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Helios lens

Camera Zenit-15M (BelOMO) review and instructions

Zenit-15M is a Belarusian post-Soviet SLR camera. It was produced in the 90s. Everyone knows that many cameras originally developed at KMZ, after some time, were transferred to an optical-mechanical plant in the Belarusian city of Vileika. This plant was part of BelOMO and was even named without any special undertakings - "Zenith".

Not the newest and not the most complex models were transferred to Zenit. But, with the already worked out technological process. Krasnogorsk specialists helped to establish production.

Thus, the production of inexpensive SLR photographic equipment, which was always in short supply in the USSR, increased.

Zenit-E is the first example of such cooperation with KMZ. At KMZ, this device began to be produced in 1965, and at BelOMO - in 1973-75.

Similarly, such models as Zenit-11, Zenit-ET, Zenit-TTL were transmitted.

However, there was always cooperation-cooperation, but there was always competition between Soviet enterprises as well. The factories were still reluctant to share technologies. The teams for the transfer of documentation came "from above".

Most of the DSLR models transferred to BelOMO had a selenium unpaired exposure meter. The cameras mass-produced at the Zenit plant belonged to the class of entry-level devices.

By 1990, before the collapse of the USSR, of the above models, BelOMO continued to produce, I think, only Zenit-ET in large quantities. Even Zenit-TTL, which could also appear on BelOMO under the name Zenit-15, was for some reason closed by the beginning of the 90s, and, moreover, long ago - in 1985, apparently.

Zenit-ET was a completely outdated device, of course. In the segment of entry-level DSLRs, TTL metering and LEDs in the viewfinder have long become a mandatory norm.

Zenit-12sd at KMZ has been produced since 1983, and in 1990 Zenit-122 was released.

Whether the documentation for the 12th series was transferred from KMZ to BelOMO is not known for sure. On the historical site of KMZ, such an opportunity is allowed.

Nevertheless, before the collapse of the USSR, the devices of the 12th series were not produced at BelOMO.

By the end of the 80s, the Zenit plant needed a more modern apparatus, and they mastered the production of DSLRs, which, in fact, were close to Zenit-12sd or Zenit-122. It was Zenit-15M, or, more precisely, a whole group of vehicles under this collective name.

The Belarusian apparatus was not a complete copy of either one or the other.

The logic of updating the design that everyone had bored over 25 years was in the air, and just as KMZ modernized the design of the 12th series in Zenit-122, BelOMO also covered the body of its device with plastic panels in its own design.

The pull lever unit and the frame counter looked like the Zenit-12sd, then the Zenit-122. The most common option is the first. He's in review.

In addition, the very first Zenit-15M prototypes had a shutter speed range from 1 s to 1/1000 s. Very ambitious.

What kind of shutter was there and what its history is, I do not know. If this is an improved variation on the classic Zenith mechanical shutter, then the attempt is very interesting. After all, there is nothing fantastic about it.

True, something went wrong and the bulk (the overwhelming majority) of the family's devices have a shutter speed range of 1/30 - 1/500, i.e. full analogue of Zenit-12sd, for example.

Rarely under different names there are options with an additional exposure of 1/1000. Photo from sovietcams.com.

Actually, even this small difference would have allowed the Belarusian Zeniths to look good against the background of the 12th Krasnogorsk series. 1/1000 is a useful shutter speed.

But all this remained unfulfilled.
Camera Zenit-15M
The Zenit-15M camera was produced at BelOMO in 1988-1996. The first couple of years, apparently, were spent trying to create a device with a wider range of shutter speeds. Since the 90s, there have already been massive variations on the Zenit-12sd theme.

The volume of the issue is unknown to me.

Standard lens - Helios-44M-X 2/58 of various modifications. In my case - MS HELIOS-44M-7 and such a set is not uncommon.

Lens mount - thread М42 × 1. The working distance is 45.5 mm. Blinking aperture supported.

The shutter is made of cloth, focal plane with a horizontal movement. Beats shutter speeds (mass modifications): 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, V.

Flash sync at 1/30 wired and via the center sync pin.

Viewfinder image field size - 20 × 28 mm or 65% of the frame area.

Focusing screen type - Fresnel lens with frosted ring and micro-raster. There are no wedges in my version.

The device is equipped with a self-timer.

The weight of my copy without the lens is 570 grams.

Control elements:

The design of the Zenit-15M is similar, in general terms, to the Zenit-122. The pentaprizna casing is wide and squat. Plastic overlays on the body. In front, under the fingers of the right hand, a rush for a more secure grip.

It all looks good.

At the same time, the materials of the casing panels of the Zenit-15M were selected much more expensive and of high quality!

The rear door of the Belarusian Zenith is metal, not plastic. The surface of the case is not glossy, but nicely textured. The textures of the plastic and metal elements are very similar, and the plastic itself is well matched. In some places, you will not immediately realize that it is metal or plastic.

The build quality and fit of the parts give me no complaints.

The only thing that the 15th lacks against the Zenit-122 is an influx under the thumb on the back wall.

No, I filmed most of my film practice on Zenit-12sd and I'm fine. But holding the Zenit-122 is still much more convenient.

On the front panel on the right, you can see the jack for the wired sync pin

Below is the self-timer. The button that starts the countdown is yellow, and below it, uh ... Lever? .. In general, there is a semicircular part that performs the function of the self-timer cocking lever.

Normal with T. ergonomics and an element of novelty is. Technically, though, it's still the same standard self-timer with a lever and a button.

On the back is the eyepiece of the viewfinder, and to the left of it is the battery compartment cover.

The device according to the passport is designed to be powered from the 4RTs53 section.

At the same time, in my battery compartment there was a plastic sleeve with an internal spring for four SC-32 batteries. The instructions do not say about such a possibility. Unclear.

As a result, I quite successfully powered the device from the 4LR44.
By the way, the battery compartment cover is not rotatable, but sliding.

The Zenit-15M viewfinder is, in general, similar to the Zenit-122. Only there are no wedges. I don't know if this is a common feature of the whole family or if there are variations.

The lack of wedges is a pity.

Metering indication LEDs - located horizontally at the top of the viewfinder. Like Zenit-122, there are three of them, they are two-color. The central one is green, the side ones (made in the form of arrows) are red.

The system is activated by half-pressing the shutter button.

The bottom of the device is only a tripod socket. It is at the bottom of the mirror shaft, but not on the axis of the lens.

Above the Zenith-15M from left to right are:
  • - film sensitivity selector (DIN / ISO) with a rewind tape placed in the center;
  • - bracket for flashes with synchrocontact;
  • - the head of excerpts;
  • - release button;
  • - around the shutter release button there is a falling shutter release sleeve for rewinding;
  • - head for cocking the shutter and transporting the frame with a frame counter.

Sensitivity and shutter speed selection heads are made of metal. They are large, tall and well knurled. It's nice to hold on straight.

The release button is very, very tight. On my Zenit-122 - softer.

The calculation of the exposure at Zenit-15M is as follows:

1. On the selector, it is necessary to set the sensitivity of the film loaded into the apparatus.

2. We direct the camera to the object of the shooting and press the shutter button to some tangible stop, but not completely.

3.The blinking aperture is closed and the electronic light metering and exposure calculation system is activated. The light level is measured at the working diaphragm.

4. We look at the LEDs in the viewfinder.

If the left one is on, there is little light. You need to either increase the shutter speed or open the aperture.

If the right is on, there is a lot of light. You need to either reduce the shutter speed or cover the aperture.

The extreme LEDs are made in the form of arrows and everything is selected so that both the aperture ring and the shutter speed head must be rotated in the direction the arrow points to. Everything is intuitively simple.
You can change both the shutter speed and aperture when the shutter button is half pressed, i.e. the diaphragm will change immediately in the working position, and the exposure metering will work.

The optimal exposure is when the central green LED lights up. It is also normal for the LEDs to switch from one to the other with any change in exposure.

The back wall lock is hidden; to open it, you need to pull up the rewind knob.

Attitude towards the camera.

Zenit-15M is a very successful device. I like it. It looks more modern than Zenit-12sd, and is much more pleasant tactilely than Zenit-122. In the 90s, I would have bought it with pleasure.

If the Belarusians were able to burn down a shutter speed of 1/1000 into their camera, even without additional long ones, they would have come out just a great option.

That's all for me. Good luck!

PS If you have a Zenit-15M camera and there is a lens on it, you can use this lens on your digital camera. Both on mirrored and mirrorless. Full frame and crop.

Look for your lens in the table of contents of my site, maybe there are some subtleties that are worth knowing.

But in any case, you will need an adapter for your photo system.
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