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Helios lens

Camera Zenit-3M. Short review.

Zenit-3M is a Soviet small format single-lens reflex camera with manual exposure setting. Produced in 1962-70 at the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant.

Standard lens: Industar-50 3.5 / 50 or Helios-44 2/58 zebra.

A sturdy leather case immediately attracts attention. Made of thick leather completely (even the part covering the lens), it has retained its solid appearance after half a century. The mechanics are made reliably and soundly and work out their functional purpose clearly.

Zenith-3M breathes with asceticism. All controls are simple and straightforward. On the upper left side there is a film rewind knob without any fixation and protection from accidental rewinding. On the handle there is a simple scale of film light sensitivity, made of course according to the old standard of GOST values (16-32-65-130-250), which is not connected with anything but serves only to remind the photographer which film he loaded.

Noteworthy is the lack of a flash holder on the camera. At the top there is only a protrusion for the viewfinder pentaprism. To the right of it in its usual place is the shutter speed selection knob. It is also standard, no different from the pens of other Zenits or FEDs / Zorkikh.

The range of exposures does not shine with variety, there are only six of them: В-30-60-125-250-500. Exposures are worked out by a fabric curtain shutter.

On the right is the metal shutter cocking handle. At the factory, the trigger describes a large arc of about 230 degrees. The trigger rotates around the axis, in the center of which is the shutter button, and around the larger disc is the frame counter scale. Between the shutter speed ring and the shutter-release ring is a small film rewind button.

All points of reference for which the camera is adjusted (for example, shutter speed) or readings (frame counter) are so small and invisible that you first need to make an effort to identify them (for example, from scratches and defects)

The front panel only has a lever and self-timer button and a flash sync terminal.

How to take pictures with Zenit-3M
Focusing is carried out on a matte screen. Turn the lens focusing ring until the subject is clear. It is quite simple and convenient in good lighting conditions. But if the illumination is low, it becomes difficult to focus. For this reason, focus with the aperture fully open for maximum accuracy.

Zenit-3M does not know how to automatically close the aperture to the selected value, it must be done manually. The lens has two rings - a preset aperture with a scale and the aperture ring itself. Before taking a picture of the object, you must manually turn the aperture setting ring clockwise until it stops. Then the diaphragm will close to the value set on the preset ring.

The peculiarity of the camera is the sticking of the mirror in the raised state after the picture. It drops only after the shutter is cocked. You have to get used to this feature. You can't just aim at the viewfinder peephole. Once the shutter has been started, then it is already necessary to take pictures, do not hide the camera in a case with the shutter turned on - you can accidentally press the shutter and ruin the frame.

To load film into the feed slot, you must first lift the film rewind knob.


The Zenit-3M camera is probably one of the simplest DSLRs in the world, it has an ascetic set of shutter speeds, simple focusing, no electrical circuits - just mechanics. And where there is simplicity, there is also reliability. Nothing will distract you from realizing your creative ideas when shooting.

Sample photos taken with the Zenit-3M camera

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