We were on a family visit at my father a few weeks back from now. As usual we had a great food and many things to talk about. Also as usual I have spotted something in his garden. A stack of beautify worn wooden boxes many of which had navy green painting and interesting signs on their sides. I was staring them for a brief moment with my suspicious look (I practice a lot in the mirror). I was immediately considering all possible combinations and alignments of them in relation to the direction of light and possible angles of framing. I must have had a look on my face of a hardcore Stanley Kubrick when he discovers a perfect massive monolith in his fathers’s backyard after a long night watching Space Odyssey. I asked if I could use them as background for a few shoots and also about their origin and current use.
As it turned out these were military ammunition boxes originally, but now they are used to store and transport machine parts new and used alike. This meant that there were plenty of scratches, oil marks and shiny metal particles all over them which made them even more exciting to me. At this time they were all empty so I could use them how I wanted. I always have a camera with me and because my Leica was in service I was revisiting old friends from the shelf. That day my bag hosted my lovely Yashica TL Super paired with the mighty 80mm Pancolar. This lens is a sole reason why I still have an M42 mount camera and this Yashica is a great match indeed.
Anyways, I took a few shoots about the Yashica and a series about my father’s Mometta II and I thought they are worthwhile to feature them on the blog. If you would like to read my Yashica TL Super review, you can find it here. These shoots were all taken hand held with my wife’s Sony NEX 6 and I had no softbox or any reflectors with me. Luckily the weather was overcast and overall I am happy with the results. I am curious thought what will I find during the next family visit and if I should better prepare myself with a complete studio setup :-).
Since then I finished the film in the Yashica as well as from the Zenit3M I used recently. The Leica is also back now and I am looking forward to try it. In any case when the film comes back from the lab and I find some time to scan and edit, I will show the results from this kit as well.
The Fed 5 is one of the most feature-packed Soviet rangefinders which does not require a battery. It is virtually undestroyable, I bet it is going to stay operational way after mankind extinct and the cockroaches rule the world. Since it has no battery an EMP blast cannot ruin it. A nuclear winter could not make any difference neither as the kit lens (Industar-61L/D) is already rumored to be slightly radioactive.
The fact is that the lens is actually is not more radioactive than a potato (not from Chernobyl). It contains a rare-earth element called Lanthanum which indeed has a radioactive isotope but that is very rare and not used for the glass in this lens. Do these properties make the Fed the Ultimate Post-apocalyptic Camera (UPAC)? Who knows, but I hope nobody will need to prove that I was wrong or right about this.
Anyway, I hope I have managed to catch your attention with this little intro, if you want to read my personal experience with the Fed and/or want to be a bit entertained, click more!
My feelings about my Fed5 are very ambivalent, I simply cannot decide that I actually like it and should shoot more with it or I would better keep it in the dark deep down in the cabinet. It was the very first camera in my vintage camera collection and this fact itself grants the special label in my virtual camera catalog.
So here is the camera which kicked in my collector instinct and triggered the process which leads to this classic camera blog you are reading right now, yet I wrote I have mixed feelings about it. Let’s just say that the beginnings of our relationship were not an easy ride.
Never trust your old man
At least don’t trust his film development skills if he did not touch his film development kit like 20 years ago!
Shortly after I received the camera, I and some of my film enthusiasts friends set up a nice shootout in the neighborhood. They came to visit from another part of the country so we did visit all the nice places we could reach in 1 day. Of course, we burned through a couple of rolls of black and white film through our cameras. We had a great time, great locations, superb light and most of all very high level of excitement about the results.
We were so eager to develop our films in the bathroom that we completely trusted my father’s rusty memories and we did not “waste” much time for research. We did almost everything right, we kept the development instructions found on the film boxes, but we placed the films into the tank, not in complete darkness, but we used red darkroom lights.
As a result, all of our precious frames were ruined. Only 2 shoots survived somehow but they were also badly damaged by our careless treatment. Later I have enlarged these photos and despite they are not the top quality, I like them a lot. Eventually, these are the first photos I developed myself.
This first-time “failure” was almost inevitable for a bunch of reckless fools who we were. It taught me to be more patient when it comes to film photography and I think it is somewhat the point. You cannot rush with film and old gear, you must wait some time for the results. The waiting for the magic to happen is really spiced up the process to me. If you want the output fast, go pick up a digital camera (I also have some).
The feature set is quite outstanding among other Fed cameras and I think it provides (on paper) everything which I would ever need in a classic camera.
It has a single stroke film advance lever which is connected to an automatic film counter mechanism. This lever is a huge improvement over the previous film advance knob used in the Fed 3.
The coupled range-finder/viewfinder is also handy, and diopter correction is possible and for the first time, it is not prone to accidental adjustments.
Also, it has a hot-shoe which is quite a big thing, so convenient flash usage became possible, and an additional flash-cable port is also available.
The camera features a built-in light meter which does not require any power source apart from the light it is measuring, so you can never run out of batteries. The needle display of the meter and the related mechanical calculator makes the top plate rather cool looking.
The top plate looks so great that it inspired me to make a little comic where a similar instrument is used as a radiation meter on an imaginary space station.
It is ugly
As we all know everything comes with a price. This case the built-in light meter required a hell lot of extra space and eventually, it leads to a new shape which is very unpleasant to my eyes. I like the shapes of the older Fed (1,2,3) models. The older it gets the better it looks (and the closer to the Leica 2). The fed 4/5 are very brick like in my opinion because of the enlarged top part.
Hard to use
Yeap, this camera is nothing but easy to use. First of all the viewfinder is small and dark. Maybe it is only my version, but the glass has a very heavy greenish cast, which holds back a lot of light. In addition, it is very hard for me to see the boundaries of the frame. In general, it is a challenge to compose with this viewfinder. Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely usable and I had no problem with focusing so far, but the composition is an issue.
The frame counter is a nice to have feature, but it adds some extra resistance when you try to advance the film. It could give you the impression that something is broken inside the camera. I have got used to FSU cameras, so strange sounds and resistance during film advance are not new things to me, but this camera could be scary even for me.
The light meter is completely worthless, as selenium cells do not age well and they became inaccurate after a few decades for sure. Mine is working acceptable in good light, but as it gets darker the more it gets unreliable. I think it is possible to replace the cells, but usually, I can take my time to measure the light with an external meter. Still, it is too bad that the light-meter is actually the reason for the new shape (I don’t like) and now it is more or less serves as extra weight I need to carry.
On one hand, the Fed5 has a poor viewfinder experience and I am not the biggest fan of its shape. On the other hand, this is my first vintage camera. It never failed me and actually, this is the only L39 mount rangefinder camera of mine which has a reliable shutter so I can test such lenses only with this body.
I am mainly an available light shooter, but I like to have a hot-shoe and I already used the one on my Fed.
If you are looking for a rangefinder but you have a small budget and you want to use flash, you can’t go wrong with this camera. It will survive all of us and keep going to take pictures as long as somebody can press the shutter. Plus it can be turned into an effective melee weapon against polar bears.
I have a very special relationship with my Pentacon Six TL camera since it is my only working medium format camera. I was always heavily attracted by medium format photography, but I couldn’t afford for a while to get into it. Eventually, the P6 was the camera which allowed me to shoot 6×6 frames and since then I have not to regret my decision nor had a single thought to change to another system. In this post, I tell my story with this camera and try to show both the bad and the good things about it while hoping that some of you can find this information useful. It will be more like a subtract of my personal user experience and all the important bits I learned during my research.
My Pentacon Six story
I was a student at the university sometime around my second year when I first heard about this camera. I have just started up an experimenting film with an old Zenit-E when my buddy and roommate showed me a website with lots of photos and a description of the P6. Both of us got pretty excited when we realized that there is a world beyond the 35mm film, so we started to google and find more information about this beast. Unfortunately, I had no money at this time to simply buy one on eBay, therefore, I almost abandoned the idea until I found a Pentacon in a repair-shop next to my sister’s old apartment where I helped her to move in. The camera was broken, not complete and had no lens. It was literally a looted old donor of a camera. Despite the conditions of this camera-corpse, I was amazed by the size of the thing. It was huge, much bigger than I have expected after all the photos I have seen on the Internet, especially the lens mount was extraordinary sizeable compare to anything I have seen before. I could only wonder what a hell of a lens could possibly fill this gigantic hole on the front of the camera. From this moment, there was no return. I knew I had to get one of these monsters, but I still had to find the right one, which turned out not to be that difficult at all. A few weeks later I found a little shop in a small village next to my hometown by accident. I had spotted an ancient Russian enlarging machine in the shop-window so I stopped by and found a great repairman and a huge cabinet of precious vintage cameras and other relics. As you have already figured out, he had a nice Pentacon Six TL in the shape I was looking for. The camera was there for cleaning, but the owner hasn’t fetched it for many years. It was not an easy deal because the guy was not really keen to sell anything from his collection, but eventually, I got my Pentacon Six with the standard 80mm f/2.8 Biometar lens made by Carl Zeiss Jena and with a waist level finder. Both the camera and the lens were beautiful, nice, clean and fully operational. In fact, it was not really heavily used and in addition, the repairman was kind enough to check the shutter speeds before he handed the camera over them to me. Since then I have added many additional accessories and lenses to my Pentacon kit so today my collection consists of:
2 Pentacon six bodies
2 Waist level finders
2 Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ) 80mm f/2.8 Biometar
1 CZJ 50mm f/4 Flektagon
1 CZJ 120mm f/2.8 MC Biometar
1 CZJ 180mm f/2.8 MC Sonar (This lens belongs to a friend I just use it)
1 CZJ 500mm f/5.6 MC Pentacon
Extension tube set
Split image focusing screen
Ever ready cases
The way it looks
Unfortunately, there are not only great things about this camera even if most of the bad rumors are only partially true. So let’s start with the not so nice before we focus on the good things. Many people think that the quality insurance was not the best during the manufacturing of these cameras, therefore, it is a real gamble to buy one as you may get a pretty bad and unreliable one. It is true that it is hard to find a Pentacon Six in a good working condition with perfectly accurate shutter speeds, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the cameras. The fact is that these cameras are pretty old and most of them were used for professional purposes where most likely a tremendous amount of film was burned through of them. You should think of them like you would think about an old car, for instance, a VW Beetle. It is a nice car with very few flaws, but since it is old and was driven around the Equator like 30 times you need to pay attention to maintenance to keep it running. You wouldn’t drive a 40-year-old Beetle found in someone’s backyard without checking the oil level, would you? Of course not, so why would you treat a camera differently? An old mechanical camera is just like an old car. It needs some maintenance and care. Of course, if you were a Hasselblad user, you might disagree, but the category and price tag of these brands are completely different, however, the produced images could be very similar.
Typical issues and solutions
I am lucky because I have personally met with only very few issues you can read on the Internet according to the P6. Most problems are easy to fix during a general overhaul which involves cleaning, lubrication, and adjustments of strings etc.
Slow and inaccurate shutter speeds
The Pentacon Six TL uses a huge canvas focal plane shutter which has 3 implications.
Lenses are cheaper because there is no shutter in the lens
Flash photography is limited to the sync speed which is 1/30s.
The huge canvas needs big and strong strings which can lose their adjustment as time goes by.
Usually, the speed 1/125s is the most accurate, anything faster could be slower than intended if the camera was not used in a long time. The slow times also could be problematic because the mechanical clock could pick up some dust. The solution is an overhaul by someone who knows what he is doing. The camera must be disassembled, cleaned and adjusted. There are no big worries here if you casually use your camera this does not have to be done too often, maybe once in every 10 years.
This problem is much more apparent than the previous one though. Many people have this problem of “kissing” or worse, overlapping frames. I think in most cases this happens because of the improper loose loading of the film. Have a look at this video from PentaconSixExpert on Youtube. I am not saying that this is the only problem because my rolls have uneven spacings between frames too (but no kissing or overlapping so far), but many times it is only because of the way you load the film.
I had no problems with this feature either, but this is definitely one of the weak spots of the camera. I have seen some Pentacons where the back of the camera was modified by adding a little window covered with red plastic to be able to see the numbering at the back of the film. This is certainly a solution, but a very harsh one. You could get the counter fixed by a professional or you could live without it, eventually, you can shoot even if it is broken.
The bright side
Now that we finished off the not so nice things it is time to celebrate and inspect why this system is so great. If I had to be short I would say we need to have a look at the following aspects to justify:
Lenses and image quality
The lens selection for this system is just fantastic in my opinion. You can find excellent optics for literally no money (compared to modern lenses) for every focal length from a wide variety of manufacturers most notably Carl Zeiss Jena (CZJ). The lenses I use most of the time, are generally very fast, sharp and joy to shoot with.
It has to be said that even the multi-coated (MC) versions are more prone to flare than modern lenses with similar optical formula, therefore the use of a lens hood is always a good idea. If you want to read more about compatible lenses, visit the truly great site pentaconsix.com.
A friend of mine gave me a 180mm f/28 Sonnar to use. While this is one of the best and most iconic Pentacon mount lenses, I rarely use it, because it is so much bigger and heavier than the not much shorter 120mm Biometar.
Size and weight
The Pentacon Six looks like a 35mm SLR except this is much bigger, therefore, many people call them beefed up SLR or SLR on steroids. While it is true that they are significantly bigger and heavier than their 35mm counterparts, in fact, the P6 is a rather compact medium format camera which shoots 6x6cm frames. Yes, there are smaller ones, but those usually do not have the capability to switch lenses or having similar dimensions but with more weight. If you, like me love to travel with the biggest “sensor” possible then this size/weight aspect could be really important for you.
It has to be said, that this kit could be still awfully heavy especially if you pack more than one lens and a tripod too.
Value for the money
I think the Pentacon Six system comes with a very appealing price nowadays. You can get your body with an excellent standard lens around 100€ and even if you add the extra for cleaning and adjustments it is still far cheaper than most other interchangeable lens medium format system.
The fun I have
Eszter documented how I took a portrait of a painter in Istanbul. I think it reflects my emotions during the usage of this camera.
During the years I used my Pentacon Six, I have gained a lot of experience with it. So I would like to share some random thoughts I think could be useful for you.
Pentaprism vs Waist level finder
I do have a TTL prism, which provides a correct image in the finder (no switched sides) and can be used for through the lens light readings.
On the other hand, the prism is very dark and the light metering is not very easy to use. It is great to have in some cases, but generally, I prefer an external light meter. There are different brighter prisms available for example the older non-metering version. If I am not wrong the even brighter prism of the Kiev 60 is also compatible and can be attached.
In contrast, the waist level finder is definitely the brightest solution, therefore I use it the most. But it switches the sides of the images in the viewfinder, and you can hold the camera lower than usual to be able to see through the finder. For me, it is much easier to focus with, especially with the little magnifying glass built in.
Despite all of the inconveniences of the waist level finder, the image in it is something really special. I know it is an oxymoron, but it looks even better than reality. It is huge, bright and vivid, no viewfinder of any 35mm camera can come even close to it.
Focusing as always is a critical thing to do when talking about any photography. I had to learn that the depth of field is just way more shallow when you shoot medium format, thus even a slight movement of the camera could cause your subject to fall out of the sharp region.
When I shoot handheld with the 80mm/120mm lenses I try to not going wider than f/4 or even f/5.6 because it still provides nice bokeh, but has some safety in terms of the size of the sharp areas. Naturally, I often find myself shooting wide open (f/2.8) on a street, but it’s always risky to do.
Luckily I haven’t had many problems with my cameras, but during the last 6 years, I had some cases where I had to ask someone to help.
I had “the old” (my original) P6 cleaned, lubricated and adjusted one time after I heard some unusual noises from the shutter. Since then it works perfectly. No exposure problems even when shooting Velvia.
My 120mm lens had a stuck iris once which required the disassembly and general cleaning of the lens. This is, unfortunately, a common problem with old lenses. Conclusion and recommendation
Needless to say, this camera is not for everyone. As long as you can accept that your camera needs some care in a form of regular maintenance, you could be very happy with it. So keep in mind that the final price could be higher than the purchase itself as basic repairs might be needed.
Nowadays it is not always easy to find someone who is qualified to repair old mechanical cameras. Therefore it is best to buy from a trusted source with grantee that you get a working camera. I think it worth the extra money to get an overhauled camera in the first place.
I think this is a great camera, and could be a good choice for anyone who wants to try medium format photography and needs an interchangeable lens solution. If you don’t have the budget for more expensive systems like Hasselblad or Mamiya, or simply want to find the most compact option this could be the solution for you.
So far my Pentacon Six never let me down, the images are just amazing and for me, it is great fun to shoot with.
The Pentacon Six System Far the best and most comprehensive informational site about the topic. Highly recommended.
So far I have been writing mostly about classic cameras with full mechanical construction with only one exception the Cosina CSM with an electromechanical shutter. It was because my collection fundamentally consists of such mechanical beauties.
But time goes on and my camera count is also increasing in many unexpected ways. My last camera in the row is still using film and being my camera it is naturally having only manual focus, but it is an ultra-modern professional beast in every other aspect. Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce to You the Olympus OM 4-Ti!
Olympus OM 4-Ti (black) Datasheet
Type TTL auto-exposure 35 mm. Single Lens Reflex Camera.
Film type 24mm x 36mm ISO/ASA 6-3200.
Weight 540g (body only)
Dimensions 87 mm height, 139 mm width, 50 mm depth
This camera is the latest model of the one digit (upper grade) line of Olympus OM cameras and in addition, mine is the last sub-version. While the OM 4 was introduced in 1984 my version shown up around 1990. Apart from some extra controls, the body design is pretty much the same as the original OM 1 (1972) which pioneered a new trend of really compact sized SLR bodies. Therefore this camera is one of the smallest reflex cameras ever made taking the 35mm film type.
While other manufacturers introduced autofocus in their cameras Olympus stuck to the traditional manual focus design. There is a debate on why, but eventually, to me, the important point is that the lack of AF allowed keeping this wonderful classic shape. The lenses are also very small, there is no need to place a motor into the body, not into any lenses.
So why is this metering so legendary? Well, apart from the fact that it is reliably accurate it leaves the control in your hand. Other brands like Nikon developed metering systems where the camera compares the scene with a database of stored situations and tries to figure out the best exposure for you. It is convenient and most of the time satisfactory approach, but you have low control over it unless you switch to full manual or you guess what the camera thinks and you can compensate accordingly. It must be said that it is an issue only among challenging lighting conditions.
In contrast, the OM-4 allows you to select up to 8 points of measurements and then the camera calculates the exposure. In other words, you can select what is important for you and what are your priorities. For example, if you take to measurements on the same area and one on another than the first is more important to you than the other.
I know it sounds strange for first, but believe me, it is so much intuitive and joy to use after you tried once. Of course, if you don’t want to get bothered with such evilness, you can still use the traditional center weighted automatics, which just works well in most common situations.
All in all, for someone like me, who works with a very low frame-rate, prefers to think and focus instead of the machine but sometimes likes to get some precise support, this camera is the ultimate choice for 35mm photography. It is worth to note that (as far as I know) some professional medium format cameras also used a similar metering system.
Finally, the OM4 features a highlight and a shadow mode. It is useful in some cases where black or white surfaces are dominating on the frame. Normally if you take a photo with an auto-exposure camera of a gray, black and white piece of paper, it is likely that you will get middle gray on all frames (even instead of the black and white). It is because the metering system tries to achieve an averaged exposure which is good in most cases, but causing troubles when there is no reference. For example, a landscape covered by snow, or documents on white papers are typical cases.
To overcome this, you can use manual exposure, exposure compensation or in this case the high-light and shadow functions. You select the brightest (supposed to be white) or in other cases, the darkest (supposed to be pitch black) area on the frame, push the respective button and you will get the correct exposure with correct white or black representation. In fact, these buttons are doing simply programmed over and underexposure correction.
Another interesting aspect is that this camera is one of the first ones able to use flash with very fast sync speeds (up to 1/2000s) when appropriate flash is coupled (like the Olympus F280). The problem of low synchronization speed was common of this kind of cameras due to the construction of the shutter and the very short burst time of typical flashguns. The OM 4-Ti solved this issue by continuous pulse bursts of the flash during the whole exposure which allowed to expose the entire frame correctly, although for the price of limited range.
This camera is very well made, it is weather sealed and indeed feels solid in my hands. All buttons, switches, and knobs work really definitely and smoothly at the same time.
But how though it is exactly? I have found a really exhaustive description about a crash test done by the Camera magazine 4/’89 (Germany) translated by Wiliam Wagenaar.
The methodology was:
The OM4Ti is stored in the freezer overnight at -20C for 8 hours.
The OM4Ti went into the oven for one hour at a temperature of 75C (Only 50C allowed according to the manual)
The OM4Ti is hung in the grid of the air outlet of a sand blasting company for 2 hours, so that dust, dirt and sand can intrude deep into the mechanics.
The OM4Ti went into a steaming hot shower cabin for on hour.
The OM4Ti went into the shaking machine for a certain time.
The shutter is operated about 15.000 times while the aperture is set at f8.
This camera survived the torture very well, only the cold caused some temporal problems with the shutter. Here are the summarized test results:
Shutter speed error: + 15% for the long times from 1/15 Meter error: none (< 0.1 EV) Spot meter: deviation of 0.5 EV Defects during test: none, except jerky manual film advance Battery use of camera and drive: normal.
Maximum points for each item : 10.
A total of 70 points gives the qualification of “CAMERA MAGAZINE PRO-CAMERA”
cold test 7
heat test 10
dust test 9
moist test 10
shock test 10
price quality 9
ease of use 8
Total : 87
In comparison, the Leica R6 received 88 points in the same test. If you want to read the full review, please follow this link.
So here is the answer to my question “What is this camera really?”. To me, this camera is a lightweight, compact tool with sophisticated metering and flash control but with the maximum control over exposure and focus possible in an admirable classic shaped yet durable body. It is unlikely that I will take advantage of the flash features, but I can clearly appreciate the excellent metering.
The lenses are very well made and with nice performance as well. Last but not least these cameras are affordable, they used to be called by many as “poor man’s Nikon” in the USA. Nowadays in the digital era, you can definitely find a good deal of an OM camera.
My Olympus OM 4-Ti
I always adored the OM cameras because of their small size, stylish design, good lenses, and reliable construction, but until now I have never even touched one. I came close in dimensions with my Cosina CSM which is really similar at first look, but clearly not in the same league at least with the professional OM cameras.
How did I get it?
I was not really wanted to get an OM since I had no lenses for the system, plus I was happy with the Cosina as my light travel companion. But one day I walked into a small optics shop which I didn’t know before but I was attracted by the old photo commercials on the front of the building. As it turned out they don’t sell cameras or any photographic types of equipment anymore (they focusing on eyeglasses), but I spot a few old cameras in the cabinet behind the desk.
This OM 4-Ti was among them without a lens, only the body cap was mounted. I asked it out for some inspection and I immediately knew, this camera has a place in my bag. There was no price though, so we had to call the owner of the shop who is around 80 years old and collects cameras as well. We had a nice chat but he couldn’t tell me a price neither. So we agreed to talk about the camera in a few days as he can look after a bit.
Of course, this made me struggling a lot in the proceeding few days as I was not sure that I can afford this camera at all especially because I had no lens. After a few days of hell, I went back to the shop and asked again if they decided the asking price of the camera and they had. The offer was so generous that I bought the camera right away along with some film. The man told me that he likes that I am collecting and using film cameras and I will probably have a good use of it, that is why he is selling the Olympus to me. Of course, I went back to show the camera as soon as I have got this great lens I have mounted on it right now.
Hunting for the lens and focusing screen
Because the camera is in an incredibly good condition and because it is the last evolution step of the professional OM cameras, I decided to get a lens which is matching both in capabilities and cosmetics to the body. I wanted something behind the standard 50mm f/1.8 Zuiko (which is a great lens by the way) especially because I have many f/1.8 fifties for other systems and I really preferred to have something different. On the other hand, I like standards when I have only one lens and naturally, I had a strong constraint on the money to spend.
In the end, I have gone for the Zuiko AUTO-S 50mm f/1.4 lens and I did some research which serial number to look for. It was not an easy search, but I have got my lens on e-bay in perfect shape in the original box with the serial number I was looking for (greater than 1,100,000) that marks the latest design and best coating. For more information about the different variants of this lens look around here.
After I received the lens I had to realize that my focusing screen is good for anything but normal use. The type I had in the camera was made for microscopy and other extreme macro purposes. So I had to look for a replacement focusing screen, but it was not an easy ride. I found many of these on e-bay, but on the price that I started to think if I really did a good deal with this camera. After a few weeks of desperate research, I have managed to find a screen in Hungary at a reasonable price.
Almost 2 months after I first saw the camera in the cabinet I have managed to get a working set which takes photos while I am capable of focusing with it. It cost me way more than I thought when I bought the body, but undoubtedly worth it. This is really an amazing camera to use and hold and I don’t think I would have considered getting one in any other ways.
The way it looks
Until now I shot only 3 rolls of film, therefore it is hard to claim that I master the camera. Nevertheless, the start is very promising as I feel very comfortable and natural to use and the initial results are encouraging as well.
The ergonomics are really good, although due to the classic shape it is not as convenient to hold as more modern cameras. The bright side is that there is an optional grip available, but honestly, I don’t feel it is necessary. The layout of the buttons and other controls are nice as well, maybe the “highlight” and “shadows” buttons are not the easiest to hit blind, but I don’t think to use them often. The most interesting part of the controls for me is the OM-style shutter speed ring on the lens mount, which is unusual but also brilliant at the same time. You can set both the aperture and shutter speed at almost the same place with the same hand. Of course, it is probably not for everyone, I personally like it.
As I have mentioned already, the camera is really small even with modern standards. It is bigger than mirrorless cameras but it is definitely smaller than any budget DSLR- If you consider that it is a “full-frame” camera than it is quite an achievement.
Focusing is really easy, smooth and accurate with my fast f/1.4 lens and so far I am very happy with the metering system as well. Most of the time the normal center-weighted metering mode was fine for me with aperture priority mode. Note that aperture priority is the only automatic mode available on this camera, but in fact, this is the mode I prefer on digital cameras the most also. I have tried the spot and multi-spot metering as well with success, but I need more time to gather greater experience with them.
I basically I took out the batteries from the Cosina CSM and put them into the Olympus. These batteries were in use for more than a year from now and so far I had no problems. Considering how tiny and cheap these batteries are and how long they last I think this camera is very economical in this respect. I have heard that the regular OM 4 was eating batteries, it seems the Ti version has corrected this issue
I have a Zuiko AUTO-S 50mm f/1.4 lens which has a good reputation in terms of overall image and build quality although it has some barbell distortion. I can confirm all of these statements. The lens is sharp, contrasty, not too prone to flares, the bokeh it produces is also pleasant to my eyes. Indeed the distortion is there, but it is not disturbing unless you shoot brick walls or other well defined geometrical subjects. I may make some measurements and create a lens profile in order to correct this digitally, but as I said this is a minor problem you won’t even notice in the 90% of times. The coating works great and flares are not really threatening you, I think a lens hood is generally a good idea, so I will get one soon.
As for other lenses, I really wish to get some exotic ones most notably the Zuiko 80mm f/2 is my greatest wish for portraits.
Everyone who loves 35mm film photography and needs a light, reliable and stylish companion. It is for everyone who likes to focus manually and prefers full control over metering yet likes to have a sophisticated system to aid the evaluation of exposure times. Last but not least this camera for those who do not mind to keep a pair of small knob batteries in their pockets.
This camera is NOT for:
I don’t recommend this camera for automation junkies, action or sports shooters or in contrast for more conservative people who prefer full mechanical constructions. In the case, if the electronic operation would be the problem, there are plenty of full mechanical choices in the OM series such as the OM 1 or the very rare mechanical counterpart of the OM 4 the OM 3.
omexperience (really cool blog about film OM cameras, OM lenses with deep tests and the OM-D, This site helps you figure out which subversion of a lens has multi-coating etc based on cosmetics and serial numbers)
“Woow!” This was the first thing came into my mind when I first saw an Exakta in a cabinet in a very small and messy shop of an old camera-repairman a couple of years ago. The second thing? Well, I seriously considered to lick it quickly while the owner looked away. It never happened due to the glass door of the cabinet and I can still feel the sensation of the missed opportunity -What a pity-.
Apart from the joke, I had been seriously touched by the appearance of this family of cameras, especially the older ones. It is an entirely mechanical, full glass, bare metal, chrome and leather piece of jewelry. I am almost certain that this camera triggered the entire steam-punk culture. There is no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful classic cameras of all times.
“True” Exaktas were manufactured by Ihagee in Dresden during almost 4 decades which resulted in an amazingly complete and comprehensive camera system. While I always keen to give a bit of historical overview of a camera system, I had to realize that others have done this on a level I simply cannot match. If you were interested in the different variants and history, please visit this link. I limit myself to the most interesting facts I found out during my research and consider this post as a kind of tribute to Exakta and the company made it Ihagee.
It is interesting to know that the Exakta camera system was very stable during its evolution, almost all parts were interchangeable among models which are remarkable. There was a huge sort of accessories available for these cameras and they were heavily used for technical and scientific photography. I think this system was one of the most versatile at the time. For example, you can see below a commercial from a 1952 German magazine Die Fotografie where the camera is attached to a microscope.
The Exakta Varex was introduced in 1950 and the big innovation was the possibility to use the camera with the standard waist level finder or with a pentaprism. This interchangeable viewfinder system even further increased the versatility of the camera. In addition, there were a big number of available finders of both types (4 basic pentaprism types) and all of them allowed to use a huge variety of focusing screens on top of it. They claimed in their commercials, that they merged the good old experience with modern ideas. You can check out the complete list of finders and screens on this page.
One of the interesting characteristics of this camera is the left-handed shutter release which (I believe) is inherited from the times when the camera used only waist level finder. It is very awkward at first and even at the second time to handle the camera because of this using the prism for those who got socialized on right-handed cameras. I guess it was no problem initially with the waist level finder and they kept this property. In fact, it is possible to get used to it, but it requires quite a commitment.
I have managed to dig out a couple of high-quality commercials and posters released by Ihagee, this cool half cut camera poster can be seen in a camera shop in Hungary (Soós Fotó). I have found and included in this post many more nice illustrations from books and magazines. It shows that the Exakta was really among the most prestigious SLRs at the time. It was literally the ultimate way to go for every possible purpose from photojournalism to science and technical applications where larger formats could not be convenient to use.
My Exakta is a subtype of the very long lasting and successful Varex IIa. This version was released in 1960 and the distinguishing feature is the logo which is not pressed into the metal anymore and the shape of the prism is slightly different than earlier models.
Varex IIa datasheet
Produced 1957-1963 this version was introduced1960
Film type 135 (35mm)
Lens mount Exakta mount (inner and outer bayonet)
Shutter cloth curtain (traveling horizontally)
Shutter speeds 12s – 1/1000, B
Sync speed 1/50
Viewfinder interchangeable waist level or prism
Exposure meter none
PC sync connections
Internal film cutting blade
This particular camera was sold in Antwerp, Belgium in 1961 and according to the catalog I have, the list price was 13.185 francs with the prism and Tessar standard lens. The second lens (Trioplan 100mm) had the price of 4.205 francs. I am trying to find out what could that mean at that time, but one thing is sure in Hungary this combo would have cost a complete year salary of a regular person in the 60s. In comparison for a Russian Zenit SLR, some had to work like hell for 2-3 months while consuming solar energy only for survival in Hungary those times.
The camera actually belongs to my Friend David who was kind enough to give it to me for use as he did with the Yashica TL-SUPER camera I reviewed. He received it from the original owner from Belgium, so I can actually track back the history of this camera until the beginning. Thank you again, David!
The camera came in the every-ready case, with 2 wonderful lenses. a high-quality B+W filer, a nice rare Carl Zeiss Jena polar filter, a Sunpak flash unit and all sort of documentation including warranty, and catalogs.
Condition and repairs
The overall condition of the camera is very good, although the Tessar lens was really stiff, it was very hard to focus on. In the opinion of my repair-man, it could have been stored in a cold place for a while. I have got the lens cleaned and lubricated and now it is as good as new. Again, the arts of lubrication was successfully applied, plus apertures and glass elements got some attention and cleaning. Important to note that the focusing ring is covered with some kind of plastic which became rigid over the years, and it is advised to take care of it as it is very fragile and can be broken for any little hit. If it breaks it needs to be replaced by leather with a similar texture which is a hideous task to do.
The shutter was advanced when I first got it in hand, so the springs were tensed probably for many years ago and as it turned out the high shutter speeds are not really usable now. 1/500 and 1/1000 while they sound good the movement of the curtains are not even. As a result, some parts of the frame came out less exposed than others. It could be fixed by the master of the lubricants, but it would definitely cost a load of money. I decided to wait and until it gets fixed I started not to use these speeds. It seems everything works fine up to 1/250s and I have managed to carry out my second roll without any problem.
The silvering of the mirror is damaged badly around the edges and it has a negative effect on the clearness of the viewfinder. There is no way to fix the mirror because the silver just melted down. The only solution is the complete replacement, but as I use this camera casually only I decided to keep it as it is for a while.
The way it looks
As you have already figured out I like this camera the most because of its appearance. I think it really does look gorgeous even though I prefer more the versions with the engraved or embossed logo on the front plate. Despite this not too serious concern, I feel like holding something really special when I choose this for a walk. For me it is an outstanding experience to carry such a nice piece of history and heritage while I can be almost certain that the camera hanging on my neck is so unique I will probably not meet with anything even close to it. It has its charm and style to not to deny apart from what kind of photos came out at the end. Of course, the shoots are great too, nothing to complain about. What I want to say is that it is so elegant I might walk with it even if it was a bad camera (which is not!).
Well, we have reached the point where I must stop extol this camera because the ergonomics is at least awkward.
The left-handed shutter release is really hard to get used to it. The shape of the body is nothing but convenient. It is in fact quite bulky. The reason is probably practical though, this shape helps to keep the film more in place and flat according to some opinion and I eventually accept it.
To change the shutter speed, you have to pull out the dial and it is the normal procedure in this era, but not really convenient. To set longer exposures (1/5-12s) you have to operate two dials by setting the main dial to T mode and setting the second for the speed. The film advance lever has an extremely long stroke and the mirror does not return after release. The film transferred from one spool to another in the opposite way as it is usual as the system is left-handed, and to rewind the film you have to pull and turn a couple of things at the same time. Overall many things are a little bit complicated.
All in all this camera is the hardest to use among those I have ever tried. It is at least challenging and not as straightforward as switching your bicycle. But I think it is worth to fight and it is possible to realize that focusing on your left hand is only a habit, not a testament. After you have learned all the tricks it could be as easy to use as any other camera, but for me, it takes some time.
Proper ways to hold the camera while using the waist level finder. The image is from the original handbook of the camera
I have only a pentaprism with split screen focusing glass. It is dark for modern standards, although it could be also because my lenses are not exactly that fast (f/2.8) and the mirror is damaged around the edges. I suppose with a faster lens like a f/1.5 Zeiss Biotar and with a new mirror, it would be bright enough.
The split screen works as intended, but it takes a too big part of the screen (in my opinion) and I often use the matte parts around the central circle to focus instead.
I would love to try the waist level finder also because I prefer that on my Pentacon Six over the prism because of the extra lightness and the presence of a magnifying glass for pin accurate focusing. I don’t shoot much action with these anyway, I have time to focus precisely.
There is a feature of this camera which had been hardly used by most and made me think quite a bit until I have found out what it is for. Interestingly enough you can actually cut the film inside the camera with a razor sharp hook-shaped blade. This way you can change film in the middle of the roll without the need for rewinding and calculating the position of the last exposed frame.
This blade can be seen on above on my photo where the back is open and for reference point please look the point 38 on the draft above. The operation is simple you have to screw out a lock at the bottom of the camera than you have to pull the rod and the blade cuts the film. I have never seen this before and while I am sure I will never use it, still it is a neat little feature. The engineers of Ihagee thought of everything.
Lenses and test shoots
Ihagee didn’t manufacture lenses by itself, but many brands made glass for the Exakta mount.
A very cool page to visit according to these lenses, in general, can be found here, and in detail with illustrations here.
I have got the camera with two lenses: a standard 50mm Tessar and a 100mm Trioplan. The Tessar had to get cleaned and lubricated, but the other lens is in a really nice shape.
Carl Zeiss Jena 50mm f/2.8
There is no Tessar written on the lens nor Carl Zeiss only Jena and a big “T” letter. The reason is that the East German Carl Zeiss Jena was not allowed to use it’s brand name nor the name of the lenses outside of the eastern block because the West German company owned the brand names. Nevertheless, this is a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens and it performs as it should.
The Tessar is a classical construction or base type which consists of 4 elements 2 of them cemented together. These are considered very sharp and having a “hard” character (whatever it means). Because of the good performance, good enough speed and cheap production costs this lens type was very popular and have several siblings such as Elmar, Industar, Primotar, Skopar, Xenar, Ymmar, Ysaron, Belar etc. Apart from the direct relatives, there are many more modifications led to new lens families.
I am going to write a deeper article about this lens as soon as I can get an EOS to Exakta adapter.
Meyer Optic Trioplan 100mm f/2.8
This is a triplet structure anastigmat containing obviously 3 elements. Although the structure is very simple it allows a relatively fast aperture and also it has the advantage of having no risk to get glued elements separated as there are none of them.
Some of the brothers are Anticomar, Cassar, Novar, Meritar, Radionar, Trinar, Triotar, Voigtar, Eurygon.
The triplet construction does not produce sharp images on large apertures due to the issues with the rays coming from sideways. This problem can be fixed on a level by stopping down. As you can see on the test photos the lens is indeed very soft wide open and it adds some kind of glow to the objects. It could even be beneficial for portraits by delivering a dream-like effect which hides most of the skin imperfectness of the model.
This lens is famous for its bokeh, which contains unusual and for most pleasing circles when shooting wide open. Unfortunately, I have no example taken by me so far, but you can see one here.
Again, I will do a deeper review of this lens as soon as I get an adapter to Canon and have some time to do more research.
Cosina is not a well-known trademark among camera manufacturers, at least I have never heard of it before I got this camera. The fact is, this is an existing company which has produced over its history many truly nice cameras under their own name and surprisingly for many mainstream manufacturers like Rollei, Canon, Nikon, Yashica, Olympus, Epson etc.
They are manufacturing the Zeiss Ikon camera bodies and many Leica mount Zeiss lenses today. Also, Cosina is the owner of the brand and the company behind Voigtländer which represents a high standard of quality cameras and lenses indeed. All in all the name Cosina might not ring a bell, but it is almost 100% that they have built one of your favorites and they know how to design and build solid photographic tools by tradition.
Shutter speeds 4s, 2s, 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/8s, 1/15, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/250s, 1/500s,1/100s, M, B
Sync speed 1/60
Viewfinder SLR w/coated window, micro-raster ring with split image aid
Exposure meter stop-down CdS TTL w/3 led lights, activated by the half-pressed shutter
Batteries 2x SR/LR44 or similar (AG13, A76)
Hot shoe, PC sync connection
Optional auto-exposure motor
This camera is very small and light especially with the kit lens. Not as small as the Olympus OM, but close to it (540g vs 510g). This is one of the main reasons I own one.
The body is well built, but it is plastic at the top plate and definitely not as solid as a professional camera. In fact, this is all right for me because I use it for amateur purposes with great care. This is a really cheap camera and I suppose it was never a prestige product.
The shutter is controlled electronically, but it is working without batteries with the shutter speed of 1/60 of a second. The light-meter is center weighted, using 3 little LEDs in the viewfinder for readout and I have no complains so far.
The batteries are small, cheap and lasting for years (for me) and as I said you are not completely left on the side of the road if they ran out of power. The camera will work on a level (no metering, no self-timer, only 1 shutter speed).
The craziest thing about this camera is that it had an external auto exposure unit. It had to be mounted into the accessory shoe and wire it to the camera with some cables and plugs. It contained a motor which turned the shutter speed dial according to the values came from the light meter. Thus it featured aperture priority auto mode. Because the lens was not coupled with this device it had to be stopped down for metering.
It sounds very awkward to me, but it worked. I haven’t got this module but thanks to Jake Howe who was kind enough to allow me to use his photo, I can finally show the camera with the full-featured auto exposure unit.
Cosina CSM with auto shutter mechanism by Jake Howe
My Cosina CSM
Nowadays everybody is obsessed by the small size great capabilities cameras (thinking of the mirror-less madness) and it was not really different at any point of the time. Miniaturization was always a trend.
People from the country of the rising sun has created many very compact, yet capable SLR legends mainly in the 70s like the Olympus OM series. Actually these cameras are not much bigger than some mirror-less digital camera of the modern era, even though they use “full frame” size film and having a full mirror mechanism and usually, a huge and bright viewfinder especially compare to entry-level DSLRs.
As I love the design and style of these film cameras, I would rather get excited by a conventional mirror-based DSLR with a “full frame” sensor, but in a compact body than anything else.
I know there are technical issues and probably it would be damn expensive, yet I hope someone will eventually come up with such a device.
If it was possible to squeeze the mirror, prism and in addition a roll of film into such a small camera, it seems unreasonable to not being able to do it with a digital sensor just like Leica did with the M9.
How did I get it
Back to my story, I always wanted a compact size SLR with a nice viewfinder and with an M42 screw lens-mount.
I have many nice M42 lenses and it is always good to have a lighter alternative to the serious workhorse for casual shooting. But I had no idea which camera would be the best. Until one day, I have found a little shop of an old camera repairman in a small village, where among many cool classics I have seen a camera called Porst Compact-reflex. As I took it from the shelf and looked through the viewfinder I knew it was an exact match to my requirements.
I have found it a bit too expensive (at least according to my possibilities at the time, as I was a student) so I did not buy it.
After some research, I have figured out, that it was actually a COSINA CSM branded as Porst (a German photographic equipment distributor and retailer company). The next day I have purchased an instance on e-bay for a little less money and with an extra ever-ready-case.
The truth is, I could have gone for the PROST as my camera had some mechanical troubles and the repairing dismissed the price difference eventually.
Since then I had many great times with this little Cosina and it is certain that I will load some film into it time to time.
The way it looks
I have to say, it is not an easy task to take a good photo of such a black object with white and shiny chrome parts.
This setup includes a window (key light), a cheap lantern from Ikea with an economical light-bulb (fill-light and color) and a sheet of black paper (background). Oh, and I tried to use a silver reflector which was used in a windshield of the car against overheating issues in its previous life. But this reflector does not work very well.
The button below the self-timer is used to re-open the aperture blades after you stopped down the lens to meter. It could be needed when you change your mind and need to re-focus or frame, so the viewfinder brights up again.
The two plugs on the other side are for the optional auto-exposure unit.
You can lock the shutter release button. This is great to prevent accidental shoots and mark that you have actually cocked the camera, on the other hand, it can be a problem when you can’t fire it in the big moment…
Film advance mechanism
When I have received the package form the UK, I had to realize that the film advance mechanism was not quite working. I got it fixed quickly and I received the instruction I need to advance the film with care. I do and I had no problems with it during the last couple of years.
The light-seals needed to be replaced as it is normal for a camera this age. It has to be said however that even without this fix there were no issues of light-leaks.
Small and light
M42 mount (huge variety of cheap high-quality lenses)
Works without batteries
Nice viewfinder with the effective focusing aid
Bit plastic (but still feels right)
It needs batteries
No mirror lookup (it is not a pro camera though)
The Cosina CSM or it’s siblings can be a good choice to anyone who is looking for a compact film SLR with manual focus and having nice M42 mount lenses. It is cheap, it is easy to focus with and won’t break your neck carrying around all times.
It has been over repeated that the lens and the film are much more important factors than the camera body itself, but this is now a tradition to post some shots taken with the reviewed camera (3rd post already).
You can find some shoots with the unique f2.1 kit lens, which might be interesting. Personally, I think this is a nice optics in a very compact package. My other 50mm lenses are much bigger.
The Kiev-4 -according to my opinion- is an extremely outstanding camera. It has a fascinating history, an extraordinary construction, a very attractive outfit and on top of all these, it is still a very capable performer if you don’t mind to shoot in full manual.
Produced 1947-1987 Arsenal, Kiev, Ukraine reference
Film type 135 (35mm)
Picture size 24 x 36mm
Weight 27.2oz (771.1g) with Jupiter-8 (“white”)
Lens Jupiter-8 (Arsenal copy of Zeiss Sonnar) 50mm 1:2.0
Focal range .9m to infinity
Shutter metal curtain (traveling vertically)
Shutter speeds 1-1/25s, 1/50s, 1/100s, 1/250s, 1/500s, 1/1250s + B
Viewfinder coupled rangefinder
Exposure meter uncoupled selenium cell
Accessory shoe, PC sync connection
As I have already mentioned this camera has a very interesting history which you’ve probably heard of. I am not the biggest expert of this story, therefore I don’t even try to reveal every twists and detail, but I do try to make a good summary of the research I have done.
Surprisingly it is more a German camera than a Soviet, but most importantly it is not a plagiarism of the Contax but it is a legal replica. But how it is possible?
After World War II. the Soviets acquired the Zeiss Contax II and III from Germany as part of war reparations. They got everything, machines, technologies, spare parts, and key personnel as well. That is why the first Kievs have original Contax parts and eventually, most of these cameras were made on the very same machines.
After some pilot production series, the production lines were set up in Kiev, Ukraine in the Arsenal factory. Even though the production was based on local workers, the technical coordination was done by a small group of German professionals, most notably Wolfgang Hahn.
Despite the initial lack of trained personnel, the fact that the entire production line was moved and the high pressure to produce cameras in very big quantities, the Kiev is a very well built camera (The design itself is very fault tolerant). It is in fact much closer to the original Contax in quality than any other Soviet cameras especially early models were very high quality.
It has to be said that there were significant drops in quality as the camera was simplified in the sake of productivity and as the members of the original crew went retired. Therefore if you intend to buy a Kiev camera, the older is the better (before 1970 if possible).
All in all the original design from the 1930’s is so rigid that despite the circumstances the Kiev cameras was based on it during many decades until 1987.
If you want to read more about the history with way more details, I can recommend to check out this site.
My Kiev-4 is made in 1965 and sold (first) in 1966 in Budapest for 2400 HUF – 500 HUF discount (for unknown reason) which was a ridiculously high price at the time (I will figure out how to convert it to today’s values). Hungary was a part of the Eastern block and there was only 1 company which sold photographic equipment in the country called Ofotért. The funny part is, I have got a catalog of this company from 1979 and this camera was still listed for 2140 HUF.
The warranty was 1 year and the camera is still working! I have the original box, invoice, warranty, lens caps, ever-ready case and the camera itself with a Jupiter-8M lens. The M stands for the feature that the aperture values click as you change them (quite advanced technology).
How did I get it
I always wanted a usable and good looking rangefinder. I usually don’t demand much in terms of usability as I am a camera addict, so what I really wanted can be summarized as accurate shutter speeds, interchangeable lenses and a viewfinder which is combined with the rangefinder and bright/big enough to let me enjoy the rangefinder characteristics. My other concern was of course price because a Leica or even an original Contax is way out of my scope.
I did not know too much about the Kiev until one day I have found one in a very good shape (almost mint condition) on a Hungarian auction site, similar to eBay. The camera was listed with the excellent Zeiss Sonar copy Jupiter-8M lens, the original box, and documents including the original warranty, which is, of course, had expired way before I was even born. It was so attractive that I couldn’t resist. After a few hours of research, I decided to buy it and I haven’t regretted my decision so far. The whole package cost me 14.000 HUF. If there was no inflation some could think the camera actually gained some value, but in fact, it is now below 50€ at the time of writing and I think it is extremely low for such a beauty.
The way it looks
It has a metal vertical traveling shutter. Both vertical and metal are rare if not nonexistent at this era of FSU (Former Soviet Union) cameras. With the vertical movement, the shutter needs to travel a shorter distance as the frame is (24 x 36mm) and thus higher shutter speeds are available. 1/1250 of a second is indeed a short amount of time, and my camera is still able to produce it. The metal part doesn’t make much difference, however, it will certainly not tear or puncture easily compare to a canvas material.
It is worth to note, that you have to advance the film before changing shutter speed because you might cause some trouble and your settings could be inaccurate. If you want to know why to visit this site.
In my experience, the shutter is very quiet, maybe not as quiet as a Leica as some would claim. But it is quite enough to be able to take street shots in a very discrete way.
Viewfinder and focusing
The viewfinder fits the view of the standard 50mm lens and it is large and bright compare to my other FSU rangefinders (the collection is not complete though). It is true that it could be brighter and it has some greenish color casting. I think it is probably because it is used to increase the contrast between the small internal and the bigger external frame of the viewfinder to aid focusing. It is still very usable, but I could wish brighter among dim conditions.
It is combined with the rangefinder, you can use the same window to compose and make your subject sharp. If you want to read more about how the rangefinder device works, visit this site in general, and this site specifically to Kiev-4.
Personally, I think the viewfinder is very usable for a camera this old. All of my shoots so far were spot on. This is way better than my average focusing results with manual SLRs without a Fresnel type split screen.
The focusing is especially accurate because the two windows of the rangefinder have an unusually big distance between each other. This and the small focusing wheel on the body makes focusing extremely precise.
As a downside, it is very easy to hold a camera in a way that one of the rangefinder windows are covered by hand thus compromise it. Therefore the proper holding is a bit aardvark and called the “Contaxt hold”.
Keep your index finger on the shutter release, your middle finger on the focussing wheel and the other two below the RF window and you’ll be fine! (Tobi’s camera page)
This is something that you get used to it or you will hate this camera forever. For me, it is not a big price to pay for the accurate focusing at all.
This version of the camera has a built-in selenium cell meter at the top plate while the Kiev-4A is the same camera but without the meter. I think the no-meter version is more stylish and in addition, these light-meters are generally inaccurate nowadays. It is still working (no battery needed), but it is not reliable plus the difference is according to a non-linear function, thus it cannot be easily corrected. Making it worst the film-speed scale is GOST instead of ISO or DIN. This is not a big issue if you carry a convertion table or you stick to one film speed only, but inconvenient for sure.
That is why I have to use an external light-meter or a digital camera to measure the light. I know it sounds tricky, but most of my cameras have no meter at all, plus many great photographers could live with this limitation just fine before us.
Film loading and advance
You have to remove the back plate in order to load the film. This is not too special, but you need to get used to it.
Advancing a film is done by rotating a knob at the top plate instead of having a fast-advance-lever. Again this is not really ergonomic, but you can accept it unless you shooting fast actions.
Winding back the film is a similar experience, but you need to hold a button located at the bottom of the camera. In fact, this is the part I dislike the most about this camera because the rewind knob is very small compared to the force you have to apply. It doesn’t mean you had to force it badly! If you feel something needs to be forced, better not to do it because the film and the camera are both very sensitive instruments.
According to Camerapedia “The Jupiter-8 (sometimes marked in Cyrillic, ЮПИТЕР-8) is a postwar Soviet copy of the prewar Zeiss Sonnar 50mm f/2 for the Contax, built with six elements in three groups. It was made in Contax and M39 mounts, both for rangefinder cameras. “
The lens has a big reputation of being sharp, fast, with a good contrast and a nice bokeh (quality of out of focus elements), but it is prone to internal reflections by direct sunlight hitting the lens. I can confirm all these and yes, it is much better if you are having a lens-hood (5€). The lens is a bit soft wide open, but this is not unusual. You just need to stop down a bit and you will get pin sharp results. On the other hand, the lens has a very pleasing character, which can be revealed best wide open and I think it is great for portraits.
It is true that the quality of your lens highly relies on how lucky you are because the quality control was not the best in that part of the world. Generally speaking the older the lens is the better with the notion that the coated versions are preferable.
The body itself supports a wide variety of lenses. It has the standard Contax bayonet (in fact 2 bayonets inner, outer), so all Contax and Kiev lenses are accepted plus there are Japanese lenses available -Nikon and Canon also made cameras with this mount, but those might be not fully compatible because of the differences in the film distance.
I am very happy with this camera. It looks great and as you can see in the sample photos it can produce very good results (in my opinion). I sent some photos to the original owner of the camera, and he was also surprised, how well it perform for me.
It is indeed not as easy to use, but it gives you a very unique feeling of using something really special, and you are taking pictures in the same fashion as photographers were doing 60 years ago.
In fact, this is one big thing I really like in film photography. You can use the equipment of the elders, yet as you put a modern film in it, you can achieve state of the art results.
I recommend it to anyone who likes the way around and doesn’t mind to learn the “Contax hold”. It is not a big investment but can give so much fun and works perfectly on the exhibition cabinet as well.
Kiev survival site -Everything that is needed to know about the camera including repairing guides for the body and lenses-
The Yashica TL-SUPER is my regular walk around film SLR camera. I think this is a very solid piece of craftsmanship and I thought I might share my experience with it.
I have plenty of vintage cameras most of them in a pretty bad shape, but those which are in good condition I try to use as much as I can.
This Yashica however isn’t mine but belongs to a very good friend David, who gave it to me for use. He is not shooting film, so I guess it could stay for a while. In fact he gave it in a set which consists of a very retro looking camera bag, 3 lenses, a filter, eye-cap,a truly wonderful leather case an of course the body itself. Everything is in an almost perfect shape and I also take care of this equipment a lot.
Unfortunately the battery was left in the camera for a couple of years and as far as I could investigate all the wires are burned out, therefore the meter is dead. It could be fixed by rewiring everything, but until now I have not take the challenge, plus I use an external meter for my other cameras anyway. Despite this issue and the fact that the light sealing rubbers have been pretty much eaten by time it looks as brand new. Thank you David so much! The sealing is a common problem of this kind of cameras, and not on the level of rocket science to solve. (Repair informations can be found here)
I have done some research on the web in order to be able to give some not subjective facts about this camera. So here it is what I have found so far.
The camera has 2 variations both produced in the same year. The significant difference is the way how to open the back of the camera. While v1 has a switch at the bottom of the camera, the v2 opens the back with the traditional rewind-knob pull solution. My version is the more interesting v1.
I love this camera because of it look and feel in my hands, it is really solid indeed. All the dials and switches operate very precisely and I have always a very nice quality feel when I set the time on the body. The lenses are equally well made, on the standard, there is even a scale for infrared photography which is also not usual. My other favorite feature is the mirror look-up. I can flip off the mirror from the way so I can take pictures without any vibrations due to the mirror movement.
I do love the leather case so much because it is very well made and over-thought. You can remove the front-top part while the back of the camera is still covered by the rest of the case. In addition, there is a screw-mount at the bottom of the case in the knob, so you can actually mount it to a tripod without unwrapping your camera. Finally, the knob fixing the case to the camera is somewhat over-sized compared to any other I have seen before, which makes it very convenient to attach and detach.
Some more photos
Very good chance to get one which is working well due to the robust design
Good built quality
Integrated meter works with a common battery type
Works without battery
Huge selection of cheap yet excellent lenses
Nice leather case
Nothing, if you like this manual way of photography.
In fact my only minor concern is that I miss the split-image type focusing aid from the viewfinder. It does have micro-raster but the split-image method is much better for me especially when shooting indoor with a not as fast lens. It could be hard to focus in dim conditions.