View Full Version : Interested in Russian Rangefinders..

02-17-2005, 17:17

I'm loving my 2 week old Canonet QL17G3, but I"m thinking I might want to expand my rangefinder arsonal... These Russian Kievs and Zorki's seem like they'd be an economical way of going.

I don't know a damned thing about them though. Seems like they're Contax Copies from what I've read. Do they have coupled rangefinder/viewfinders? Light meters? What's this Knob-winding business and Jupiter lenses? a 7 instead of 50mm? I'm very confused.

How much do you expect to pay for one of these guys and what kind of lenses are available? I'd be most interested in something very wide. 24mm or wider, preferably.

02-17-2005, 17:55
The Kiev is best understood in a remarkable turn of phrase, “This is not a Soviet camera - it is a German camera, made in the Soviet Union” (from http://www.cameraquest.com/zconrfKiev.htm ) That page is a very good place to start, BTW, understanding the Kiev.

The Kiev is a Soviet made version of the Contax II and III cameras. All of the Contax family are different to people used to modern SLRs or even modern RFs. The RF and VF are coupled but it shows only a solid 50mm view. For every other lens you'll need an external VF. Meters exist on the Contax III, IIIa, Kiev 3, Kiev 5 and _non_ a marked Kiev 4 models. They're all old selenium meters so you may as well carry your hand held meter (still, I'm having Henry Scherer make my Contax III meter work even though it tops out at ASA 200... !!!)

Very wide? For any practical use, only if you buy the currently closeout Cosina SC lenses. See www.cameraquest.com for more on them. The widest I go is 35mm and that's a stretch for the way I see the world.

Why use one? In their day they were a tech wet dream. The meter was far in advance of anyone else, you had fast lenses and in quite long focal lengthes that, thanks to the seriously long EBL were actually easy to focus, and they were bricks - you go along on the invasion of Normandy and the camera wouldn't let you down. The lab is another story... :D

In the end it's all an opinion thing. I love how they feel. There is no other camera that comes to hand for me the same way a Contax/Kiev does. My hands slip into place and I can get shots I would have never tried back in the day when I shot a Canon Rebel. I can't speak for anyone else, but for me, this is as close to that ineffable "right stuff" as it gets. It took a day to get used to the Contax grip. Now I pick up another camera and my hand doesn't know where to put my middle finger... LOL

Hope this blather is of some use.


02-17-2005, 18:04
A brief run down on Russian RF's: Kievs are Contax clones using Contax mount lenses, Feds, Zorkis, Mirs use Leica thread mount (M39) lenses. Yes, they have coupled rangefinders, and no, they don't use coupled meters. Older Soviets use knob wind, most newer versions use thumb wind levers, at least in Feds and Zorkis. Jupiters and Industars are the two most common lens types in LTM, Jupiters in Contax mount. Plenty of info can be found either from some of our more knowledgeable Russian camera gurus, or by going to sites like the Russian Camera Forum on BestStuff.com, Alfred Klomp's site (sorry if spelled incorrectly), Tom Tiger's Lair, or simply by searching for Zorki or Kiev on your favourite search engine. (I use Dogpile myself). Hope this helps and doesn't muddy the waters.

02-17-2005, 18:58
The site that started me down the slippery slope of FSU addiction is Stephen Rothery's "Soviet Cameras" at http://www.btinternet.com/~stowupland/index.htm
Once you go over to the Red Side, there is no going back.

02-17-2005, 19:28
alfred's camera page: http://cameras.alfredklomp.com/