Kiev-Arsenal is a Soviet brand of camera manufactured by the Arsenal Factory in Kiev, Ukraine. The camera nameplates show the name "KIEV", with older cameras using "КИЕВ" in the cyrillic alphabet.

Kiev medium format cameras

The Kiev brand is probably best known for two 6×6 medium format cameras:

Kiev 88

An almost direct clone of the original Hasselblad 1600F/1000F, sometimes jokingly referred to as a "Hasselbladski".

Originally called "Salyut", it added a self-timer mechanism below the film advance knob to the original Hasselblad design. However, this add-on was abandoned and is only seen on very early or prototype cameras. The Salyut went into mass production around 1957. An automatic aperture mechanism was later added and the camera's designation was changed to "Salyut C". With the further addition of a hot shoe for electronic flashes, the camera's name was changed to "Kiev 88". It was sometimes exported to the West as the "Zenith 80".

The Kiev 88 used a screw type lens mount similar to the original Hasselblad mount, however there are mixed reports on compatibility between the two. Most film backs are not compatible between Kievs and Hasselblads due to different gear mechanisms. However, Kiev 88 viewfinders are compatible with the Hasselblad 1600F and 1000F, and even current Hasselblad V-system models.

The Kiev 88 lens mount was modified to accept most Pentacon Six mount lenses around 1999 and designated the Kiev 88CM. Many of these cameras have found their way around the world, especially to the United States. They are considered inexpensive alternatives in the medium film format camera market (see below).

Kiev 60

The Kiev 60 is similar to an enlarged 35 mm SLR, based loosely on the Pentacon Six and using the same breech-lock lens mount. This camera was originally called the Kiev 6C with a shutter release button activated by the left hand, and accepting both 220 and 120 film. The current Kiev 60 has a more conventional right-handed shutter release, but does not take 220 film. The Kiev 60 has a simpler frame-advancement mechanism than the Pentacon Six but it is often poorly adjusted at the factory resulting in incorrect frame spacing. [cite web | url= | title=Differences between Kiev-60 and Kiev-88 | publisher=ARAX Inc | format=PDF | first=Gevorg | last=Vartanyan | accessdate=2007-11-26] This problem can be fixed.

There is both a waist level finder and metered prism finder available. It has no removable film back, thus making the Kiev 60 design simpler and less prone to light leaks, which is sometimes a problem with the Kiev 88 design.

Attractions of Kiev cameras, and problems

The low price of the Kiev medium format cameras has attracted many amateur photographers wishing to enter the medium format camera market on a budget. Some have reported that the prices of a Kiev camera setup with other Russian or Ukrainian components (e.g lenses) can be 1/10th to 1/15th the price of a similar Hasselblad setup. However, the Arsenal plant is reported to have generally poor quality control and people often receive cameras with small cosmetic or functional defects. Sometimes brand new cameras are completely inoperable. It has been suggested that the Kiev cameras are not intended to be used "out of the box" like most Western consumer goods, but are instead more like pre-assembled kits that require some work be done on them before they can work reliably. One key issue is thought to be the rough finish on the gears of the internal mechanisms, causing the film advance to become stiff and sound like "grinding walnuts" according to some accounts.

For this reason a number of distributors have appeared offering Kiev cameras in safer forms. At the least they provide a closer contact for easier exchanging or returning of faulty items. However some have taken advantage of the Arsenal plant's variable quality to add value through varying levels of third-party rebuilding, modification, and testing of the Arsenal-supplied cameras.

The cameras however, still have a number of quirks that no simple servicing will remove. The most notable quirk is that the shutter speed on the original Kiev 88 should "only" be changed after cocking the shutter (spring-loading the shutter mechanism and advancing the film). Changing the shutter speed on an un-cocked camera will damage the timing mechanism, so it is recommended that Kiev users get into the habit of always cocking the shutter after taking a photo. [cite web | url= | title=Kiev 88 always and never | publisher=ARAX Inc | format=PDF | first=Kevin | last=Kalsbeek | accessdate=2007-11-26] This is not a problem with the Kiev 60 and Kiev 88CM variants. There are also mixed reports that the shutter speed dial should only be turned clock-wise, never anti-clock-wise. This is certainly known to be an issue with cameras modified by Hartblei to add a mirror lock-up (MLU) feature. Other cameras may or may not have this problem.

Common modifications

The vendors that sell Kiev cameras outside of the former Soviet Union often make their own modifications to the cheap and basic cameras coming from the factory.

Mirror lock-up is a feature that can be added to both the Kiev 88 and Kiev 60. This removes the small amount of motion blur that can be caused by the mirror hitting the top of the mirror box just before the shutter opens. (Other sources of motion-blur still remain however). It is most useful when the subject is greatly magnified e.g. using a long or telephoto lens, or doing macro photography.

The Kiev 60 is sometimes modified to shoot with a 6×4.5 frame size, often called "Kiev 645" or similar, yielding more pictures per roll of film in a "print-friendly" rectangular format versus the original camera's square 6×6 format. But since the film feeds sideways, the 6×4.5 variant produces photos in the "portrait" aspect, as opposed to the "landscape" aspect seen in most other cameras. The Kiev 88 can shoot the 6×4.5 frame size by simply using a different film back. The 6×4.5 film back is interchangeable with others for 6×6 and other frame sizes, while the Kiev 60 modification is permanent.


One of the reasons for the lasting demand for these cameras is the price of the lenses that can be used on them. Among them are the Arsat (Zodiak 8) 1:3.5/30 mm fisheye lens. This lens is reputedly quite good and generally available for under US$250, which is stunning since one would have to spend many thousands of dollars to get a non-Russian equivalent lens of this type. [cite web | url= | title=30mm fish-eye lenses for Pentacon Six - Pt 1 | work=The Pentacon Six System | author=TRA | accessdate=2008-10-03] The standard of finish varies widely, as they are obviously made in different factories. The 2.8/150 Kaleinar 3 must have been made alongside components for tanks and tractors. Generally, the major fault lies in the unreliable iris linkage. Fortunately, these lenses are large, often crudely designed mechanically (if not optically) and therefore easy to fix.

Medium format lenses produced by Arsenal for Kiev cameras:

* 1:3.5/30 mm Arsat fisheye lens (formerly called Zodiak)
* 1:3.5/45 mm Arsat (formerly called Mir-26)
* 1:4.5/55 mm Arsat shift lens
* 1:3.5/65 mm Mir-38
* 1:3.5/65 mm Mir-3 (discontinued - was much larger than the later Mir-38)
* 1:2.8/80 mm Arsat (formerly called Volna)
* 1:2.8/90 mm Vega-12
* 1:2.8/120 mm Vega-28
* 1:2.8/150 mm Kaleinar-3
* 1:3.5/250 mm Arsat (formerly called Jupiter-36)
* 1:5.6/250 mm Arsat (formerly called Telear-5)
* 1:4.5/300 mm Tair-33 (discontinued)
* 1:8.0/600 mm Arsat (formerly called ZM-3)

The 1:5.6 and 1:8.0/500 mm Rubinar Catadioptric (mirror) lenses are sometimes adapted to fit on Kiev medium format cameras. Shift and Tilt-Shift lenses based on the 45 mm and 65 mm optics are also available. These lenses allow photographers to take advantage of the Scheimpflug principle for achieving greater apparent depth of field without adjusting the aperture, and gain other controls similar to those found on view cameras.

Kiev 35 mm cameras

Kiev also produced several 35 mm film rangefinder cameras which were clones of the pre-war Contax II and Contax III cameras, and a range of 35mm SLR cameras.

After the war had ended, the Soviet Union demanded new sets of Contax tools from the original toolmaker in Dresden and then ordered a fair number of trial cameras to be made with Zeiss trademarks and coated lenses from these 1946 in postwar East Germany. With this successful, everything together with German instructors were transferred to Kiev. Missing specialists were in a few cases recruited in West Germany. These had better contracts than the de-facto prisoner-status colleagues from Dresden. Any still available parts went in the same direction. In fact, removing the top of some very early Kiev II cameras, one could see that the metal was originally stamped with the Contax name, then pressed out and re-stamped as Kiev.

Kiev rangefinders retained the same lens mount as the prewar Contax rangefinders and the lenses can be interchanged. The cameras went through a few minor modifications to become the Kiev III and eventually Kiev 4. There was also a Kiev 5 with a modernized upper part with integrated meter. Attractive, though poorly made and unreliable, its production was soon terminated. The other models were kept in continually downgraded production until the 1980s. The number of Kievs vastly exceeded that of the pre-war Dresden and post-war Jena and Stuttgart Contaxes.

35 mm rangefinder lenses, all pre-war Zeiss designs except the newer 1.8/53 made by Arsenal and other Soviet lens manufacturers:

* 1:6.0/28 mm Orion-15
* 1:2.8/35 mm Jupiter-12
* 1:1.5/50 mm Jupiter-3
* 1:2.0/50 mm Jupiter-8
* 1:1.8/53 mm Helios-103
* 1:2.0/85 mm Jupiter-9
* 1:4.0/135 mm Jupiter-11

Kiev also made a range of 35 mm SLR cameras:

* The Kiev 10, which was among the first 35mm SLRs with automatic exposure.
* The Kiev 15, a successor to the Kiev 10.
* The Kiev 17, desirable due to its Nikon mount and cloned budget Nikon E lenses. Derived from early Cosina SLR and Rollei SL35 designs. Stop-down TTL-metering with red light-balance LEDs in Viewfinder.
* The Kiev 19, which is partly restyled successor to the 17.
* The Kiev 20, which adds aperture coupling and a self-timer to the 19 design.
* The Kiev 19m, which uses a moulded polycarbonate body rather than the metal used in earlier models. Despite its model number, it succeeds the Kiev 20.

The rare and unique Kiev 10 and 15 both used their own unique lens mount; only a handful of lenses were available in that format. They are collector's items that were not exported.

The Kiev 35A is a semi-automatic point-and-shoot 35 mm camera. It's a clone of the Minox 35 EL, and in all probability made with sold-off Minox 35 tooling.

The Kiev 17 and later 19/20-Line, available since around 1980, constituted the most westernized 35 mm SLRs available in the days of the Soviet Union. To satisfy the large internal demand, there was no discernable export at the time they would have found a ready market in the West. Instead, the hopelessly outdated Zenit with a poor-quality external selenium meter was unloaded in large numbers.


External links

* [ Kiev60SLR] - DIY site for users of the Kiev 60 camera.
* [ Kievaholic] - A "fan" site for Kiev 60 and 88 users with more information.
* [ Arax upgrade process] - An illustrated example of the modifications that one vendor does to a Kiev camera from the factory.
* [ Kiev rangefinders]
* [ Current product line of Arsenal factory (russian)]
* [ "Arsenal" State Enterprise Plant]

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