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Helios lens


Small format SLR camera is a more advanced model of Zenit-3. Where in its name Zenit-3M - the letter "M" means modernized. In the period from 1962 to 1970, 781,678 copies were produced. At that time, Zenit-3m was quite modern and, what is important, a compact SLR camera. It enjoyed a decent demand abroad, or rather outside the borders of the iron dome, and this is very important since Zenith has never been so interesting outside the USSR.

That only is the cover in Photo-Art magazine (1963), a portrait of the reporter Ouija.

Thanks to the high praise of professional photographers and reporters in capitalist countries, the Zenith brand was formed. The residents of Krasnogorsk no longer wanted to change the name, since the whole world knew what kind of Zenit camera it was. It is known that Zenit-3 was supposed to be the last camera with the name Zenith. This is evidenced by the Crystal (1962-64) and Start (1958-64) cameras - they took a separate place in the history of KMZ cameras.

Specifications Zenit-3M:

  • Camera.
  • Film type - 135 (24 x 36).
  • The sighting mirror is sticking.
  • The mirror sets in motion a metal mechanism.
  • The viewfinder displays 64.5% of the frame. (20 X 28).
  • Viewfinder magnification 5x.
  • Focal-plane shutter. Excerpts 30-60-125-250-500 - "B" - "D".
  • The back cover hinges open.
  • Kurkovaya platoon.
  • Self-timer.
  • The standard lens could be Industar-50 or Helios-44.
  • Actual weight with Helios-44 lens is 850 grams.
  • Actual weight with the Industar-50 lens is 575 grams.
  • Threaded mount for optics M39.

Ergonomics and design:

The first thing you come across is the small size of the camera, in the hands it is excellent. The right hand simply wraps around Zenith. A kind of piece of aluminum with smooth contours. For example Zenit-E and its brothers in comparison with Zenit-3M coffins! Someone will say that 3M is an archaic camera, but I will say a classic. The camera looks especially interesting with the same compact (as now many think ridiculous) Industar-50 3.5 / 50 lens. In many respects, this device owes to the rangefinder camera 1 Zorkiy-6, some units are borrowed and their bodies are similar.

The ergonomics are so simple that it would seem that even a child can take pictures quite successfully. The trigger for a comfortable cocking is serrated, thanks to which the finger does not slip.

The only thing that slows down the photographing process a little is the shutter speed dial. It is designed in such a way that you cannot change the shutter speed quickly, without taking your eyes off the viewfinder. Although the design itself is simple, the shutter speed knob must be pulled up (1.) and rotated to the desired value (2.) so that the shutter speed is opposite the point. One more note, the head does not rotate 360 ​​°.

As for the modernization itself, the main wishes of buyers and design flaws were taken into account. Namely, the back cover, in comparison with the previous Zenits, opens on hinges, for example, in Zenit-3, in order to install the film, it was necessary to suffer a lot, since the charging was carried out through the lower panel of the device (hello Liaca II-FED-Zorky). This solution simplified charging several times, although we had to slightly increase the weight and dimensions of the device itself.

As for the main drawback, in the previous Zenits (C, 3), the sighting mirror was brought into the working position by a nylon thread (indicated in the photo below by an arrow !!).

It would seem that everything is clear, the nylon thread cannot give us high reliability and reduces the uptime of the Zenit camera. The repair of this unit is very scrupulous and takes a lot of time, adjustment is generally a headache. Although in fact the problem is a little deeper, in addition to reliability, nylon itself is not a stable material. It is subject to deformation, in our case, a change in its properties (TTX) and the length of the thread, depending on the temperature. At negative temperatures, the thread pulled together, and at high positive temperatures, vice versa. Therefore, it was necessary to resolve the issue radically, the thread was replaced with a metal knot.

The main drawback of the golden era of the Zenith (1952 to 62, before Zenith-E) was the sticking property of the mirror. The fact is that the drive and mechanism of the mirror could not provide an automatic return of the mirror to the working position, as on all modern SLR cameras. Only after the trigger was cocked did the mirror take up the working position and only then it was possible to focus through the viewfinder, at rest the mirror covered the viewfinder.

Although this problem was solved with the release of Zenit-E, some owners complained that the constant sight mirror was not such a necessary function !! This is explained by several factors. At the Zenith-3M and its predecessors, you can always understand when the hammer is cocked - this is extremely convenient for amateurs. It is also possible to note the quieter operation of the mechanism in the zenith-3M (light cotton), while at the subsequent zeniths it emitted a specific canning sound. The issue of weight and size worried reporters.2

Another so-called drawback is the absence of any device that helps to determine the brightness-illumination of the scene being shot. TTL is even out of the question. For amateurs, the need for this device is beyond doubt, and attempts to build in a selenium exposure meter were made even before the appearance of Zenit-3M, but they did not appear in a serial device.3 Although the idea to introduce an exposure meter into Zenit-3M was still in vogue, it was still not implemented. now one can only guess about the reasons, but it is necessary to note the obvious rise in the cost of the camera with this device. Since significant changes were required in the design of the upper frame of the device's body, not to mention the high cost of the assembly itself (by the standards of that time).

Zenit-3M has a good and clean viewfinder, it displays 64.5% of the frame, which is extremely small by our standards. A fivefold hobby helps to smooth out the lack of covered area and for the 60s this figure was not bad. It is necessary to mentally frame the frame, taking into account that the boundaries of all four sides in the viewfinder are significantly less than what will be recorded on the film.

The curtain-slit shutter fulfills a very good range of exposures, again by the standards of the 60s. Short exposure is limited to 500, then 250-125-60-30- "B" - "D". Synchronization with flash is possible at 60. "B" - freehand shutter speed (for which it is recommended to use a release cable) and "D" - long exposure. A similar curtain shutter works in the Zorky-6 rangefinder camera, the same set of shutter speeds for both devices is evident (although this does not mean anything yet), some units are unified.

The mechanism is trouble-free and reliable, it is a great success to meet the dead bolt on Zenit-3M. Incorrect operation of the camera can lead to its breakdown; in severe frosts, amateurs make unnecessary efforts to cocking the mechanism, or simply try to re-cock.

Standard lens Industar-50 3.5 / 50 (copy of Tessar 3.5 / 50) and rarely Helios-44 (copy of Carl Zeiss Biotar 2/58). Helios-44 could be both produced by KMZ and Belomo (as in the photo - Helios-44 zebra) - the workmanship of both is excellent. Both lenses have a M39 threaded mount and a 45.2mm flange focal distance; they can be mounted on digital SLR cameras through an adapter ring.


Zenit-3m can not only collect dust on the shelf, but also shake the old days and perhaps even very successfully. Definitely photography will not be in a hurry, since there is no exposure meter and you need to have a pocket one with you. No matter how they "spit", but in tandem with Industar you can get quite decent photos, another thing is that the ergonomics of the lens itself leaves much to be desired. But together with him you can secretly take pictures, anyway, no one will take this camera seriously.

1. A little-known fact that the first Zenith SLR camera is nothing more than a Zorkiy rangefinder camera with a built-in mirror. Zenit-3M has the same concept.

2. The problem is, in principle, sucked from the finger, since not a small part of photojournalists used medium-format photographic equipment, and its weight and dimensions were far from perfect.

3. There was such a prototype as Crystal-2, it had a selenium exposure meter. An earlier Zenith prototype with a selenium exposure meter was Zenith-L.
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