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Camera Zenit-KM review

Perhaps someone does not know about the existence of such a camera as Zenit-KM. Not the most famous model. Meanwhile, this device is remarkable for many reasons at once. For example, Zenit-KM is the last Zenit film camera. Here's how.
Yes, today we will end our tour of the evolution of Zenith. Reviews on this brand will still be, of course, but as the local "gaps" in the collection are filled. The chronological sequence, which I have adhered to all the time for the Zenith, will be completed today.

My first review of Zenith (It was Zenit-S) came out in February 2017. Time flies, however.

But we got distracted.

Early 2000s. The country is going through the consequences of the 1998 crisis with might and main. By this time, KMZ is producing a "bouquet" of budget DSLRs Zenit-122, -212k, -312m, -412DX.

The plant does not produce anything more complicated. The advanced Zenit-APK was discontinued in 1998, the simpler Zenit-AM - a year later in 1999.

But there are many different projects. Projects are technically more complex than the other.

Here, for example, is the description of the ZENIT-Super-P project given on the website

“The model was planned as a base for the subsequent family. The terms of reference for the development of 1989 included: a standard lens with a variable focal length of 35-135 mm, a focal lamella shutter (from 32 to 1/2000 s, full opening at 1/125 s), a built-in electric drive, multi-program exposure processing, passive autofocus system, autozoom, digital indication in the sight and on the external LCD, built-in pop-up flash, removable back cover with a date printing device, sight with diopter adjustment. "

For 1989, it is very progressive, it should be noted. Photo of ZENIT-Super-P could not be found.

And here is another project from that time. Zenit-4000. I do not have a description for it, but there are several images from the site

It can be seen that the device is quite saturated with electronics. The unusual shape of the case, I think, is due to the need to accommodate a rather long information display on the top panel.

But by the 2000s, it was already quite clear to everyone that all these projects were impracticable. The enterprise is simply not able to make such advanced devices. The Soviet photo industry is categorically not on friendly terms with complex electronics.
It was impossible to live forever in parallel universes, and the management of the enterprise set the task to create, nevertheless, an apparatus that seems to be modern, but which can be physically produced and, most importantly, sold later for reasonable money.

The apparatus was named Zenit-KM, and “KM” means “Commercial model”.

There is information that the Zenit-KM is based on the Zenit-4000 concept, the photo of which I gave above.

Maybe so, but Zenit-KM was designed almost from scratch out of the need for austerity. The main task of the developers was to reduce the cost of the device to a minimum.
Literally all the components of the camera have been simplified. The designers abandoned the digital exposure display in the viewfinder's field of view. Only the standard LED indication remains.

The display on the case has been simplified by several orders of magnitude.

The body was first designed as an all-plastic chassis, without the usual metal chassis. All parts of the camera body were cast in a mold and supplied for assembly without additional processing.

The bayonet ring was also for the first time manufactured from an aluminum alloy by die casting.

Even such technological features as setting the film sensitivity by DX-code and motorized film advance - all of them were introduced primarily as a cheaper replacement for mechanical units for manual control.

A single engine is responsible for moving the film and cocking the shutter on the Zenit-KM, as a rule, separate ones were installed on imported DSLRs.

With a circulation of hundreds of thousands, the device could really become very technological and cheap.

But at the same time, the digital microprocessor control is applied in the camera. The number of unreliable tuning resistors used in older cameras has been reduced to zero. The adjustment was carried out automatically at a special stand.

The accuracy of automatic exposure determination has increased significantly.

The electronic self-timer has returned to the unit. Finally, there is a full-fledged exposure memory.

In general, the designers managed to achieve their goals. The result was an absolutely innovative apparatus for the Soviet (already post-Soviet, of course) photographic industry. Judge for yourself: shutter speeds from 1 to 1/2000, automatic and semi-automatic modes to choose from, digital electronics, motor pull, some indication on the case, input of sensitivity by DX-code.

Another thing is that in 2001 it all looked sluggish anyway.

And not because the mass Russian consumer bought cool Japanese DSLRs, which by that time had already reached the peak of technical perfection.

Not at all for this.

Zenit-KM looked sluggish, first of all, against the background of Japanese soap dishes, which completely occupied the segment of the budget photo. And by the 2000s, these point-and-shoot cameras could be equipped not only with built-in flashes and date imprinting, but also with zoom and real autofocus.

Nevertheless, Zenit-KM could have had some success, but, as has already happened many times, circumstances failed.

The device was launched on sale with a crude firmware, because of which the device very quickly declared completely fresh batteries "dead" and refused to remove them.

There were also several other purely "childhood diseases", both in mechanics and electronics.

Literally a month after the start, sales were stopped and the unsold remains of Zenit-KM were returned to the plant.

The firmware was patched up and sales resumed in early 2002. Further, the design was constantly being finalized.

In general, the device missed a small chance to become popular in the early 2000s, against the background of the post-crisis.

In 2004, Zenit-KM got rid of most of the shortcomings and became quite efficient. In order to somehow distance the new releases from the previous ones, the devices began to be labeled Zenit-KMplus.

Zenit-KMplus, in principle, can be considered a relatively independent model and then it will be the last film camera of the Zenit brand, but this model has not received any expansion of functionality. In principle, there is no difference, only better performance.
Alas, by 2004, the era of digital photography was already rapidly developing. The Russian economy was on the rise, and there was no reason for amateur photographers to focus on the cheaper, but technologically lagging behind, film products of the domestic photo industry.

On November 24, 2004, the management of KMZ made a decision to curtail the production of all film cameras from 2005.

At the stage of production of Zenit-KM, there were several projects for the further development of its concept.

Zenit-KM1 was supposed to receive a date-imprinting device on the back cover. Photo from

Zenit-KM2 (KM / F) - a version of the camera with a built-in removable simplest unguided lamp. "F" in the name - Flash - flash. Photo from
Zenit-KM3 - a version of the camera with a modernized, towards simplification of the design, lamella shutter FZL-2000.

All these devices have remained in the projects.

And we move on to examining my copy.

Zenit-KM camera
Zenit-KM was produced at the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant (KMZ) from 2001 to 2004. From 2004 to 2005, production continued, but the devices were marked as Zenit-KMplus.

According to the data on the Web, the release of the device was 15,097 units. Apparently, these are the volumes of Zenit-KM. I do not know how many Zenit-KMplus were produced.

It is interesting that already in the region of 2010-2012, Zenit-KMplus devices could be purchased on the website of the official KMZ store. Apparently, the warehouse remains were being sold.

Standard lens - MC Zenitar-K-2 2/50.

Lens mount - K bayonet. Focal distance - 45.5 mm. Blinking aperture and open aperture metering are supported.

The shutter is electronically controlled focal.

In the automatic mode, shutter speeds from 16 sec to 1/2000 with a resolution of 1/16 EV are processed. In semi-automatic - 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, V ...

All shutter speeds are suitable for synchronization, no faster than 1/125.

Without batteries, the device does not work at all. There are no mechanical exposures.

The camera is equipped with a hot sync terminal.

There is an electronic self-timer with LED indication.

Viewfinder image field size - 22 × 33 mm (84% frame coverage)

Focusing screen type - Fresnel lens with micro-raster, matte ring and Doden wedges.

The weight of my copy with batteries without a lens is 570 grams.

Control elements:

Design Zenit-KM was awarded the diploma of the winner of the Russian national prize "Victoria" for the best work in 2000 in the field of design in the nomination "Product of the Year". Photo from

The device, in fact, differs from all previously manufactured products of KMZ. The appearance of Zenit-KM resembles modern DSLRs as much as possible. Fortunately, in those days it was no longer necessary to reinvent bicycles. The design of the film SLR camera is fully formed.
Although the case is completely plastic and there are no rubber pads on it, in principle, the device is quite confident in the hands, and it is convenient to use it.

The materials of the case do not give the impression of being expensive, but the build quality is not bad. Creaking and crunching do occur, but in moderation. Backlash during assembly is minimal. All controls function well.

In general, the Zenit-KM corps is not at all replete with governing bodies.

In front, in addition to the lens, there is only a red self-timer lamp on the left and a bayonet lock button on the right.

At the back there is a rectangular viewfinder eye and a window in the rear door, through which you can see if there is a cassette inside or not. The DX-system inscription reminds that the sensitivity is set automatically according to the DX-code.
Zenit-KM's viewfinder is slightly smaller than the best examples from KMZ, but still good. Large and light enough.

In the upper right part of the viewfinder there are 3 LEDs responsible for the exposure metering indication.

On the bottom panel we have a 1/4 inch tripod socket and a button for unlocking the rear door.

The battery compartment cover is also located on the lower right side. The device is powered by four AA batteries, or, simply, finger-type batteries.

The top panel of the Zenit-KM also looks rather deserted. On it, from left to right, are located:

- self-timer activation button;
- "hot" bracket for flashes;
- small informational indicator;
- large, but not high selector of exposure and shutter speed control modes;
- release button - in front of the selector on the forward flow;
- shaped rewind button - behind the selector.
Manual cocking of the Zenith-KM shutter is not needed. With batteries and unused film, the camera is always ready to shoot.

There is no separate power button for the device. Turning on occurs when you half-press the trigger. The half-press is clearly highlighted with a click.

After that, for some time, 10-15 seconds, the LEDs in the viewfinder will light up, and the numbers on the upper display will light up.
The selection of the exposure takes place according to a quite typical three-LED system.

If you press the button deeper, the shutter will be triggered and then the device will automatically extend the frame and cocking the shutter again.

If you hold your finger down on the button, the burst mode is activated. The camera will do up to 2 fps in the range of shutter speeds from 1/30 to 1/2000 s. At other exposures - with a corresponding delay. In the first second, due to the saving of time, up to 3 frames are made for the first film advance.

Pressing the self-timer button starts timing. The total delay is about 15 seconds. The front indicator flashes as the clock counts down. For 2 seconds from the trigger, the flashing frequency increases.

The device warns of the end of the tape in the cassette by flashing the number of the last shot. Rewinding is not automatically initiated, there is a special button for this.

The information indicator on the top panel is, by and large, a frame counter with two luminous digital characters. The indicator can also show several symbols, such as "the battery is dead", "no tape", "rewind is in progress", as well as several fault codes, but with tz. process of photographing, nothing useful, except for the frame number, it does not show.
This is functional minimalism.

To open Zenit-KM, you need to press the button on the bottom panel.

Attitude towards the camera.

Anyway, Zenit-KM is the most advanced Krasnogorsk film camera.

Another thing is that it was released very, very late. In the early 90s, Zenit-KM would definitely have been a success. It would be worthwhile to design it, and not the magical ZENIT-Super-P and Zenit-4000, which have remained a fairy tale. Best the enemy of the good.

Although, by the beginning of the 90s and simpler Zenit-agro-industrial complex created certain difficulties for the enterprise. Therefore, it happened as it happened.

In the 2000s, the device was banal late to its consumer. In 2005, when Zenit-KMplus was still available, I bought my first digital compact Canon-A95.

Moreover, in the process of choosing, I considered several much more interesting options, but, as often happens, the financial aspect won.

Nevertheless, I still find the pictures taken by the A95 during those years to be wonderful. The digital era had already come several years ago, and Zenith-KM, like all the KMZ film technology, did not find a place in it.

Should I buy Zenit-KM for shooting now? Controversial issue.

I took pictures with this device and I find it quite convenient. The motorized drive, normal ergonomics, automatic exposure control, a decent viewfinder, and the fastest shutter speed of 1/2000 are a good set of possibilities.

Late Zenit-KM or Zenit-KMplus can be found in good condition and very inexpensive.

On the other hand, Zenit-KM, after all, does not give a vintage feel. IMHO.

What is the point of shooting with an old camera and at the same time striving for motors and automatic modes? It doesn't seem very logical to me, although of course it's up to you to decide.

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