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FSU Former Soviet Union RF This forum is for the Former Soviet Union rangefinder cameras, especially the many and various Fed, Zorki, and Kiev.

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FSU cameras when they were new
Old 01-25-2017   #1
motormike900
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FSU cameras when they were new

Were Russian cameras expensive back in the days of the USSR?
What would they be compared to price wise today?
I am just curious, and wonder if most soviet households had a fed or zorki like my parents had a 110 Kodak.

Thanks
Mike
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Old 01-25-2017   #2
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I read the Soviet Union produced more cameras than any other country.
I don't know what they cost when they were made, but they must have been affordable, or they wouldn't be available to us now.

Opinion: I grew up in the 1950's & 60's and was told that everything the Russians made was crap. I now own a 1950's Zorki and it works great, paid $90. including CLA.
I wish I owned a similar American camera, but an Argus doesn't cut it.

Somewhere in Russia a guy is polishing his Chevy and saying the same thing about Russian cars.
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Old 01-25-2017   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motormike900 View Post
Were Russian cameras expensive back in the days of the USSR?
What would they be compared to price wise today?
I am just curious, and wonder if most soviet households had a fed or zorki like my parents had a 110 Kodak.

Thanks
Mike
inexpensive,
not exported to the West
so practically impossible to find outside the USSR and soviet friendly countries
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Old 01-25-2017   #4
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I am sure that the desirable FSU cameras like the Kiev RF camera cost over a month or two worth of wages in the USSR and were procured new only to favoured citizens loyal to the communist party.

And these cameras were always in short supply despite ramping up production quotas yearly to ridiculous levels, hence the drop in quality and ill advised design shortcuts.
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Old 01-25-2017   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CameraQuest View Post
inexpensive,
not exported to the West
so practically impossible to find outside the USSR and soviet friendly countries
I thought they were pretty expensive in the USSR, but relatively cheap anywhere else because the of the need to bring in hard currency.

Outside of the iron curtain, Zenits were cheaper than Prakticas, which were cheaper than pretty much anything else if you wanted an SLR.
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Old 01-25-2017   #6
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They were not very cheap even as exports right after the war. In Finland brand new -49 Kiev with a collapsible ZK 50/2 was around 2300 EUR converted to current value of money.

As a reference around the same time, used mint condition Zeiss Olympia Sonnar with Flektoscope for Kiev/Contax could be bought around 1500 EUR.

Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
I am sure that the desirable FSU cameras like the Kiev RF camera cost over a month or two worth of wages in the USSR and were procured new only to favoured citizens loyal to the communist party.

And these cameras were always in short supply despite ramping up production quotas yearly to ridiculous levels, hence the drop in quality and ill advised design shortcuts.
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Old 01-25-2017   #7
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I bought a Zenit 3m new, in 1970, in New Zealand. It wasn't expensive, and FSU cameras were common here.
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Old 01-25-2017   #8
p.giannakis
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Here is an article on Popular Photography (Oct 1956) talking about Photography in USSR. Scroll down on page 56.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...page&q&f=false
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Old 01-26-2017   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by motormike900 View Post
I am just curious, and wonder if most soviet households had a fed or zorki like my parents had a 110 Kodak.
Most Soviets didn't have any camera because there were no labs around like we know them today. People went to photography saloons to have pictures taken, even in small city they used large format camera, for some reason I remember glass plates put into camera. Pity is they not always could focus properly.

From all my friends only one had a Zenit (he used it to photocopy German magazines), and most of kids had Smena zone focusers - because of price, and it had lens already on it )

So all in all, it weren't too cheap hobby for average person. Soviet people had more free time than money, so they anyway had to have cameras to document their lives - at least, in cities. Sailors took home Western goods, including cameras and film to sell for profit.

I read on Internet memories of photogs - they say since Olympics 1980 Soviet pros shoot mostly Nikons, while factories churned out badly made cameras for masses which people bought, took for warranty repair several times and then tossed into cupboard. Soviet copy of Nikon (Almaz?) used improper materials so it never worked as it should for extended time. Some photogs remember they had to establish connections at a shop to be able to sort through several copies of cameras or lenses to select least defective one.

I bought FED-5 out of curiosity, being able to CLA it. Happily, shutter works fine, I just cleaned RF and reworked Industar-61 which had oily aperture and crud inside it and dried lube in helicoid. It's OK but any of old German or even Japanese cameras are much more refined. As I don't have sentimental memories about Soviet regime I don't feel urge to collect more cameras to prove myself they weren't that bad. What's gone is gone. I have collected a pile of Western cameras to fulfill my "all you can have is a Smena" childhood's feeling, but even that turned out wrong choice. One good camera, less repairs and more shooting would be a better path.
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Old 01-26-2017   #10
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From memory, export of things like cameras did not start until after the Russian Exhibition in London in 1961. It was fantastic and I have copied this picture before!

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=ru...WT0HUeoY9DM%3A

Technical and Optical Equipment was formed in 1961 and acted as importer to the UK.

There is loads of info here:

http://cameras.alfredklomp.com/toe/

I had an Instamatic 50 at the time...
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Old 01-26-2017   #11
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My memories are different. Almost every household had zenit or fed or Kiev.
Almost every man more or less knew how to develop black and white. My best memories from childhood are as my dad and I were printing pictures in darkroom (bathroom). My dad was not a pro or even amateur, it was just normal life skill like cutting grass. Paper was unibrom. I got Smena 8m at the age of about 11 or 12. Dad had Kiev with Jupiter 50mm. When I got interested in color, I was buying ORWO slides and developing in labs, which were plenty of.

By the way regarding buying new vs. used.
I never knew a concept of buying something used until I moved in US.
I am not saying people were not buying used there but mostly because of deficit of goods rather than lack of money.
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Old 01-26-2017   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btgc View Post
Most Soviets didn't have any camera because there were no labs around like we know them today. People went to photography saloons to have pictures taken, even in small city they used large format camera, for some reason I remember glass plates put into camera. Pity is they not always could focus properly.
.

.
That's wrong.
I lived in Kiev. Where are you from?
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Old 01-26-2017   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MIkhail View Post
That's wrong.
I lived in Kiev. Where are you from?
I knew it. In large cities like Kiiv, Moscow etc. there were labs who took film to develop and make prints but they did it manually as far as I know. Hit or miss job, right. C41 and E6 would be whole different story, let alone finding decent film. I'm speaking of early 80ies.

In my smalltown there were no such service and closest city to do it "commercially" would be Riga, I guess, that's about 100km. Too expensive and time consuming even when train tickets were heavily subsidized from oil trade. People just learned to develop and print themselves which rather coexisted well with urban living, while in countryside only winter months allowed to have plenty of free time. I'll ask around if there were options to outsource photo works locally, but that would rather be local amateur not commercial shop.

What I'm saying is - then there were no developed network of labs outside capitals and large cities so photography automatically did mean learning chemical side of things to keep doing picture taking. Not saying it's bad, people just couldn't do their "million of worst pictures ever" projects. On other side, amateurs produce a lot of what later is used to illustrate past times.
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Old 01-26-2017   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by btgc View Post
I knew it. In large cities like Kiiv, Moscow etc. there were labs who took film to develop and make prints but they did it manually as far as I know. Hit or miss job, right. C41 and E6 would be whole different story, let alone finding decent film. I'm speaking of early 80ies.

In my smalltown there were no such service and closest city to do it "commercially" would be Riga, I guess, that's about 100km. Too expensive and time consuming even when train tickets were heavily subsidized from oil trade. People just learned to develop and print themselves which rather coexisted well with urban living, while in countryside only winter months allowed to have plenty of free time. I'll ask around if there were options to outsource photo works locally, but that would rather be local amateur not commercial shop.

What I'm saying is - then there were no developed network of labs outside capitals and large cities so photography automatically did mean learning chemical side of things to keep doing picture taking. Not saying it's bad, people just couldn't do their "million of worst pictures ever" projects. On other side, amateurs produce a lot of what later is used to illustrate past times.
To have lab develop black and white would be considered waste of money :-) normal man developed & print himself. Color was more difficult so I opted for slides. Russian made slides were fading quickly but German film was available.

I am talking about 70-80th too.
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Old 01-26-2017   #15
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Hi,

This opens up a can of worms, doesn't it?

Firstly, in the old USSR were Kievs, FEDs and Zorkis typical family cameras? Or was it the Cosmic Symbol or Smena 8m that were the equivalent to the box Brownie or Kodak Instamatic?

And where did the MF USSR made cameras fit in?

Then there's the question of expensive, which relates to income which relates to the status of your job. An example, before the war proof readers, car mechanics and even dark room technicians were high status jobs with high wages but nowadays computers have taken over. Only postmen and the soldiers in the PBI have jobs that were the same over a period of decades but the wages for them go up and down so long term prices mean nothing. And averages are fairly meaningless on their own.

So my answer is "I dunno" and further research is needed...

Regards, David
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Old 01-26-2017   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
This opens up a can of worms, doesn't it?

Of course, dear David

I guess, in contrast to Westerners, in the former Eastern bloc everyone was aware that if your behaviour was inadequate, the proper authorities will notice quite soon.

Hence, everyone who was going to shoot somehow «critical» pictures was forced to have a home-lab.

By «critical» I don't necessarily mean «regime ridiculing», it could have been be something like photographing nudity, e.g.: while nudity was quite common (naturism, nudism at the sea or the lakes), photographing nudity was «inadequate», if not even outlawed in some of the Eastern bloc jurisdictions.
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Old 01-26-2017   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MIkhail View Post
normal man developed & print himself.
.......
Russian made slides were fading quickly but German film was available.
I agree - once one has learned something it's a lifetime skill, usually. Don't know if I would be more normal mixing powders back then as with liquid concentrate now it's almost too easy )

German film, yeah. Photogs asked RBL5 for one 15x20 color print (average salary were, eh, 120?) and no one ever would think to ask 'em working for display like it happens now when bride want's "no prints, only a disc with at least 1200 pictures so it can't cost money".
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Old 01-26-2017   #18
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My memories are from early 80ties from small town in Lithuania... Smena 8 was quite common, I got it when I was 12 or 13. Zenit/Kiev - not cheap (probably around a monthly salary) and not easy to find. When it comes to development/printing, it was all DIY. There were so called "household service companies" (literal translation), they were providing all kind of services - from laundry to film development, but nobody used them
DDR's Praktica was a "pro camera". Only owned by pro journalists (sourced by an employer, not available in stores) or bought on "black market" (as many other things including any brand of jeans) Thus - no nostalgia
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Old 01-26-2017   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post

And where did the MF USSR made cameras fit in?

Then there's the question of expensive, which relates to income which relates to the status of your job. An example, before the war proof readers, car mechanics and even dark room technicians were high status jobs with high wages but nowadays computers have taken over. Only postmen and the soldiers in the PBI have jobs that were the same over a period of decades but the wages for them go up and down so long term prices mean nothing. And averages are fairly meaningless on their own.

So my answer is "I dunno" and further research is needed...

Regards, David
The MF cameras (Moskva) were used primary by pros. But I have not seen a lot of them. In places equivalent of "Sears Photo" they used large format, for some reasons.
There was also service of catching you on a street and snapping a picture and then giving you a business card. You can come back later and review the small prints / contacts and order yourself a picture. This way I have a picture of myself and my future wife walking on our first date.
There was also service of copying pictures from foreign magazines, already mentioned here, for various purposes (from nude women to best examples of western photography).
All these guys were making decent money, I figure, mostly "under the table".
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Old 01-26-2017   #20
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Russian Rangefinder forum has similar thread on ten pages.
http://rangefinder.ru/club/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=15404

I'm helping with translation here.
Somewhere in fifties prices went down.



Zorki-2C 700 RUB, FED-2 550 RUB, Kiev-III around 2000 RUB.

FSU prices from fifties are 10:1 to later prices due to money reform (10:1 devaluation).


1955 Official shipping catalog with prices.









Lubitel listed around 100 RUB. Smena 200 RUB. Zorki 705 RUB. Kiev 2000 RUB. Kiev 2340. Average monthly salary around 740 RUB.

Zenit C was 700 RUB in 1959 with average monthly salary of 770 RUB.

Here is the wages table (monthly payments),

http://opoccuu.com/wages.htm

years on the left, next to it is average FSU salary. I'm finding it accurate from what I have read and what I have myself.

1962 prices from Soviet book by Bunimovitch "Camera choice".
Keiv-Vega - 22руб.50 коп. Smena - 11руб, Smena-2 13 руб, Smena-5 - 9 руб. Smena-6 13 руб. 50 коп. Zarya - 27 руб. Unost 27 руб. Zorki-С 28 руб, Zorki-2С with Industar 30 руб. Zorki-4 with Jupiter 61 руб. Zorki-5 with Industar-50 28 руб. Zorki-6 with I-50 43 руб. Fed-2 with I-10 26 руб. Mir with I-50 35 руб, with J-8 48 руб. Drug - 70 руб. Kiev 111А (если 83 руб. Kiev 4А -115 руб. Kiev 4 - 125 руб. Leningrad 125 руб. Zenit-С 50 руб. Zenit-3 80 руб. Start -130 руб!!! Lubitel-2 10 руб. Lubitel 8 руб. Estafeta - 24 руб. Unikor 6 руб. 50 коп. Iskra 85 руб. Moskva-4 24 руб. Moskvа - 5 26 руб. Salut - 400 руб (!) FT-2 43 руб. Sputnik - 26 руб. Narziss - 85 руб (suggested).

Руб is Rubl. Коп is kopeyka (1 Rubl is 100 Kopeyek).
Average monthly salary in 1962 - 84 RUB.


In seventies prices went up due to new models. But they kept same manufacturing, pricing strategy.
Cameras like Lubitel and Smena were very affordable. Zorki, FED were one, half-salary range. SLRs and Kiev more expensive. Medium format was even more expensive.
Salut-S was 435 RUB in 1979, monthly average salary 150 RUB.

Da ztrastvuet Souz Sovetskih Sozialisticheskich Resbublic!
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Old 01-26-2017   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
Russian Rangefinder forum has similar thread on ten pages.
http://rangefinder.ru/club/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=15404....

Whoa thats super cool info Ko.Fe. Thanks.

Marcelo
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Wow
Old 01-26-2017   #22
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Wow

Thanks everyone, you all are a wealth of information.
Thank you for responding
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Old 01-26-2017   #23
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Now these weren't shot with a FSU camera (most likely), but they certainly take you back in time.
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Old 01-26-2017   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mpaniagua View Post
Whoa thats super cool info Ko.Fe. Thanks.

Marcelo
I'll second that; by the way, how did prices of everyday things compare? Also I know musicians who fled west found problems as they weren't expecting unemployment due to USSR policies.

It would be interesting to get the USSR version of prices in the west...

Regards, David

PS Loved the table in kg of potatoes.
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Old 01-26-2017   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
I'll second that; by the way, how did prices of everyday things compare? Also I know musicians who fled west found problems as they weren't expecting unemployment due to USSR policies.

It would be interesting to get the USSR version of prices in the west...

Regards, David

PS Loved the table in kg of potatoes.
David,

You can't look that way... Many things were quite affordable (price-wise), but shops were empty. Some places were better, some worse, but many of us (who lived inFSU) remember queueing to buy the toilet paper (yes, it was cheap when you manage to get hold of it ). "Exotic" fruits (bananas, oranges) were available only during short period around New Year Eve (again - queueing for hours). As a kid I did not memorize most of prices, except for icecream and fixer/ developer . Quality icecream was 20 kop. - fixer or developer was about the same . 20 kop was something I could get by returning empty glass bottle from the lemonade (deposit). Milk bottle deposit though was only 15 kop
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Old 01-26-2017   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MIkhail View Post
Russian made slides were fading quickly but German film was available.
Speaking of slides, I've found and scanned one. People say it weren't Soviet or ORWO film.


Lost champions by mm35exp36, on Flickr
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Old 01-26-2017   #27
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David,

You can't look that way... Many things were quite affordable (price-wise), but shops were empty. Some places were better, some worse, but many of us (who lived inFSU) remember queueing to buy the toilet paper (yes, it was cheap when you manage to get hold of it ). "Exotic" fruits (bananas, oranges) were available only during short period around New Year Eve (again - queueing for hours). As a kid I did not memorize most of prices, except for icecream and fixer/ developer . Quality icecream was 20 kop. - fixer or developer was about the same . 20 kop was something I could get by returning empty glass bottle from the lemonade (deposit). Milk bottle deposit though was only 15 kop
Hi,

Very interesting, thanks.

For what it's worth, as a kid oranges were only available for me around Christmas and the same for some apples and so on. Nowadays, of course, we have plastic supermarket apples and fruit and it's available all the year but not worth bothering with, imo.

Regards, David
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Old 01-27-2017   #28
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"Exotic" fruits (bananas, oranges) were available only during short period around New Year Eve (again - queueing for hours).
Don't forget dried bananas - probably Castro's Cuba paid with them in return for supporting their economics. Occasional pack of cane sugar and adults having some Havana Club bottle, that's what I recall, too.

Since then I truly hate queues and can pass on good event if I have to queue for longer than couple of minutes. And don't ask me what I think about waiting overnight to enter a shop and get....um, just a phone!
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Old 01-27-2017   #29
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Here are prices of Russian cameras (at the time) from British magazine Amateur Photographer, from October 1978
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Amateur Photographer October 1978 .jpg (52.6 KB, 37 views)
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Old 01-27-2017   #30
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Tangentially, I do wonder about Chinese cameras. I understand the Seagull TLR was sort of a standard design which ended up being produced in several different factories with slight variations. The Great Wall SLR was intended to be a cheaper (more accessible?) alternative aimed at photography students, but seems comparatively rare. 35mm cameras were apparently very uncommon in China until the 1990s, even soviet made ones.

As I understand it most common cameras in China were very simple things along the lines of the Holga (which was of course from Hong Kong, but initially intended for sale in China). The Holga of course became exported around the world, whereas the equivalent native Chinese products were rarely (if ever?) exported.
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Old 01-27-2017   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
I'll second that; by the way, how did prices of everyday things compare? Also I know musicians who fled west found problems as they weren't expecting unemployment due to USSR policies.

It would be interesting to get the USSR version of prices in the west...

Regards, David

PS Loved the table in kg of potatoes.
With my ESL I'm not so sure what you are interested in to know. USSR prices comparing to West prices?

I was getting married around time of USSR collapsing, while it was still under soviet control of pricing. Dollars just became convertible for general public.
I was giving chance to do unofficial work for German documentary which was done with help of one guy we used to work together on Russian TV. He wrote the music, I did the closing titles. And was paid 150USD.

On 150 USD we purchased:
Two small beds to have them bolt together, queen bed sizes were hard to find. Made in USSR. New.
Electrical cooking stove. Made in USSR. New.
TV "Rubin" Made in USSR, with imported tube. Used.
New dining set. Made in USSR.
Man dress suit for wedding. Made in USSR. New.
Man and Women pair of shoes. Made in USSR. New.
We paid from same 150$ for furniture, stove delivery. We purchased food and purchased spirit Royal


http://spoki.tvnet.lv/foto-izlases/9...rievija/616511


to make with my mother in law home made vodka. We were parting for three days with it. First day with relatives, second with co-workers and third with friends. On the third day I took of from the table and collapsed on the bed for one hour or so.
On same 150$ I purchased flash, Made in USSR, used, but couldn't find the cable. All three days I was taking wedding party pictures with FED-2 in one hand and triggering flash by another hand. Developed ORWO slide film came with one visible, not in focus frame.
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Old 01-27-2017   #32
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I suspect that 6x9 folders were more valued than 35mm cameras. Back then, most people just contact printed the negs, and a 6x9 camera gives a good size pic for showing people. A 35mm contact print, not so much :[
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Old 01-28-2017   #33
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Quote:
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Tangentially, I do wonder about Chinese cameras. I understand the Seagull TLR was sort of a standard design which ended up being produced in several different factories with slight variations. The Great Wall SLR was intended to be a cheaper (more accessible?) alternative aimed at photography students, but seems comparatively rare. 35mm cameras were apparently very uncommon in China until the 1990s, even soviet made ones.

As I understand it most common cameras in China were very simple things along the lines of the Holga (which was of course from Hong Kong, but initially intended for sale in China). The Holga of course became exported around the world, whereas the equivalent native Chinese products were rarely (if ever?) exported.
No, even before the 1990s, they made quite a number of 35mm cameras; cf.: Douglas St. Denny's «Cameras of the People's Republic of China».

But true is, they appear scarcely on the second hand market.
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Old 01-28-2017   #34
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Tangentially, I do wonder about Chinese cameras. I understand the Seagull TLR was sort of a standard design which ended up being produced in several different factories with slight variations. The Great Wall SLR was intended to be a cheaper (more accessible?) alternative aimed at photography students, but seems comparatively rare. 35mm cameras were apparently very uncommon in China until the 1990s, even soviet made ones.

As I understand it most common cameras in China were very simple things along the lines of the Holga (which was of course from Hong Kong, but initially intended for sale in China). The Holga of course became exported around the world, whereas the equivalent native Chinese products were rarely (if ever?) exported.
You just need to find the right entrance:
https://s.taobao.com/search?spm=a230...9B%B8%E6%9C%BA
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Old 01-28-2017   #35
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You just need to find the right entrance:
https://s.taobao.com/search?spm=a230...9B%B8%E6%9C%BA
LOL; I can see only tons of convenience food, but no photographic stuff at all
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Old 01-28-2017   #36
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LOL; I can see only tons of convenience food, but no photographic stuff at all
Strange.
Well, you can search 海鸥相机 on www.taobao.com . There are a lot of them.

I wouldn't touch them.
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Old 01-29-2017   #37
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David,

You can't look that way... Many things were quite affordable (price-wise), but shops were empty. Some places were better, some worse, but many of us (who lived inFSU) remember queueing to buy the toilet paper (yes, it was cheap when you manage to get hold of it ). "Exotic" fruits (bananas, oranges) were available only during short period around New Year Eve (again - queueing for hours). As a kid I did not memorize most of prices, except for icecream and fixer/ developer . Quality icecream was 20 kop. - fixer or developer was about the same . 20 kop was something I could get by returning empty glass bottle from the lemonade (deposit). Milk bottle deposit though was only 15 kop
Exactly. Moscow, 1990. Good tomatoes, on the free market, 2 roubles/ kilo. Controlled price tomatoes, 35 kopeks/kilo -- except that on the rare occasions you could find them, they were wizened/ shrivelled/ broken...

The prices are from memory but I'm pretty sure they are accurate.

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Old 01-29-2017   #38
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In the 1950s, and even into the (very) early 1960s, Soviet cameras were astonishingly expensive in the UK. This comes from my finding (and reading) magazines and catalogues from that era in the 1970s and 1980s. As they became more and more outdated, though, prices fell until they were basically regarded as cheap junk. Unfortunately this is based on memory as I cannot easily find the magazines and catalogues in question, and I'm quite busy.

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Old 01-29-2017   #39
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In 1986, I have my first Seagull camera. Basically a Minolta sr copy with a 58mm f2 lens. The price was 400 yuan. The amount is about half year of average salary. 120 cameras were not preferred at that time since color 35mm getting popular. Seagull tlrs were selling half of SLR 35mm cameras. 10yuan I can buy 10meter back white films to play with.
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Old 01-29-2017   #40
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In 1986, I have my first Seagull camera. Basically a Minolta sr copy with a 58mm f2 lens. The price was 400 yuan. The amount is about half year of average salary. 120 cameras were not preferred at that time since color 35mm getting popular. Seagull tlrs were selling half of SLR 35mm cameras. 10yuan I can buy 10meter back white films to play with.
Fair enough, and thanks for actual numbers, but how meaningful was "average" salary in a wildly unequal society such as China in 1986? Or even today?

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