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Camera Elikon-35SM review

Today, we are focusing on one of the representatives of the large and diverse family of Belarusian Elikon cameras. Namely - Elikon-35SM.
Perhaps I'm wrong, but in my personal opinion, in the region of the 90s of the last century, the Russian photo industry finally surrendered all its positions, not because of the lack of domestic high-level DSLRs in the range of domestic high-level DSLRs. The market was captured by banal Japanese soap dishes.

The mass consumer does not need checkers, he needs to go. At that time, minilabs had already begun to appear in which it was possible to develop film and print photographs from it. Moreover, in color!

At one time, I did not dare to try color film. The process of development and subsequent printing seemed very difficult to me.

And here the beauty - the pictures are in color, and dancing with tambourines is not needed at all.

Cameras corresponding to the moment appeared. Those same soap dishes. A wide angle that fits everything. Hyperfocal. Auto exposure. DX-code sensitivity input. Built-in flash. Motorized feed and rewind.

All that remains for the user is to click on the button. The snapshot will be taken in almost any conditions.

Is the lens primitive and wide angle distorting the picture? Come on, now 99.9% of photographs in the world are taken by phones, which have an EGF of the same simple lens just about 28 mm. Auto-focus in phone lenses has appeared relatively recently. And before that, everything was fine with everyone.

In general, amateur (I emphasize - amateur) photography from a certain destiny of selected enthusiastic specialists immediately turned into a massive, casual and not burdensome occupation for everyone. In the west, it happened earlier, but in Russia, as far as I remember, just in the 90s.

The owners of DSLRs simply disappeared into the mass of people with soap dishes who just needed photographs and who received these photographs without any squats.

I remember that until the mid-90s, there were two or three people with cameras at school at any other event. In the second half of the 90s, every third person had a soap dish under similar conditions.

By the way, now this process has reached its climax, because exactly everyone is filmed on the phone. Despite the availability of a wide selection of inexpensive and technically very advanced DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, consumers vote with a ruble and choose which is simpler.

And in those very 90s, the post-Soviet photo industry could not offer a competitive soap box to the consumer. And that's why I lost the market. IMHO, of course.

True, for some time, devices for a mass non-professional user were nevertheless developed, produced and deservedly in demand.

Interestingly, BelOMO was the leader in this segment. It was this association that was supposed to close the segment of simple cameras.

Back in the 1973-1985 period, BelOMO produced a line of devices under the general name Viliya, including such models as:
- Viliya-auto (automatic exposure with fixed exposure bars);
- Silhouette-Electro (automatic with aperture priority);
- Orion-EE (shutter priority automatic).

In the early 80s, the Viliya line was replaced by the Elikon line. The peculiarity of the new family of devices is that, in addition to the automatic exposure, they were equipped with a built-in flash.

The Elikon range is wide and not all models have a flash built in. Some models assumed the presence of a system removable flash in the kit, for example, as in this photo Elikon-1 with an attached flash Elektronika FE-29. Photo from
I suppose they made the flash detachable so as not to increase the size of the emphatically miniature device in conditions where it is not necessary.

There were also models designed exclusively for an external random flash.

Nevertheless, most of the Elikon models are associated with the presence of a built-in or complete flash unit, which, of course, seriously improves the consumer properties of a simple device.
Elikon devices were produced within the framework of BelOMO at two enterprises, and the assortment did not overlap.

In one of the very first articles on my website, I described the Elikon-Autofocus device - the only Soviet really produced camera with autofocus. This device was produced at the MMZ im. S. Vavilov in Minsk. But the hero of today's review, Elikon-35SM, was made at the Zenit plant in the city of Vileika.

The Elikon line began with the Orion-35C project, she is in this photo from

Despite the name "Orion", the device is more similar to Viliya-Auto by the principle of exposure control, because operates with fixed exposure bars.

The camera went into production with minor changes and now under the name Elikon-35C. I wonder what the "C" means? "Light"?…

The release of the Elikon-35S began in 1983, and for that time the device was quite progressive.
Collectors have identified quite a few modifications of the Elikon-35C, especially taking into account the installation parties, I will not dwell on the listing in detail. All the differences boiled down to a change in design, lettering and other cosmetics.

There was, for example, such an option in a transparent (!!!) plastic case.
There were export versions with the Latin name - Elicon-35CM. It is interesting that the letter "C" was not replaced by the Latin "S".

In 1989, the device was more deeply modernized, and a version of the Elikon-35SM, which we are talking about, was released. The overhaul consisted of a redesign and the addition of a manual exposure control mode. The previous model only had a automat.

There were also several modifications of the Elikon-35SM, and the differences were also purely cosmetic. Here, for example, there is an option in a gray case

Here is the export option. Photo from
The review presents a copy in excellent condition with the number 9151838. Here we will consider it in more detail.

Camera Elikon-35SM

Elikon-35SM was produced by BelOMO at the Zenit plant in the city of Vileika in 1989-1991.

The volume of the issue was 128 thousand copies. By Soviet standards, this is quite a bit, but for the situation of those years it was a decent amount.

Scale apparatus, focusing on a distance scale.

Fixed lens Industar-95 2.8 / 38. MDF = 1 meter.

The shutter is combined with the diaphragm and is electronically controlled.

In programmed mode, it beats fixed exposure pairs from 1/8 + f2.8 to 1/500 + f16. You cannot change combinations of shutter speeds and apertures in auto mode.
There is also a manual iris control mode. In this case, the shutter speed will always be 1/125.

The same 1 / 125th is the sync speed and will always be when the flash is activated. But the device will set the aperture itself, based on the sensitivity of the film and the distance to the object.

The built-in flash has a guide number of 10 at ISO 100 film speed.

Elikon-35SM is not equipped with a self-timer or an accessory bracket.

The weight of my copy with batteries is 376 grams.
Control elements:

The body of the device is angular, but the ergonomics are not bad. Elikon-35SM is confidently in the hands. The release button is in place. The back wall is covered with textured soft backing. There is little room to the right of the lens for a right-handed grip, but the proper sag on the body makes shooting comfortable, even when using one hand.
The design of the Elikon-35SM is quite modern, relative to the time of release, and is not devoid of style.

A large flash reflector immediately catches the eye in the front of the device.

Under the reflector there is a sliding button for activating the flash. If the button is moved to the lens, the flash rises slightly and starts charging.

The flash has a guide number of 10 at ISO 100 film speed. You can get a better understanding of what the flash guide number means from a dedicated article.

In general, the flash of the Elikon-35SM is rather low-power, but it is sufficient for solving most amateur tasks. My D800 has a built-in flash guide number, if memory serves, 12 at 100 ISO.

The flash lift is very small. This is more a symbol than a real reference of the reflector from the axis of the lens. When the flash is ready for shooting, you can tell by the illuminated lamp on the rear panel to the right of the viewfinder.

Simultaneously with raising the flash, a mode is activated in which the aperture switches simultaneously with the rotation of the focus ring on the lens.

Even lower on the left is the arcuate switch for the operating modes of the diaphragm. The up position of the switch activates the programmable switch. By moving the switch below, you can turn off the machine and set a specific aperture to choose from. The shutter speed will always be 1/125.

For manual setting, only apertures starting at f4 are available. You cannot manually open the aperture to its maximum.

Film sensitivity is set by a ribbed ring around the objective lens.

A window with sensitivity scales is placed above the lens. DIN and ISO units are available.

Under the lens is a peephole with a cadmium sulfide (CdS) photoresistor for the metering system.

The focusing ring on the lens has no distance symbols and does not have a DOF scale.

The bottom panel contains:
- tripod socket;
- shutter release button when rewinding the film;
- battery compartment cover.

Elikon-35SM is powered by two AA AA batteries.
Behind the viewfinder peephole and to the right of it is the flash-ready lamp.

The viewfinder of the Elikon-35SM is good. It gives a large toned picture. There are framing frames in the field of view and a still bright red lamp in the upper left corner, which lights up when half-pressed in case the camera cannot find the desired exposure.

The sliding door unlocking button is also located at the back, on the door itself.

On the top panel, we have from left to right:
- rewind head with tape measure;
- release button;
- lever for moving the frame and cocking the shutter;
- frame counter window.
The release button is well located and has a moderately firm and even stroke.

The hammer is cocked easily, has a "ready" position, but it would not hurt to hide it a little in the relief of the body.

Camera attitude

Elikon-35SM was, I think, the king of Soviet parties.

With it, a flash always ready to use, indispensable under dim kitchen lamps.

The shutter speed of 1/125 will allow you to avoid shaking even in not very firm hands after another toast.

The FR of the 38 mm lens will allow at the very least to cram everyone into the frame in a cramped room.

And the diaphragm clamped by the automatics at close range will add depth of field and forgive some focusing flaws.

It would be very interesting to try the camera in action. I will definitely try it.

In principle, the Soviet photographic industry correctly and in time caught the trend of miniaturization and automation of amateur cameras.

Looking at cameras like Elikon-35SM you involuntarily think, but could everything have turned out differently? Could the post-Soviet photographic industry have picked up the not very prestigious, but super-mass market of soap boxes in the 90s and early 2000s?

Alas, this was impossible.

No matter how simple a photo-soap dish is, its creation requires high-quality and cheap digital electronics, miniature and reliable electric motors, compact flashes.

The domestic industry did not know how to do all this. The lag in this area began long ago and by the 80s it had become completely irreversible.

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