In this article, we will tell you about the best Zenit cameras that were produced in the Soviet Union and that you can buy today.
A huge number of SLR cameras were produced in the Soviet Union, among which it is difficult to choose a good copy, so we decided to write this article about the best Zenit cameras to help you with the choice.
Zenit cameras were produced at the KMZ plant from 1952 to 2005, but in this article we will only talk about the best Zenit cameras that were produced before the collapse of the Soviet Union, that is, until 1991.
In addition to the KMZ plant, these cameras were produced at the BelOMO plant in Belarus. But due to the fact that quality control at the Belarusian plant was even worse than at KMZ, we strongly do not recommend that you pay attention to cameras produced at this plant.
Zenit cameras were produced for 35mm film, and were single-lens reflex cameras. The first Zenit cameras were made on the basis of the first Zorki cameras, and had the same shutter and other components. With each new model, innovations were introduced into the design of cameras, but in general, Zenit cameras largely retained the features of the very first cameras from the 50s.
Among Zenit cameras there were models with a shutter with metal curtains or even models with a leaf shutter, but in the vast majority of Zenit cameras had a focal-plane shutter with cloth curtains, essentially copied from first Leica cameras.
Zenit, Zenit-C, Zenit-3 and Zenit-3M cameras have an M39 thread mount, which differs from the M39 thread mount for rangefinder cameras. M39 rangefinder lenses are not suitable for SLR cameras and M39 SLR lenses are not suitable for rangefinder cameras. Starting with the Zenit-E, the M42 thread mount began to be installed on the cameras.
The Best Zenit Cameras
So, let’s finally find out which is the best Zenit camera?
In this article, we will talk about a few Zenit cameras that we consider the best for one reason or another, and you will have to choose the one that suits you best.
Zenit and Zenit-C
Zenit and Zenit-C are the very first models in this line, and practically do not differ from each other. The only differences between Zenit-C and the previous model are the presence of a sync contact and a modified mirror lifting system.
These cameras seem good to us because of their truly stylish appearance and small dimensions. The cameras convey the spirit of the 50s with their rounded lines and stylish design elements.
In addition, these cameras are assembled quite well, since the quality control in Soviet factories has not yet fallen below the seabed.
Holding these cameras in your hands and shooting with them is a real pleasure. They have no electronics, pure mechanics. You will have to do all the actions yourself, and learn how photography took place in the middle of the 20th century, and in our opinion, such a purely analog work is the undeniable advantage of these cameras.
Zenit-3M, although it already has a lot of innovations in its design, such as a film advance lever and an opening back cover, is still a purely mechanical camera. The build quality of this camera is still quite high, and holding it in your hands, you will not feel that it is about to fall apart.
The Zenit-3M camera is still very stylish and has an M39 screw mount, which means that all lenses for this camera will have a beautiful silver look.
In addition to its appearance, the camera can also stand out for its good work and the fact that it is a real pleasure to work with it, just like with the first Zenit cameras.
Zenit-12XP and Zenit-122
Zenit-12XP and Zenit-122 are essentially the same camera but with a different design. These cameras are already very different from previous models, as they were manufactured at the end of the Soviet era, and already had electronic components in them.
The only electronic component of these cameras is their light meter, otherwise these cameras do not need batteries. The shutter in Zenit-12XP and Zenit-122 is still the same as in the Zenit cameras of the 50s, but due to the newness of these cameras, these days there is a much better chance of finding them in good condition.
Zenit-12XP and Zenit-122 were produced at the end of the Soviet era, and absorbed the best that was invented by Soviet engineers at the KMZ plant. These cameras look good enough, have a lot of useful and quite advanced features that help the photographer and can serve as a great tool for creating beautiful pictures.
So, if you need a purely mechanical camera with a stylish appearance, and you want unhurried and even somewhat meditative photography, enjoying both the shooting process and the camera in your hands, then Zenit, Zenit-С and Zenit-3M will be an excellent choice for you.
If you want to shoot using a Soviet SLR camera with the greatest comfort, then the Zenit-12XP and Zenit-122 will be perfect cameras for you.