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Helios lens

Camera Zenith review

One of the earliest reviews on my website - dated February 11, 2017 - was about the Zenit-S camera.

The resource that I maintain is, to a large extent, just a blog. Although I mostly stick to the chronology of camera releases, articles often also appear in the order in which my collection is replenished. Consequently, the evolution of my passion also has an impact on the chronology of articles.

It so happened that in photographic equipment I am more interested in the technical side of the issue, and not in rare numbers and other collection troubles.

Although this is already too :o) To live with wolves ... ..

But about 4 years ago, just starting to maintain a website, I definitely preferred more technically advanced models within the same line.

By the way, more functional models were, as a rule, later, and therefore, it was easier and cheaper to find them. Again, a plus.

So, within the framework of the first Zenith, at first it was Zenit-S that fell into my hands.

Well, you can consider it an independent apparatus, I agree, but the fact remains that it was the first.

Now, as the collection fills up, it is interesting for me to gradually eliminate the gaps and gaps. Therefore, the appearance of "simple" Zenith on the pages of the site was only a matter of time. And the time has come!

So, Zenith is the first Soviet post-war single-lens reflex camera. Just the first was the pre-war Sport. I have a great article on it. Recommend.

Zenith began to be produced in 1952.

When developing the device, much attention was paid to issues of economy and unification. The Mirror Zenith was designed on the basis of the Zorkiy rangefinder, which was already mass-produced at that time.

The shutter and most of the body remained from Zorkoy. The rangefinder and viewfinder were removed, the mirror shaft and a fixed pentaprism were added.

The type of attachment of optics, from the same imagination of economy, was left on the M39, as on Zorkom. True, the DSLR now had a mirror in front of the shutter, and the lens inevitably moved further away from the film. Increased working distance.

Therefore, optics for Zenith were still created new. Despite the same thread, the lenses from Zorky did not fit the Zenith and vice versa. You can screw it on, but you can't use it.

Also, for some reason, the working length of Zenith was chosen non-standard at 45.2 mm, although at that time there were already quite a few foreign optics with a working length of 45.5 mm.

Moreover, there was no official explanation for the working length of exactly 45.2 mm.

These two very controversial decisions about the thread diameter and the working length created a lot of problems in the future, both for users and for the enterprise itself.

I have a small article on this topic. If interested, check it out.

In general, Zenith was not copied from any particular foreign device. The fact that Zorkiy of the first model is a copy of Leica II, I think, does not play a role in this case.

At the time of its release, in 1952, the Zenit was the only Soviet single-lens reflex camera. Of course, there was an alternative in the face of imported cameras, imported incl. from the GDR. But I suppose that the Zenith was still more affordable.

Of the rangefinders, Zorkiy-3 was a worthy opponent. However, rangefinders were then considered the main branch, and DSLRs were considered additional.

Zenit-S came out in 1955. In addition to the synchrocontact (it is precisely its presence that the letter “C” in the name means), the device has received several improvements.

Of the most noticeable to the user is the shutter speed head of a new design, as on the more modern Zorkiy-2. It became possible to change shutter speeds both with the shutter cocked and with the shutter released. The shutter release has moved from a separate lever to a sleeve around the release button.

Synchrocontact, by the way, had a flash ignition lead time controller.

Collectors distinguish quite a few varieties of the first Zenith.

Serial models differ from each other not so much. The difference is mainly in the number and location of the screw heads on the case, in the styles of writing the numbers.

Until 1954, the KMZ logo on the pentaprism was convex. Somewhere around the 54th, they switched to an indented version of the logo.

Zenith prototypes look very interesting. Such, for example. Photo from Pay attention to the angular casing of the pentaprism and the lens - an adapted shortened version of the folding Industar-22.

There were several prototypes, but they are incredibly rare and it makes no sense to bring their photos here.

The lust of collectors is such an early production sample. They were released by several hundred in 1952-53. It is also almost impossible to meet such a person, but it seems to be possible. Terribly expensive, of course. Photo from

I saw an offer once. The only question is if it's fake.

The main distinguishing feature is that the name is displayed in large angular letters and surrounded by a rectangular frame.

In addition, the lower rounded part of the mirror shaft is covered with leather. They write with leather, although the rest of the textured parts are vulcanite. I didn't see it myself.

And, of course, the raised logo.

For my taste, this design of the name is more pleasant than the mass one.

Today we have in our review a quite ordinary copy of the Zenith of 1955 with the number 5506848. According to the classification, this is a modification of PM3115.

The copy is in excellent condition and now we will consider it.

But first I would like to thank everyone who helps the project to develop. You can also subscribe to the Boosty platform and provide some easy but very important support right now. Join now!

Camera Zenit-1
Zenit was produced at KMZ from 1952 to 1956. The total issue amounted to about 39 thousand copies.

Regular lens - Industar-22 3.5 / 50 or Industar-50 3.5 / 50

Type of mounting optics - thread M39×1. Working length 45.2 mm.

The shutter is curtain, cloth. Beats shutter speeds 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500, V.

The size of the viewfinder image field is 20x28 mm.

The type of focusing screen is frosted glass.

Eyepiece magnification - 5x.

The camera is not equipped with a self-timer, sync contact, or accessory bracket.

The weight of my copy with a standard lens is 598 grams.


Zenith is compact and quite comfortable in the hands. It is comfortable, if necessary, to hold with one right hand and press the trigger.

There is only a lens on the front. In this case, this is the leash Industar-22.

Behind - a large round eye of the viewfinder. The viewfinder image does not cover the entire frame. The size of the viewfinder image field - 20x28 mm - these are the very famous 65% that will haunt the mass models of Zeniths right up to the 2000s.

When composing the frame, you need to take into account that a little more picture will fit along the edges of the negative. However, manual photo printing made it easy to cut off the excess, if it is so critically needed.

The picture in the viewfinder is very large and very bright.

I don't know how it happens, the specifications for Zenit and Zenit-E (and others) show the same eyepiece magnification of 5x. The first Zenith has a larger picture.

And lighter, despite the fact that the regular Industar has a lower aperture than Helios-44.

The frosted glass does not have any focusing aids, although it does give a fairly visual representation of sharp/unsharp areas on its own.

All controls are concentrated on the top panel.

From left to right there are:
- rewind lifting head;
- shutter speed head;
- release button;
- in front of the button there is a lever to turn off the shutter during rewind;
- head cocking the shutter and transporting the frame with a frame counter.

To change the shutter speed, you need to raise the crown, turn to the desired value and release. The risk-index is located to the left of the head on a semicircular light section of the pentaprism casing.

You can change shutter speeds only when the shutter is cocked! When the shutter is cocked, the shutter speed head rotates, and the index indicates the correct shutter speed only if the shutter is cocked.

Mirror Zenith - "sticky". In the working position, it falls only after cocking the shutter. When the shutter is released, nothing is visible in the viewfinder.

This feature made the use of the mirror Zenith specific and not very convenient.

The fact is that the device could not be stored for a long time with the shutter cocked. Weakened spring.

Therefore, it was assumed that the shutter would be cocked immediately before shooting.

But the cocking head has such an arrangement and shape that to bring the device into a position ready for shooting, 3 interceptions of the head are required. In one movement, it is difficult to turn it more than 1/3 of the desired turn.

In addition, as we remember, you can change the shutter speed only when the shutter is cocked.

When an interesting scene for a picture appeared, it was too long to do all these operations. It means that the preparation was carried out all the same in advance.

And if the reason for the picture came up, then the shutter had to be released empty.

On the bottom of the device there is a bottom cover lock (left) and an old standard 3/8-inch tripod socket (right).

To load the film, you need to open the lock and remove the bottom panel. On the left, it is fixed with a lock, and on the right, it is put on a pin on the side of the device.

Even under the mirror shaft there is a folding stop, which allows you to install the camera on a horizontal surface along with a more massive lens than the regular Industar.

Attitude to the camera:

Zenith is not just another instance in the collection. This is one of the milestones at the beginning of an entire era. Epochs of rapid development, subsequent stagnation and extinction of the Soviet photo industry.

That's all I have

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