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An Oldie Gets Another Try

Nikon D300, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 12mm, 1/60 sec. f/4 at ISO 200 w/ pop-up flash

A short while ago, I bought this 50 year old veteran of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). This is a Zenit 3M. Since it had markings on the top to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, I thought it would make a nice conversation piece. But, I had to go try it out. Right now, it has it a roll of Kodak Ektar 100 film in it.

The camera is very simple. Zenit basically took an old, pre-WWII Leica II rangefinder camera, deleted the rangefinder focusing mechanism, and put a small mirror box and pentaprism on it to make it a Single Lens Reflex. Other simplifications were made, such as elimination of the slow shutter speeds (longer than 1/30th of a second). This isn’t really a problem for a camera of the day. You wouldn’t want to hand-hold a camera at shutter speeds less than 1/30th of a second, anyway.

The film advance has been updated from a knob to a ratcheting lever, and the film back opens on a hinge, unlike the Leica II this camera is based on.

I have to say, in short, I really like this camera, quirks and all. Quirks? Yes. There is no focusing aid in the ground glass viewfinder, and the mirror doesn’t automatically return after the exposure. The astute reader will notice I’ve added a larger shutter release button. The shutter button is a bit stiff, and has some knurling on top that makes it rather uncomfortable.

Did I mention how small this camera is? Let’s compare it to my Nikon F5 – another film camera that is similar in size to many professional DSLRs:

Nikon D300, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, 12mm, 1/60 sec. f/3.8 at ISO 200 w/ pop-up flash

The F5 also happens to be loaded with film. This time, Fujicolor Superia ISO 200 film.  Yes sir! They still make 35mm film!

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