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Camera Smena-SL review

In 1963-64, two competing systems for simplified loading of film into a camera entered the foreign photo market at once.

The so-called "Type-126" from Kodak and "Rapid" from AGFA.

At that time, the functionality of simplified charging was considered a promising direction for camera manufacturers and enjoyed the attention of buyers.
Several such systems (Type-126, Rapid, APS) are described in more detail in my article about the Zorkiy-12 camera. The material is interesting, I recommend that you familiarize yourself.

In those years, the Soviet Union was a fairly strong player in the international photo market. The export volumes of photographic equipment were large and there was a demand for domestic products from foreign buyers.

Of course, the industry could not fail to respond to modern trends, and therefore three domestic enterprises at once received the task to develop a camera for the Rapid system.

Zorky-12 was created at KMZ.

MMZ prepared, but did not mass-produce the device Silhouette Rapid-Auto.

LOMO offered its own apparatus - Smena-Rapid.
Smena-Rapid, as a purely mechanical apparatus, was the simplest apparatus of those listed.

Zorky-12 we recently reviewed.

Silhouette Rapid-Auto is a very interesting development.

It was a semi-frame camera with automatic exposure control (selenium photocell around the lens) and a spring-driven frame advance and shutter cocking.

Interestingly, the device had two shutter buttons. When you press the first one, the automatic exposure control mode was worked out, the second one - a semiautomatic one with aperture priority.

The diaphragm control was located on the back of the apparatus.

Only prototypes of Silhouette Rapid-Auto were produced and they are extremely rare.

There was also a variant of the fully mechanical apparatus Silhouette Rapid. From, too, did not go beyond the prototype.

The Rapid system did not cause much excitement among the domestic consumer. Still, the concept has enough disadvantages, and the advantages are rather arbitrary.

Apparatuses were made for Rapid rather fashion than functional, but this approach is still alien to a very practical Soviet consumer.

We seldom sold Rapid tapes in cassettes.

In general, the serially produced Zorky-12 and Smena-Rapid were mainly export-oriented.

In 1969 LOMO received an order for a batch of Smena-Rapid for export to Germany. The customer demanded that the abbreviation SL was indicated in the title. The Schnell Lade (fast charging) system was the German equivalent of the Rapid.

The name of the device should have been talking about compatibility. This is how Smena-SL appeared - the hero of this review.

In addition to the name Smena-SL differs from Smena-Rapid in the presence of a flash block and synchrocontact. It is possible that the presence of a shoe was also a requirement of the customer. The rest of the devices are identical with T.Z. constructions.

The first releases of Smena-SL had the name in Latin letters (Smena-SL), embossed on the front of the body, serial numbers without indication of the year of manufacture and the value of the sensitivity on the lens in DIN units. This option is in the review, about it below.

Since 1970, the first two digits of the number began to indicate the year of manufacture.

Since 1972, the name of the device began to be applied in black paint and in Latin and Cyrillic. Photo from
To improve the Rapid line, LOMO created the Signal-Rapid and Signal-SL devices, respectively.

Both had automatic exposure control on an aperture-priority photoresistor. In addition, there was a position B on the aperture ring, at which the automatics were turned off and the shutter worked out manual exposure at the maximum open aperture. The devices required batteries; in the absence of power, the shutter speed 1/30 and manual aperture were worked out.
Photo from

Signal-Rapid and Signal-SL were not mass-produced and are extremely rare.

Everything is with history, and today we are considering the Smena-SL apparatus. The specimen is early, in excellent condition and has the number 14392.

Camera Smena-SL
Smena-SL was produced at LOMO (Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association) from 1970 to 1977. The numbering of the devices was common with Smena-Rapid, and therefore the volume of production of exactly -SL is unknown. Both models have produced about 600 pieces together.

The standard lens is a fixed triplet T-43 4/40. Three lenses in three groups.

Aperture limit f16.
The shutter is central. Bounces shutter speeds: 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and V.

Smena-SL is designed for Rapid cassettes. Frame size 24 × 36. By the way, both Zorky-12 and Silhouette Rapid-Auto, which never happened, are semi-personnel apparatuses.

There are 12 frames per film. Rewinding in the Rapid system is not provided.

There is no self-timer.

The Smena-SL model is equipped with a flash unit and a wired sync contact.

The weight of my copy is 390 grams.

Control elements:

At first glance, the Smena-SL is visually similar to the Smena-Symbol, which appeared a little later in the same years. But this is only if you do not compare side by side. The devices are completely different.

Smena-SL looks nice, presentable. Also, it is very compact. This is another not obvious at first glance advantage of Rapid. Devices designed for these cassettes are more compact.

Smena-SL is a bit more compact even than Smena-8M.

In front, to the right of the lens, is a massive shutter button. The key travel is soft and very long.

I traditionally do not like this implementation of the trigger, but in this case the apparatus is low and the trigger is not so high. No need to intercept the hull between platoon and descent.

The front viewfinder window is shifted to the maximum left and has a mirror finish.

Behind are:
- viewfinder eyepiece;
- foot of the trigger of the shutter cocking and frame advance;
- a round reminder of the type and sensitivity of the film loaded into the device.
The Smena-SL has an excellent viewfinder. The picture is large and bright. Cropping frames available.

The hammer is cocked quite easily and with a comfortable turn. Its design is a little unusual.

There is only a tripod socket on the bottom of the device. A plug with a hand strap is screwed into this socket. Inconvenient implementation, because the device with the strap cannot stand level.
The back cover lock is located on the left side. There is also a sync contact socket. The lid is hinged.

On the top panel of the Smena-SL, the beauty and pride of this device is a huge "interactive" panel with weather symbols. Interactive in the sense that there are windows next to the symbols, and if this symbol is selected, a hatched marker appears in the window.

The marker jumps between the apertures as you rotate the wide ribbed ring around the base of the lens.

Not space, of course, but for the Soviet apparatus of the 70s - it looks fresh and original.

Although, with t. functionality, this solution is no different from exposure control for all other Shifts.
Also on top is the frame counter window.

The Smena-SL has the same lens as the Smena-8M. Apertures change with a narrow ring on the front slice of the lens. The diaphragm scale is duplicated by the film sensitivity scale. The sensitivity of this instance is in DIN units only.

About the shutter speed, I have already said - they are switched by a ring. The shutter speeds themselves are indicated at the bottom of the lens; only weather symbols are displayed on the top panel.
Although, I think it would be useful to put on top and excerpts too. There is plenty of room. Apparently they decided not to spoil the design with incomprehensible numbers.

The Smena-SL implements the traditional LOMO approach, in which an inexperienced user can set the sensitivity value instead of the diaphragm, and select the shutter speed according to the weather symbol.

On the exposure scale, by the way, there is option B, which is not indicated in the symbols in any way. The marker just disappears completely.

In the upper part of the lens, the distance scale is marked with symbols only. There is also a numbering scale, in meters and feet, but it is also at the bottom of the lens! This is definitely a strange decision. Apparently, the device was positioned on the Western market as a child's one.

I would also like to draw your attention to the case of the device. The design of the case is rather unusual. Smena-SL is inserted sideways into the cover. The case has a cut-out for a cover with a strap. The valve is not fixed with a button, as usual, but with a lock, well, let's call it a "portfolio" or something. I don’t know what it’s called exactly.

Camera Attitude:

The Rapid system, like any practical Soviet amateur photographer, seems useless to me.

There have never been any problems with charging. On the contrary, loading a new film is always a kind of ritual for me. Anticipation of new pictures.

From this point. Change-SL does not cause any positive emotions. And 12 frames is very small and inconvenient.

As for the windows on the top panel, they look attractive. The device attracts attention, which is what they wanted. And for this Smena-SL - offset.

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