally, in 2000-2002, KMZ mastered the assembly of a line of compact cameras of the Zenit-510, Zenit-520, Zenit-610, Zenit-620 series.
The enterprise only assembled devices from ready-made components of the Taiwanese company Toptronic Industrial Co. The project was called SKINA.
Thus, by the beginning of the 2000s, the domestic photographic industry represented by KMZ still signed for the inability to independently create a full-fledged soap box.
The company's own developments include only a packing box and a couple of leaflets of instructions and a passport. The printing of the box is good, the instructions are mediocre.
All other components, including optics, were imported. Gradual import substitution was planned, but nothing happened. The inscriptions on the cases are in English.
The total volume of production of all 4 models was more than 42 thousand copies.
This is not much, against the past millions of copies, but for the beginning of the 2000s it can be considered a success, in fact. The market was already very competitive.
For example, the production of the most advanced KMZ DSLRs - Zenit-APK and Zenit-KM - amounted to about 6.4 thousand and 15 thousand, respectively. In total, half as much.
Of course, KMZ soap dishes could have been released, but not sold out. But the same can be said about DSLRs. Therefore, we will neglect this factor.
The devices in the line showed a fairly clear hierarchy in terms of technical equipment. All 4 models had their own design. The differences in design do not particularly follow from the technical features of the cameras. Basically - all just for visual diversity. The domestic photo industry has never allowed itself such a luxury.
Devices 5X0 - had fixed focus, 6X0 - autofocus.
We will consider the six hundredth series later, today we are talking about the five hundredth.
The differences between models 510 (issue 12850 units) and 520 (11795 units) are, to be honest, vague for me. I don't have Zenit-510. I found the instruction for it. In it, and in appearance of the devices, the functionality is the same.
The SKINA series devices themselves of all models cause quite pleasant impressions. Body materials, functionality, build quality - everything is at a good level. Alas, this is not the merit of KMZ, but of the Taiwanese Toptronic.
True, for 2000-2002 the purchased 5X0 kits looked rather poor, perhaps.
My future wife in 1996-97 already owned her Minolta, which even had a self-timer. Everything else is one to one, practically.
But, in general, the devices looked acceptable. Especially the 600th episode, which is more sophisticated. Another question is the ratio of prices for Zenits and imported vehicles. I have no data here.
In the region of 2003-2004, soap dishes were already in full swing boasting optical zoom, date imprinting into the frame, etc.
And then the figure began to appear more and more confidently on the scene.
Soap Zenits did not receive any development and quickly lost their relevance.
Today in the review is a completely working and perfectly preserved copy of the Zenit-520. Let's take a look at it.
Zenit-520 was produced at KMZ in 2000-2002 as part of the SKINA project joint with the Taiwanese company Toptronic.
The volume of production of the 520th model is 11,795 copies.
The lens with a 35 mm lens consists of three lenses in three groups. Enlightenment is not mentioned. The lens has no name of its own.
No focusing required. The lens is rigidly exposed to the GFR.
The Wiki lists the lens aperture of f4.5. I did not find such information in the instructions. Whether the automatic controls the diaphragm is not very clear. Perhaps the automatic controls only the flash on / off. Or the aperture changes, but depends only on the sensitivity of the film, i.e. has 2 meanings in total. These are all assumptions.
The shutter hits a single exposure of 1/140.
The shutter cocking, frame advance, rewind are motorized.
Entering values of photosensitivity of photographic film - DX-code. At the same time, the device understands only two values - 100 and 400 ISO. All other options are treated as one of these.
The weight of my copy without batteries is 214 grams.
As already mentioned, Zenit-520 visually differs in the best way from all compact cameras of the Soviet photographic industry. For nothing, that they did all the details in Taiwan.
Ergonomic shape with matching folds under the arm. The body materials look good and are pleasant to the touch.
The design is good, the assembly is good.
The device was equipped with a classic soft case, but it can be worn without it on a lace.
In the inactive state, the lens is covered with shutters.
The slider under the lens simultaneously opens the lens and turns on the device.
In addition to the lens in front of the device from left to right:
- - compact flash reflector;
- - switch for flash modes under the reflector;
- - light receiver of the exposure control system;
- - front viewfinder window;
- - LED of the system of suppression of "red eyes".
Center position is automatic mode. The device will turn on the flash itself if it sees fit.
The right position is to turn off the flash. Left - forced inclusion. To use the side modes, the slide must be moved with the left hand and held in this position while pressing the trigger.
I can’t say that it’s ergonomic, but it’s impossible to forget to switch the switch back to the machine. It is quite logical.
A fairly bright red LED is responsible for red-eye suppression. It lights up when you press the shutter button slightly and stays on while your finger presses the button before the flash and shutter fire. It is assumed that the bright light causes the pupils of the subjects to be photographed to constrict.
At the back we have a viewfinder peephole. To the left is the green flash-ready LED. To the left of the door is the lock latch. To unlock it, you need to slide it down.
There is a transparent insert on the door, allowing you to see if there is a cassette with a film in the device.
Below is the battery compartment cover and the slider that enables forced rewind.
The device is powered by two "fingers".
The rewinding of the Zenit-520 will start automatically at the moment when the film stops being pulled out of the cassette. You can also start rewinding forcibly. There is a special engine for this.
On top of the device there is only a shutter button and a frame counter window. The button is locked when the lens is closed.
Attitude to the camera
Nuuuuu…. There is nothing special to be proud of.
Yes, Taiwan has mastered the production of electronics, but we have not. In general, until now.
The fact that the company decided to buy components is good. Globalization. The principle “I carry everything with me” works, perhaps, in the defense industry, but not in civilian business. Someone specializes in electronics - it is normal to buy components from them. It is economically feasible.
But KMZ could become the same transnational supplier of high-quality optics for the same soap dishes. Optics with quality glass lenses. With a great picture. KMZ could buy all the electronics, and make its own housings and optics.
And it could have been done in the mid-80s. I think they already knew how to make such soap dishes in Taiwan. And then maybe something would have happened.
But both time and opportunity were wasted.
That's all for me. Don't miss your opportunities and good luck!