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Helios lens

Camera Sport (GelVETA, Helveta) review

Today it is with undisguised pleasure that I present to you the rare and most interesting Sport camera.

Sport is a pre-war SLR (!!!) camera. At least one of the first 35mm SLR cameras in the world. There is a strong opinion that the first one, but more on that later.
Sport is unusual in appearance and design, it is quite rare and therefore always occupies a prestigious place in any photo collection.

The creator of the Sport apparatus is Alexander Oskarovich Gelgar, a teacher at the Military Electrotechnical Academy (VETA) and at the same time an employee of the design department of GOMZ.

The idea to create a new camera came to Alexander Oskarovich back in 1929. Then he, a young but experienced employee of the Turkmenfilm film studio, had the opportunity to shoot with a Leika borrowed from a friend.

At high temperatures, the Leica shutter did not work reliably enough. And there were complaints about the focus of the then first models of Lake.
In the early 30s of the twentieth century, the designer set the task of creating an inexpensive and easy-to-use SLR camera for 35-mm film with a rectangular frame of 24x38 mm. The device must have had a shutter made of metal lamellas, tk. only metal could provide reliable operation in a temperature range of +/- 60 degrees.

It should be noted that since 1933, the German Exakta VP SLR camera was produced for roller film type 127 with a frame format of 40x65 mm.

Nevertheless, there were no mirrors in the world for 35-mm film, and even more so, meeting the given requirements, and Alexander Oskarovich was a pioneer in many technical solutions.
It is believed that it was the release of Exakta VP that convinced the VOOMP management of the promising nature of the class of SLR film cameras.

In June 1934, the designer showed a working prototype of his camera to the editorial office of the Soviet Photo magazine. The camera was called "GelVETA". The name consists of the first four letters of the designer's surname "Gel" and the abbreviated name of the Military Academy, in which Alexander Oskarovich taught - "VETA".

The reason for the appearance of the name of the Academy in the name of the apparatus is as follows: the management of VOOMP could not decide for a long time to start a pilot production, and the head of the photo-cinema laboratory of the Academy A.S. Dansky decided to make 3 copies of the apparatus by his own workshop. Evaluating this assistance, Alexander Oskarovich named the GelVETA apparatus.

It was a working name, conditional. On prototypes, it was indicated only on the objective cover, it was not applied to the camera body, or almost not applied.

A little later, the device received the already approved name - Sport.
Of course, the prototypes of GelVETA differed from the serial Sport.

In particular, it was originally intended to use 35-mm film on reels with a paper leader, without mechanical frame cutoff, and therefore the devices had a window at the back to control the film movement. Photo from

Subsequently, they switched to standard film in cassettes, and the device "learned" to stretch exactly one frame.

In the magazine "Soviet Photo" No. 1 for 1935 (see the image at the bottom of the article) the official presentation of the GelVETA camera took place and the readers of the magazine were able to see its photograph for the first time. True, the name of the camera was still being discussed at that time, and therefore the device was presented to the public as a "SLR film camera VOOMP".

During 1935, the official name Sport was approved and serial production began, although, it would be more correct to say, installation production.

Several weak points were immediately identified and therefore the design had to be refined.

Among other things, the Sport received a new, more rounded body - cast instead of stamped. The shutter became a separate unit that was mounted in the body. At the same time, charging began to be carried out using special cassettes and the control window on the back side disappeared.

These changes were made to the design in 1936.

Not with all A.O. Gelgar agreed, but the management of the enterprise did not listen to his opinion. The designer showed adherence to principles and went to work at the Lenfilm film studio.

The devices of the early releases of 1934-36 are usually called "GelVETA", although in most cases, "Sport" is already written on their bodies. This is done as a tribute to the designer and to separate the first, - a small number of releases of the original design from the later - more massive and more standardized.

Among the first was, for example, such an unusual design. Photo from

During 1935-36, only 300 devices were produced.

Moreover, even after the improvement of the design, until the middle of 1938, the enterprise solved production problems and during this period only 100 copies of the Sport were produced. In general, the management of the enterprise did not see a priority in the new chamber, and this was the reason for the delay in many processes.

Fortunately, all the difficulties were solved, and then until the end of 1938, 2,200 copies were already produced.

It is in the long period of launching the production of the device that the reason for the controversy lies in the opinion of whether Sport should be considered the world's first mirror narrow-film device.

The German apparatus Kine Exakta is considered a competitor of the Sport for the championship.

In short, Alexander Oskarovich Gelgar created a working prototype of his camera before.

But the Germans showed their Kine Exakta at the spring Leipzig Fair in 1936 and immediately launched it into series and on wide sale.
Thus, the question boils down to what is considered the event of the appearance of the device - the creation of a prototype or the release of a viable commercial product. With tz. the first - the first was Sport, the second - of course, Kine Exakta.

Be that as it may, Sport is a camera of a completely original design and there is an undoubted reason to be proud of the Soviet designers who created it.

In total, from 1935 to 1940, about 19 thousand copies of Sport of all varieties were produced. The device is now quite rare.

Collectors highlight quite a few variations in the details of the device and the design of the devices. Refinement of the design went on continuously and various small changes appeared frequently. However, all this is a topic for a more serious study, and we will not dwell on these details in detail.

It is also important that for some reason the Sport devices were not numbered when they were released. Therefore, it is problematic to correlate a specific copy with the year of release. For this purpose, the numbering of standard Industar-10 lenses is used.

It is known that in 1940, GOMZ produced a certain amount of a simplified modification of the apparatus called Sport-1. This model had a slower minimum shutter speed - 1/300 versus 1/500 for a regular Sport.

What dictated the creation of this apparatus is not entirely clear. Moreover, there are known examples with the usual name "Sport", but with a minimum shutter speed of 1/300.

In addition, back in 1939, at the Leningrad Institute of Precision Mechanics and Optics (LITMO), there was an ambitious project to create a Sport-2 model with a built-in exposure meter.

Unfortunately, the project remained on paper; they did not have time to implement it before the war.
Also, Sport did not manage to get interchangeable optics, although this was originally intended by the design.

It is also interesting to note that much later, at the end of the 50s, there was another Sport camera in the USSR, more precisely, the prototype bore this name. The device went into series under the name Youth. Real, non-fake Sports, which are extremely rare for Youth, so there is no chance of confusion.
In the review, a copy of the Sport of later releases is in good condition and with a serviceable shutter, which characterizes the design as quite reliable. The accuracy of the work, of course, is not already guaranteed, but the fact remains. Lens number 16728.

Let's take a look at the device.
Camera Sport
The sport was produced at the State Optical and Mechanical Plant (GOMZ) in Leningrad from 1935 to 1940 (41).

The total volume of production of all varieties of Sport is about 19 thousand copies.

Sport is designed for standard 35mm film. The early designs required a film with a paper leader.

Frame size 24x36 mm (early samples have a format of 24x38 mm)

The cassettes of the camera are non-standard and can hold 50 frames. I have no cassettes,

Standard Industar-10 3.5 / 50 lens with an original bayonet mount. Interchangeable optics was unambiguously assumed, but nothing is known about the existence of specific samples, and it is unlikely that they were at all.

The number of aperture blades in the lens is 8.

The aperture limit of this instance is f16, although there are options with f22.
The shutter consists of two metal lamellas. Slats move along the short side of the frame.

The upper lamella moves vertically. When the shutter is cocked, it is lowered down and overlaps the frame window. When the bolt is released, it is lifted into the superstructure.

The lower lamella moves along a more complex trajectory. When the shutter is cocked, it is located horizontally at the bottom of the apparatus.

When the shutter is released, first the upper lamella rises vertically upward, opening the frame window.

Then, that edge of the lower lamella, which is closer to the photographer, begins to move upward, following the edge of the upper lamella. The opposite (front) edge of the lower lamella slides back horizontally.

At the end of the movement, the lamellas are closed at the edges, the luminous flux overlaps the lower lamella, which takes an inclined position (the rear edge is raised) at an angle of approximately 45 degrees.

In the process of cocking the shutter, the lamellas, without opening, move in the opposite direction. The upper one goes down, and the lower one slides forward with its front edge, and we go down with the rear edge - until again the horizontal position.

In the left photo, the shutter is cocked. The upper vertical lamella is visible. In the photo on the right, the shutter is released. The lower lamella is visible at an angle.

The shutter of the Sport beats out the shutter speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200, 1/500 (some 1/300) and manual V.

The sport has two viewfinders.
- Mirror with frosted glass and a shaft with a magnifying glass - for focusing;
- Telescopic for operational shooting from eye level.

Look through the mirror viewfinder from top to bottom.

Sports mirror sticky. You can only sight through the mirror viewfinder if the shutter is cocked.

The Sport is not equipped with a self-timer, synchrocontact and accessory bracket.

The weight of my copy is 720 grams.

Control elements

In the photo, the Sport looks very large and bulky. The massive superstructure visually enlarges it.

But, if you put Sport next to other devices, you can see that the camera is actually quite compact.

In comparison with the FED of those years, Sport, of course, is seriously more due to the superstructure. But the pre-war FED is a device itself very compact in comparison even with its post-war descendants. And FED is a rangefinder.

In comparison with the significantly later Zenith, for example, Sport no longer looks excessively large. Only the shape of the body is unusual.

The body is neat, the edges are rounded. Most of the body is covered with soft pasting.

In the front of the device there is a lens in a bayonet mount, a shutter button (to the right of the lens) and a telescopic viewfinder front window (in the upper part of the add-on on the left).
Let's take a closer look at the Sport bayonet.

The on-camera part of the mount includes a helicoid. The standard Industar-10 is just a lens unit with a diaphragm.

Bayonet with three petals of a rather complex shape. The petals themselves are on the on-camera part of the mount. On the lens - a skirt with cutouts for petals.

To fix the lens, you need to attach it to the mount so that the petals enter the slots of the skirt and turn the lens clockwise.

It looks like a hybrid of external and internal Contax mounts.

To fix the lens, you need to tighten the small screw on the front slice of the lens. The screw fits into the groove of the camera mount and prevents the lens from rotating in the mount.

Well, that is no immediate replacement of optics was planned.

To prevent the helicoid from turning when attaching / removing the lens, the design provides for a helicoid stopper. This is realized through a spring-loaded hook with a leash. In the focus position at infinity, the hook clings to a small pin.

The distance scale is marked on the helicoid in a very inconvenient place - in a narrow gap. A special leash on the helicoid serves for focusing. The focusing leash and the locking hook leash are located side by side in the upper left of the mount.

Aperture is controlled by a knurled ring on the front of the lens.'

The release button is equipped with a cable slot. The button is small, has a short and soft stroke.


The telescopic viewfinder eyepiece is located at the rear of the superstructure. This viewfinder gives a small picture, but bright and not at all worse than the FED of those years.

Mirror viewfinder - on the top of the superstructure. You need to look into it from top to bottom and this can be done only when the shutter is cocked.

The picture in the mirror viewfinder, in fact, is quite valid.
Firstly, it is very large and quite light.

Secondly, if you first discard the plaque of time in the form of turbidity and dust, and then take into account the years of release and existing competitors, then the picture is also of excellent quality.

Compared to the same pre-war FEDs, the difference is simply amazing. The Sport's viewfinder was supposed to shock users.

Of the minuses, the picture is naturally flipped from left to right. Of course, Sport has no pentaprism.
Also, looking at the camera from top to bottom, it is quite difficult to give it an even position out of habit. At the same time, the viewfinder's field of view is large, and when you pick out one part or the other with your eye, it is not always clear where we have the center of the frame.

A bright crosshair in the viewfinder serves to help in this situation. It can be clearly seen in the photo.

The intersection of the lines corresponds to the center of the frame and the camera must be held so that it is in the center of the viewfinder. In this case, what we see in the viewfinder and what will be in the photo will correspond to each other. I didn’t really succeed in leveling and photographing.

All, practically, the controls of the apparatus are concentrated in the "multifunctional" head on the right side panel of the superstructure.

The head is responsible for cocking the shutter (interlocked with the frame advance) and for changing the shutter speed.

To cock the shutter and extend the frame, you need to turn the head away from you, 1 turn. I don’t know about the film, but when the machine is empty, the head rotates very easily.

In order to change the shutter speed, you need to click on the top of the head and turn it until the required shutter speed coincides with the metal arrow above the head. Excerpts are applied to the cylindrical part of the head at its base.

You need to change the shutter speed when the shutter is cocked.

A frame counter scale is applied to the shoulder strap around the head. Rewinding of the film is not provided for Sport.

The bottom and rear parts of the device body together form a removable panel for accessing the film.

To remove this part, you need to turn the lock at the bottom and carefully pull the part down.

The sport was supplied with an original case.

It was possible to take pictures without removing the device completely, only by folding back the front-upper part of the case.

Attitude towards the camera.

Sport is a completely unusual device with its own charm. This "tadpole" will adorn any collection.

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