View Full Version : Just got a Kiev 4A

01-28-2005, 19:37
It's in remarkable condition, on loan from a friend who thought I might like to fool around with a real high-end RF camera (instead of my Yashica Electro 35 GSN and Olympus XA) and also to quit fooling around with Spotmatics.

So here I am with this strange camera which appears as well-made as an M3 (the only other solid RF I ever got to spend any time with). I am initially quite surprised by the bright, wide coupled rangefinder image. Fast, easily focused. Puts the GSN to shame.

Couple of questions (actually about a dozen, but two will do for now).

1. If I want to change shutter speeds (I know about winding on first), do I lift up on the dial, or simply turn it? I haven't tried yet because I don't want to break anything.

2. What is that little pointy thing sticking out about one o'clock above the lens as you are looking at it from the front of the camera?


01-28-2005, 19:55
I have had a 4a for a few weeks and have enjoyed tooling around with it. I will leave the answers to your questions to someone more knowledgable about these cameras and just urge you to go out and enjoy it. I have found it easiest to use by parking the lens locked at infinity and focusing after setting the exposure. The lens is always starting at one place and I only have to turn it in one direction to focus.

01-28-2005, 21:28
Hi Ted --- You'll probably enjoy using the Kiev; it's quite a historical and complex bit of machinery. Yes, you need to lift the knurled part of the shutter speed dial to set the speed, by putting the red dot in the machined flat adjacent to the speed number you want.

The pointy thing at 1 o'clock is a second method of releasing the infinity lock -- just push the gizmo away from the lens. As you move it back and forth, you'll note the release tab next to the body's focusing wheel move up and down in unison.

The number in the little window atop the rewind knob is a film-speed reminder. turn the small inner knob next to the window to change the number. Numbers are rather odd, as they're GOST numbers, not ISO.

01-29-2005, 14:20
Doug: Complex is a pale term. Took me about an hour to load a roll of film into it. The take up spool wouldnt rotate. Apparently the two-pronged gear attached to the film advance wheel has some sort of clutch on it. It won't start rotating (despite rotating the wheel) until the film's perforations on each side are firmly seated on the little gears. The manual I downloaded from Butkus is somewhat vague on this point. I finally rotated the rewind wheel until I got the film stretched nice and tight. Then the take-up spool kicked in. I don't know if all Kieve 4A's are like this, or just this one.

Now I'm taking pictures. I know I am because I can see the rewind wheel move everytime I advance to the next frame. Except for frame #6, which was a world-stopping street shot a la Cartier Bresson. But I left the lens cap on. (make note: put lens cap in pocket and LEAVE it there).

01-29-2005, 15:53
Now I'm taking pictures. I know I am because I can see the rewind wheel move everytime I advance to the next frame. Except for frame #6, which was a world-stopping street shot a la Cartier Bresson. But I left the lens cap on. (make note: put lens cap in pocket and LEAVE it there).LOL Ted, now you are a fully-fledged member of the forum! This is the right of passage that we don't tell anyone about... ;) The fact that it was an undoubtedly world class shot also jumps you up a few rungs as well! :D

01-29-2005, 16:12
Yes, was world-class. Henri would have wept. After missing it, I sat down on a bench in Peddlers Alley and thought about the fact that I'd used nothing but SLRs since 1965, went home and wrote "rangefinder" 100 times on a legal tablet.

Then I took the Tamrac gear bag full of Maxxums and their lenses, and the leather gear bag full of Spotmatics and their lenses and put them in THE LOCK BOX.

fFrom now on it's just me, my Kiev, and my Electro 35 GSN (oops, forgot the Olympus XA).

Still wish I could watch a Kiev pro load film.


01-29-2005, 16:31
One thing I do to speed loading my Kiev 4a is that I carry a small roll of black electrician tape with me. I tape the leader down to the funky spool and then roll it up a little before putting it back into the camera. Then I close the back, tighten the rewind and advance twince to get to good film making sure the rewind knob turns. If you have a couple of spare sppls you could pre-prep a couple of rolls and really speed the process. (I do wonder sometimes how Capa did it.)

When done with the roll there is a slight tug at the end when the tape pulls free. I stop then and change the rolls.

The Kiev/Contax is a very wonderfully different experiance. If you enjoy it even half as much as me, well, lets simply say that I prefer my Kiev to every Leica I've ever handled. .. :eek: I really wish there had been a Contax VI...


01-29-2005, 17:00
William: Quite clearly a 'different experience.' Not so sure yet about the 'wonderful'. However, thank you for the film loading tips. Wondered why the take-up spool that came with it had signs of taping.

Before the weather went to hell this PM I spent some time photographing some of the Craftsman bungalows here in Bisbee that were built in the very early part of the last century. I like the feel of the camera, and especially like the clear view of the coupled rangefinder. Way easier to focus than the other two rangefinders I have. As I was returning from my Peddlers Alley debacle I passed a veteran photographer. We've known one another for twenty or so years. He glanced at the camera, then at me. "Liked it better back then, eh?" He was silent for a moment. "Back when we were young," he added, "Neither of us could have afforded that camera." Then he moved in for a closer look. "You fooled me, I thought it was a Contax."

And you're right: How the hell did Capa manage it?

01-29-2005, 17:21
Ah, Bisbee. IIRC, that's the little town with lots of art shops up and down the hills next to a big open pit copper mine near Ft. Huachuca? If so, it was a pleasant place to visit back in 1991 while I was there for additional training. Lots of nice places for photographs.

You can mention to your friend that it _is_ a Contax made on Zeiss tooling. It's just that the tooling got moved to Kiev after the war... :) ( if you're not already familier with it, there's a good run down of the story here: http://www.cameraquest.com/zconrfKiev.htm )


01-29-2005, 19:26

I read that. And a few other accounts of what transpired. And that virtually all parts will interchange. But what I like about the little camera, is not so much its history, or its increasing rarity, but the rangefinder. When I am focusing my SLRs with these ageing eyes, I don't quite see that old 'tack-sharp' moment as I rotate the lens. Takes a bit more time to make sure. But with the rangefinder, when the two images collide - that's it? Yes, that's it. Took me some time to understand that notion, and also that, with practice, I might be able to 'capture' the image (a term rampant in academia in recent years) actually faster than with a Spotmatic. That's the part I like about this little bugger.

I know you RF guys are thinking, what planet did this guy grow up on? Well, it's the difference between knowing a system exists, and actually using and experiencing it. Time to play catch-up.

01-29-2005, 19:38
Had started a long blather just to say - I agree.

So I'll just say, I agree. My 40+ eyes are much happier with a RF than any other manual focus camera.



01-30-2005, 09:02
I have two Kievs, a 3 and a 4, and I want to get ahold of a 4a, too. It's the version without the meter, which I'm not sure I'd trust very far anymore.

About those little incoveniences -- Kievs and Zorkis were copies of the cameras that existed in those days. They all have shutter-speed dials that are, by today's standards, devilishly hard to maneuver. For one thing, they are too small, and for another, they have to be 'lifted' in some way to change speeds. (AFTER winding, of course!!!) One has to wonder how Cartier-Bresson lived with the Leicas of that time - as good as they may have been, they sure needed some modern lessons in handling - notably loading the film. But of course, to this day, the RF Leicas still aren't the easiest things to load.

01-30-2005, 12:11
I hope your friend realizes this loan may be permanent! I have had my 4a for two or three years now and I like it very much.
Mine has the take up spool with a little spring clip to hold the film leader. I do need to cut the leader to fit but it's not the pain that bottom loading cameras are. just a nick to make the end of the leader fit to the clip.
I have to admit that when I bought mine, the "cool" factor was a pretty big part of my decision. As far as I have seen, nobody for several counties around here has any thing like it!
I am 44 now and into my third year of wearing bi-focals so my vision isn't as good as I would like but this camera I can focus as long as there's enuogh light to see the color difference between the RF spot and the field of the viewfinder.
An other web site you might find useful(I sure did) is:

I haven't tried this but presumably you could use an empty film cartridge and tape your film leader to the spool in that and just load the both of them into the Kiev.
This is probably more useful if you roll and process your own cuz then you could not attatch the film to the feed cartridge and wind on until the film is completely in the take up cartridge. Faster if speed is a concern.
Enjoy the 4a!

01-30-2005, 12:43
Ted, that "pointy thing" is there to release the focusing wheel lock and permit you to focus using the barrel on the lens rather than the wheel. Other than the 50mm lens, the mechanical leverage needed to focus is greater than the wheel permits. The lens mount on the Kiev actually has an internal bayonet (for the 50mm lens) and an external bayonet for lens with an external mount arrangement. When an 85 or 135mm lens is mounted, a three-prong claw inside of the rear lens engages the internal helical. The mount itself is a "cup" - for want of a better term - that goes over the external bayonet lugs and you'll note that the cup pushes the pin to the side and disconnects the focusing wheel. Now focus is done using the lens barrel. (Edited to read:) The 35mm actually uses lugs rather than claws to couple the lens to the rangefinder. It's focused using the lens barrel. I don't own a 28mm but believe it to be uncoupled which requires zone focusing.

When mounting an external bayonet lens, I always run the lens through it's full focus range to ensure that the coupling of the claws has taken place. If you get to a point where the lens won't go all the way to it's lower focus limits, DON'T FORCE IT! Back off a little and then try again. Often, the claws will engage when you back off. Make certain that the coincident image of the rangefinder works throughout it's entire range. If it doesn't, the claws haven't engaged properly.


01-30-2005, 15:30
Thanks, all.

As I've now shot two rolls of ISO400 Fuji Superia but haven't processed them yet, I'm wondering just how good that Helios 103 (f:1.8/53mm) lens is?

Anyone have experience with it?

Rob: The cool factor is definitely at work. I find, as I walk through the downtown Sunday afternoon crowd, that although the vast majority don't know one camera from another, and probably don't care, the few who do really give it some stares, and a few of those actually ask some questions. I'm still finding it hard to use quickly on the street.

01-31-2005, 05:43
Go to the Gallery and do a search on "Helios". You'll find some pretty good examples.