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Sunday, 20 May 2018


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Made in CCCP /Soviet Rusia/ Zenit E

It's a Russian Zenith E, of course, everyone's first SLR in the 1970s.

My first SLR was a second hand Zenith E (also called a Zenit in some markets and sometimes sold by the Dixons chain in the UK under the Prinzflex 500 brand - actually just a plastic nameplate glued over the engraved Zenith brand).

I still have a Zenith B in the attic which appears to be identical except it lacks the uncoupled silicon lightmeter you can see in the photo.

A Russian made Zenith E, that version had the meter above the lens so the reading had to be adjusted for filters etc. 42mm screw thread, very solidly built. I saw an art student (who was probably younger than the camera) using one in Cornwall a couple of years ago.

Zenit E


Zenith E with a selenium exposure meter! This Russian camera was available in the beginning of seventies and was a first for many of us of that time. Screw mount 42mm wit focal cloth shutter mechanism. Good memories! (We use to call it the "Frankenstein") - Daniel M

That's Zenit EM with Helios 44-2 lens. Russian M42 camera and Russian copy of per-war Carl Zeiss Biotar 2/58mm M42 lens. 44-2 version is pre-set lens, later 44M versions had aperture pin.


It looks like my dad's old camera, a Zenit. Maybe a Zenit E?

A Zenit, most likely?


It's a Zenit-ET. Nothing can compare to the elegance and refinement of a Russian-designed SLR.

The camera is a Russian Zenit E.

Looks a lot like Zenit-E

Yes, I think it’s fair to see yuppies as a reaction to the sixties. (Which happened largely in the seventies.)
In my highschool, 1978-1980, the classes who were before us were clear hippies, backpacks and leftists, and the year who came after us were clear yuppies, briefcases and rightists. We were right in the middle, nobodies.

It says something about the dark side of the sixties that the Beatles singing “when we talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out” was seen as a bad thing by many! How angry can you be?

(I was in highschool in Denmark. Things are very international.)

Dont know the exact version, but it's a Zenit E, (googled slr with selenium meter).

The camera is the Russian Zenith E, my first SLR. It was a step up from the basic Zenith B, featuring a built-in uncoupled selenium cell exposure meter (UK market names)

Looks like a Soviet Zenit E to me.


More on the Zenit E. The first were made in 1967, so it's possible that the camera in the photo was made in 1968 (cue Twilight Zone theme). To further the irony, the camera's rewind knob is up.

(Or did you know all this when you wrote the post?)

I'm pretty sure its a Zenit E - my first SLR.

Looks like a Zenit E to me.

Camera is a Zenit-E (Russian). You can see the top of the letter E just above her finger.

Zenit-E. I remember the camera very well. One of my fellow students at Art School had one. Even as rather poor in the Seventies we were not allowed to use any of the ‘Eastern European crude wrought ironwork’ brands like Zenit or Praktica. Probably even now they are still better than the immensely popular Lomo and Holga hipster cameras of today.
In the hands of Kylie even a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II looks sexy.

Enough with the prattle…

Five minutes scanning in Google Images led me to conclude that the camera in question may be the Russian Zenit E. From 1965 to 1982 they produced over eight million of them.

Never seen one myself.


It's a Russian Zenith E, with the 58mm f/2 lens. I had a Zenith B that didn't have the external meter but with the same lens, and a Zenith ES that had another shutter release sticking out of the bottom plate, for use with the Photosniper outfit it came with.

Russian Zenit-E??

It's a Zenit E, a Russian made stalwart of the 1968 era proletariat.

Looks like a Zenit E.

Fifty years ago yesterday, Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to JFK, accompanied by pianist Hank Jones, at Madison Square Garden, as part of a Democratic party fundraiser. Jackie was not present.

The camera is a Zenit-E , circa 1975 or so.

The selenium metering on the front was a good clue, so a quick google image search for "slr selenium metering" gave the answer. It's a Zenit E, chrome version. I already suspected it was russian just by looking at it, it just screams old russian SLR.

Oh, for Pete’s sake: it’s a Soviet Zenit-E, with for some reason the rewind knob fully extended. Since this might have been the most-produced 35 mm SLR, and its standard 2/58 Helios 44 lens (a Zeiss Biotar) the most-produced standard lens, photographers who don’t recognise it need to go on a course about the history of the SLR.


Pretty sure it's a Zenit, but I don't know what model. The Russians did make distinctive looking cameras.

A Zenit-E - apparently also offered under several other brands: http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Zenit-E . Note also what appears to be a raised re-wind knob (?).

(Discovered with little working knowledge of cameras of that era, and ~50s of web searching. My Google-fu must be strong today.)

I believe it is a Zenit -E. A Russian camera.

Got one of them in Germany, because I couldn't afford a good camera. Worked OK and at the time it was fairly functional. When I got back to the US I traded for something that is still in the family today. Got a Fuji, which our oldest son still has. Nothing like a film SLR and a 50MM.

This is of course very old, russian Zenith E. It's THE cheapest SLR you can find in former eastern block. There are plenty of them.
Unfortunately ;)

My twin brother had a Zenit-E back in about 1979. In a frequent display of friendly fraternal competition I beat him into second place with a Zenit TTL that dispensed with that horrid external meter.

After saving furiously for quite some time I moved from the TTL to the then new, fancy, tiny and featherweight Pentax ME Super. My first 'cool' camera and the camera that slowly set me off into serious photography.

After reading about 100 variations on "Zenit E" above, the one post that caused coffee spew was from Gordon Lewis. Elegant and refined, compared to blast-furnace slag that happened to be shaped like a camera. They were built like a cheap alarm clock: able to work badly basically indefinitely.

I never owned a Zenit, but I'm familiar with the breed: Two Feds, a Kiev 44, three Kiev 60's, and a Kiev 88CM. Junque of the first class. Interesting lenses, some of which I now use on my 645z. Fortunately, in the early 70's, the affordable SLR of choice where I lived was a Mamiya/Sekor 1000DTL. (RIP, wherever you are.)

Aha! So that's the camera that the funky Russian lens I bought 6 years ago mated with. When I first transitioned to M43, I became enamored of adapting all kinds of old lenses. Two years later I sold off most of them.

Nothing gets by the commentariat! I had to make pit stops at Mamiaflex, Mamiya Autolux, Praktisix, Ektaflex, Pentacon, and Exacta. And still . . .didn't hit the Zenit or any of its clones.

My dad had an old East German Praktina, a better camera than the Zenit from a build quality perspective. . . no light meter and no lens cap (for that matter). Our entire childhoods were recorded with that thing. No matter what he did to the film, Modernage could pull a print from it. Amazing.

Hi Mike

Did you know that Kylie Minogue was born in 1968? Her 50th birthday this year. 28th of this month, in fact.

Ray Kinnane

I just finished listening to Meacham's "The Soul of America" in audiobook form. Recommended. The parallels between past and present are startling, especially the arc of McCarthyism.

The Helios has perhaps the weirdest bokeh of any 50mm lens known to man. It is at the same time sublime and crazy. I haven’t used mine in years, but I don’t dare sell it.

Just for the record, fifty years ago yesterday neither JFK nor Marilyn Monroe was alive.

[Of course...thanks for the nudge. Fixed now. --Mike]

Every single month of the Sixties, after about 1965, and certainly 1968, is worth looking back on. Daily newspapers used to have a "50 years ago today" or a "100 years ago today" column. I wonder what happened to those? They really used to give one a sense of historic proportion, and also educate.

The Sixties were a rich time, politically and culturally speaking, and much about the world we live in was forged then. Yes, I know, baby boomers go on endlessly, irritatingly, about it, but it is also true.

While the Mark Kurlansky book, 1968, on that seminal year is superb and broad ranging, I can also recommend a book with a narrower focus that looks at the phenomenon of revolutions exploding in 1968, in seemingly disparate countries and societies, worldwide.

It is Year of the Heroic Guerrilla
World Revolution and Counterrevolution in 1968
by Robert Daniels and is available from Amazon.


Hi Mike

As you started in on books, I would like to recommend a book about the past present and future, it’s “FACTFULNESS” by a Hans Rosling and it’s brilliant, and should cheer you all up.

All the best

My thanks to Mike for the little indulgence, and to the TOP brains trust for an informative and entertaining read on my commute home.
For the record, that thing (camera) is possibly as old as me - born in 70s. I’m a digital native to photography, although I have Nikkor AI/S lenses that I enjoy using, and an FM2N in for CLA. My dad lent me a voigtlander vito a few times when I was young (from his aunt) with instructions of ‘turn here to focus’, and ‘turn here until the needle is upright’. In short, I was clueless about film photography, and he wasn’t far behind.

Specsavers is a wide-spread, UK High Street retail optician. They operate in Oz, too. For many years, they have run a series tv ads, featuring humorous situations where visual acuity was lacking, under the strapline, “Should’ve Gone To Specsavers”.

Although not used in that context, in this Australian poster, the adoption of a Zenith E (loved by many but, sadly, no “looker”), with its rewind knob extended, certainly implies Kylie needed those glasses.

I can't believe that I wrote that Marilyn's singing at MSG was fifty years ago -- the reason I know the date off the top of my head is that it's my brother-in-law's birthday, and he's 56!

Fun fact; If you used a reversing ring for macro, a 35mm film canister with the bottom cut off push-fit onto the rear element as a lens hood.

I was recently given a Zenith for my ?0th birthday. It works fine. Having read the comments above, I put it on a scale and compared it to my A7r2 with the 55mm 1.8 lens. Ready to shoot (the A7r2 with card and battery and the Zenit with film), the A7r2 was slightly heavier than the Zenith, but the Zenith feels heavier.

With lenses attached, the Zenith is about an inch (25mm) shorter than the A7. The difference looks less than it is when measured..

I have e-mailed Mike a photo of my Zenith.

A couple of weeks ago, the Times published an article on May '68 in Paris, accompanied by some fantastic photographs.


See also: Ryan H. Walsh’s “Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968,” discussed in the article "17 Refreshing Books to Read This Summer" in the Sunday New York Times.

I never had a Zenit, but I did get a Zorki 4 (cyrillic lettering and all) with a Jupiter 50/2 lens as a backup to my Leica IIIf. It had a better viewfinder than the Leica, but other than that ...

The Zorki is still working, and being used today, 45 years later, by a college classmate who teaches high school. Quirky machine, but it works.

My first SLR. Back in the 70s you bought either the Zenith or the Yashica as your first step. As I recall, the shutter speed dial with its serrated edge span round at the speed of the released shutter. The meter was accurate enough to shoot Kodachrome with no problem. The biggest inconvenience was the need to rotate a ring at the end of the lens to stop the lens down to the preselected aperture after focusssing. I got round that by shooting wide open a great deal, where the 58mm lens was not at its best. Mind you, I was printing with an as used by Moscow Central Zenith enlarger which came to pieces and could be packed away inside its baseboard which resembled a briefcase.

I never saw a Subaru 360, but I bought a sporty 4-door 1972 model FWD and a 1973 small 4WD station wagon while living in the woods of Northern Westchester County, NY, and got about ten good years of use out of them. They were both good looking cars. Brand evolution and the passing years turned Subaru into the frumpy models that you see today. I think even Consumer Reports approved by then.

Zenit E. Like all Zenits, well, like all Russian cameras, it's a piece of barely functioning junk. That they should choose it for this ad has got to be some kind of concealed irony.

And guess what article was in a recent IEEE Spectrum? Even if it is behind a paywall for the rest of you, the link tells all:


"There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”
- Hunter S. Thompson, on the 1960's

It's probable that the ad's designer chose the Zenit as a prop because it says 'camera' without being identifiable. Except to (so far) 50-odd camera fans. (I didn't recognize it myself.)

Congratulations, Dave Van de Mark- well done!

Camera? What camera?

Re the Zenit, one review I remember said "built like a tank, and handles like one!"

I saw one in a charity shop at the weekend, going for £15.00

I am not trying to stir another controversy here, but it is hard not to see similarities between these two adverts (film rewind lever/knob UP on both cameras … anyone?). Nikon used quite successfully their version to promote 100-th anniversary of their business (2018) … subversively selling such an eye candy to a certain demographics of their loyal customers using two clearly identifiable icons.
In the case of Kylie Minogue campaign poster their choice of non-descriptive Russian camera seems like a clever way out of a possible litigation brought to them by any such a camera company … and it fails quite miserably at that … what is a sex appeal of a camera that permanently scratches every single roll of film put through it? that it was a crude copy of somebody else work? …

That picture of Marilyn Monroe with a Nikon was taken by Bert Stern in 1962, and googling reveals numerous shots from that sitting.


Apparently, Stern shot more more than 2,500 frames in that sitting; Marilyn Monroe just grabbed his Nikon F and posed for numerous pictures with it.

Here is a GIF of some of those shots (Warning: Rapidly flashing images)


And a link about the session


Funny but I measure the 60's in NASA milestones. Born in 49 I was fascinated by the idea of travel beyond the atmosphere. Followed Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and still have an interest in that era. But now I'm a little more realistic as to any future in space. Until and if there is a real breakthrough in propulsion, then burning massive amounts of reaction mass to escape the earth's gravity well and the now better known dangers of micro gravity and radiation out of the warm embrace of our magnetic field place firm limits on what can be accomplished at this time for maned missions.

1968 was the year I started doing my own B&W darkroom work, and the year I started learning to program computers (my profession since the next year, 1969), so it was an important year for me!

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