Zenit (camera)

Zenit (camera)

: "This article is about the Russian camera brand. For the astronomic or geodetic instruments directed to the zenith, see Zenith camera.": "For other uses, see Zenit (disambiguation)."

Zenit is a Russian (and formerly Soviet) camera brand manufactured by KMZ near Moscow since 1952 and by BelOMO in Belarus since the 1970s. The Zenit trademark is associated with 35mm SLR cameras. Among related brands are Zorki for 35mm rangefinder cameras, Moskva (Moscow) for medium-format folding cameras and Horizon for panoramic cameras. In the 60s and 70s they were exported by Mashpriborintorg to 74 countries. [http://www.ussrphoto.com/Wiki/default.asp?WikiCatID=38&ParentID=4&ContentID=601&Item=MashPriborIntorg+1978 MashPriborIntorg Export magazine from USSR Photo website] ]

The name is sometimes spelled Zenith in English, such as the manuals published by the UK Zenit-importer TOE. However, TOE's imported camera bodies retained the "Zenit" badges.


Early years

The first Zenit was based on the Zorki rangefinder camera (a copy of the Leica II). In transforming the Zorki into an SLR, the simplest approach was taken: the rangefinder housing was removed from the top and replaced by a ground-glass screen and prism; a mirror was added below, with a rope-and-pulley setting system and the M39x1 thread mount was pushed forward to make room for the mirror inside.

During the first years of production (until the Zenit-E of 1967) Zenit camera development coincided with that of the Zorki cameras. The Zenit-S had PC-synchro for external flash units (almost like the Zorki-S) and the Zenit-3M also had an RF-sibling, the Zorki-6.

Zenit-E and its successors

During 1967 through 1969 KMZ built an automatic die-cast moulding line, allowing mass camera production. Camera production switched to the M42x1 thread (also known as P-wire or Praktica thread) and an instantly-returning mirror was also developed. This led to one of the most famous Zenits -- Zenit-E which saw (including its subtypes) over 12 million produced. Production included both M39x1 and M42x1 mounts for the Zenit E and Zenit B models. Later models were only produced in the M42x1 or the Pentax K mount.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the Zenit-E heritage became an obstacle to the development of more modern Zenit models. This was because almost all low-end Zenits until the recent 412DX have been based around the Zenit-E die-cast chassis.

The major events of the further development of Zenit-E line was:
*Introduction of an automatic 'jumping' diaphragm on the Zenit-EM
*TTL metering system (instead of a non-coupled Selenium-cell lightmeter) on the Zenit-TTL
*Switching to the Pentax K mount -- Zenit-122K
*DX-code introduction (instead of manual ISO-speed switch) -- Zenit-412DX

Advanced models

The first attempt to make high-end professional camera by KMZ was the Start in 1958. This camera had a full set of shutter speeds (from 1 sec to 1/1000), a lens with an automatic diaphragm in a unique breech-lock mount, and even a knife for cutting-off part of the unexposed film. The photographer could choose between a pentaprism and waist-level finders. The grave disadvantage of the Start is blamed on lack of lenses; only one lens (the Helios-44 f2/58) was ever made for the proprietary Start mount directly.

Zenit's next attempt was the Zenit-4 (1964), -5 and -6 cameras. These were based on a Voigtländer Bessamatic-type mount with focal-plane shutter. The Zenit-5 was the first Soviet motor-driven camera, and the first Soviet zoom lens (Rubin-1c 2.8/37-80, based on Voigtländer Zoomar design) featured in the Zenit-6.

Following this, there were two more attempts to make high-end protographic equipment, namely the Zenit-7 (1968) and Zenit-D (1969). Both were based on the completely new cloth-curtain shutter construction. The Zenit-D had automatic exposure mode. Its shutter was speeded-up to achieve X-sync at 1/125. Each of these had its own bayonet mount ("mount 7" and "mount D" respectively) which helped to utilize the camera's most advanced features. There were plans to develop a full line of optics for these cameras but the new shutter was too complicated and unreliable. Production was cancelled shortly after, and the only lens made for new mounts were the standard types. Ironically, the Start, Zenit-7 and Zenit-D utilized the same normal lens -- a Helios-44 2/58. The Zenit-D is one of the rarest Zenit camera -- only 63 cameras were produced.

After one more unsuccessful camera (Zenit-16) which was produced in very small quantities, in 1979 production of the Zenit-19 began. This was a camera with an original electromagnet-driven focal-plane shutter, M42 lens mount, and shutter speeds from 1 sec to 1/1000. X-sync at 1/60 or 1/125 (camera was modified during production). The camera has only manual shooting mode (with a TTL-meter and a needle indicator of the proper exposition in the viewfinder). The Zenit-19 was, perhaps, the top-of-the-line Soviet M42 lens mount camera.

Pentax-K mount series

In 1984 the Zenit-automat entered production. This had a Pentax K mount (which was proposed as an open-standard by Pentax and distributed freely) and a focal shutter with horizontal-travel cloth curtains. The only operation mode was aperture-priority. The camera was modified in 1988, to include shutter FZL-84 with vertical-travel metal curtains, and was reissued as the Zenit-AM. The Zenit-AM2 was a cheaper version of the AM without the self-timer.

Next in line was the Zenit-APK. Its distinguishing feature was the introduction of a manual shutter mode in addition to aperture-priority. The original FZL-84 shutter was also changed to a licensed 'Copal Square' shutter.

The most recent model is the Zenit-KM of 2001. This is the second microprocessor-controlled camera in the Zenit range (the first one was the second variant of the Zenit-automat camera), and the second (after the Zenit-5) motor-driven camera built by KMZ. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 1 sec (and up to 16 sec in Auto mode). X-sync is 1/125 sec, and the camera includes both manual shutter and aperture-priority modes as well as DX-coding from 50 to 3200 ISO. In 2004, the KM received some improvements and was renamed to the Zenit-KM plus

The Zenit-KM plus was the final Zenit camera to be produced; as of 2005 all SLR camera production at the Krasnogorsk factory ceased.

Camera models

Early cameras

Bottom Loading
* Zenit (1953 - 1956)
* Zenit-S (S stands for flash sync, 1955 - 1961)
* Zenit-3 (1960 - 1962)

Hinged Back
* Kristall/Crystal (1961 - 1962)
* Zenit-3m (1962 - 1970)

Zenit-4 line semiautomatic cameras

* Zenit-4
* Zenit-5
* Zenit-6

Zenit-E line

Models with a Selenium cell lightmeter

* Zenit-E
* Zenit-B (identical to the E but no lightmeter)
* Zenit-EM
* Zenit-BM (identical to the EM but no lightmeter)
* Zenit-ET
* Zenit-10
* Zenit-11

Cameras with TTL-metering and M42 thread mount

* Zenit-TTL
* Zenit-12
* Zenit-12xp
* Zenit-122
* Zenit-122V
* Zenit-312m
* Zenit-412DX
* Zenit-412LS

Cameras with TTL-metering and Pentax K mount

* Zenit-122K
* Zenit-212K

Cameras with non-standard mounts

* Start
* Zenit-7
* Zenit-D

M42 semi-automatic cameras

* Zenit-16
* Zenit-19
* Zenit-18
* Zenit-MT-1 Surprise (half frame Zenit-19 variant)

Zenit-Ax line (Pentax K mount cameras)

* Zenit-Automat (also known as Zenit-Auto)
* Zenit-AM
* Zenit-AM2
* Zenit-APk
* Zenit KM
* Zenit-KM plus


One oddity of the Zenit camera range is the so-called FotoSnaiper (or Photosniper) kit, which consists of a case (either leather or metal) a gunstock and shoulderstock, filters, a 300 mm f4.5 Tair lens, a normal lens and a Zenit adapted for the gunstock (recognizable by the s designation, Zenit-ES, 122s etc.). The camera is actually held and used in the same manner as a rifle; hence the name "Photosniper".

Production Models

* FS-2 (FED RF based)
* FS-3 (Zenit E based)
* FS-12 (Zenit 12 based)
* FS-12-3 (Zenit 12XP based)
* FS-122 (Zenit 122 based)
* FS-412

Low Production and Prototype only

* FS-4
* FS-4M
* FS-5

Misuse of the name Zenit

Officially the "Zenit" trademark was (and is) the property of the KMZ factory. However, this factory was owned by the Soviet "Ministry of the Defensive Industry", who freely used the "Zenit" brand whilst exporting cameras made by the other factories they also owned to the West.

Perhaps the first was the Salut medium-format camera, made in Kiev, which was exported as the Zenith-80. (Note the 'h' spelling of the name). Later on, some models of the LOMO-compact camera were sold as Zenit LC-A.

The BELOMO factory in Belarus produced millions of Zenit cameras, but since 1991 they have had no rights to use "Zenit" name. However, some cameras in production (as of March 2006) still bear this logo.

The mark is still used without permission by other 'noname companies'. There are known to be a few such SLRs and even a digital compact camera with the Zenit logo on it.

Website at [http://www.zenitcamera.com/index-eng.html zenitcamera.com] [http://www.zenitcamera.com/qa/qa-nonkmz.html shows] cameras and lenses which bear the "Zenit", Helios and Horizon logos despite being produced by other factories. The text is in Russian, so here is a brief commentary on the pictures. In the first part of the page you can see cameras made by the other factories owned by the Ministry of the Defensive Industry. The second part is about equipment produced by the BelOMO factory. The third part shows 'fake' "Zenit" and "Horizon" cameras and "Helios" lenses. And the last section is dedicated to the other companies which sold photographic equipment under "Zenith" mark at the end of the 20th century.

Finally, during the mid-1990s, the KMZ issued a series of compact film cameras badged with the "Zenit" name ("Zenit"s from -501 to -620). These cameras were actually made in China and merely packed by the KMZ factory. These rebadged cameras were never exported outside Russia.


External links

In English
* [http://www.zenit-foto.ru/index.php?show=main&cat=main&id=1 Homepage of KMZ]
* [http://www.zenitcamera.com/catalog/cameralist-eng.html Complete KMZ camera list]
* [http://members.tripod.com/rick_oleson/index-9.html Review of first Zenit by Rick Oleson]
* [http://www.btinternet.com/~stowupland/start/index.html Soviet Start SLR Professional camera 1958-64 by Stephen Rothery]

In Russian
* [http://www.zenitcamera.com/ The KMZ R&D Center site] features a Russian-language [http://www.zenitcamera.com/forum/ZENIT.html forum] ; however, if you ask a question in English (or any other language) you will receive an answer.

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