Alistair Maclean's Web Site

Russian Starter

This was my first SLR camera. General spec's are below, but these belie that it was a big camera, heavy and robust.

I obtained my then new Zenit-E in about 1975. It had just replaced the none metering -B model. Alternatives at the time included the Praktica, but it was almost half as expensive again. The Zenit was always sold in the UK as a beginners camera, with little pretension to heavy duty pro use. Many people had them.

During my ownership nothing went wrong with the camera, it was always faultless, however the person I sold it to told me years later that the shutter had failed eventually, and the camera was ultimately consigned to the round file.

The shutter was the camera's principle point of character. It let off a monstrous clack when the release was fired, enough as to shake the camera, and on odd occasions the ever ground, too! This 'positive' performance always meant you know that the photo had been taken, but then so did everyone in earshot know. The primary drawback to the shutter were its limited shutter speeds. the bottom speeds were not long enough, and the top speeds often left you wanting, especially on those rare bright days in fog shrouded Britain. Also limited were the settings for film speed that the camera was provided with.

The light meter was always on, it responded slowly to changes in light, but seemed accurate enough (at least in good light) when it had stabilised. A needle under a semi-circular window by the rewind knob on the left side of the camera (from the rear) allowed you to see the meter reading, by turning an adjuster you could derive the settings (f-stop/shutter speed) that would lead to the perfect balance. These settings then had to be made to the aperture ring on the lens and the shutter speed dial on the top right of the camera.

As the manufacturers had chosen to use the 'Pentax' lens screw mount (or is the Leica mount, I never have been able to tell) the camera took a veritable treasure trove of lenses. In fact the main reason for getting a Zenit as opposed to the Praktica, was this choice of lenses, the Praktica having a slightly altered lens mount system to handle their more sophisticated and automated metering system.

I had a 35mm f3.5 wide angle, the standard 50mm, a 200mm f5.6 telephoto and a 500mm f8 telephoto to screw on the front by the time I parted with the camera. The lenses were cheap and cheerful, though I loved the 200mm.

Type 35mm Single Lens Reflex
Lens mount Pentax style screw thread
Standard Lens 50mm f2.8
Shutter Mechanical, cloth blinds, speeds from about 1/2s to 1/500th, B sync @ 1/60th
Meter Selenium cell mounted to front of penta-prism. Not automatically used. meter reading taken from dial under film rewind spool.

For a far better review of this camera than I could possibly ever give, see Alfred's Camera Page.

© Copyright A. Maclean 2001 -
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