Киев 4 (Kiev 4)
The third and final camera I purchased during my life in Berlin. (The other two were my Voigtländer and Holga) and one of my first Soviet cameras.
This camera was the USSR’s version of a Contax, as when they took over East Germany, they acquired the Zeiss factory and all their secrets. Of course, there is difference between Soviet quality control and German quality control, so such cameras are really hit-or-miss. I got a hit with this one, though, and all for under 40€.
First of all, I think it’s a gorgeous camera. (Just as I think Contax IIIa is gorgeous, but I shudder to pay $400 for a working model). Rangefinders are my favourite sort of film camera, and this one is a glorious example.
Mine came with a meter that works. As I’ve said before, after a working shutter, finding a working meter is a mouth-watering discovery. External ones are fine, they are, but obviously so tedious that the internal sort was invented.
The focusing ring is new and different. The lens will lock in to infinity, and then a button must be pressed while turning the focus wheel to unlock it. I haven’t found out why this feature exists yet. Maybe to keep the lens in a more stable position when storing it. The focusing gear itself is a funny little thing that leads to Kiev users (and Contax users) holding the camera in a strange sort of gentle way with most of the fingers of the right hand up in the air. Otherwise, it’s too easy to cover the rangefinder window.
This camera, unsurprisingly, has an M42 Contax mounting system so Zeiss Ikon lenses can be used on it. I, of course, do not have any of those, but I did get a Юпитер-12 2.8/35 lens to use on it. I then removed the viewfinder from a cheap disposable camera and made it mountable on the Kiev so I could compose my shots, but two things happened: 1. I kept forgetting to focus the camera first; and 2. the viewfinder I made fell apart. So if I use it again, I will just guess I suppose.
The camera came with a Юпитер-8m which has an incredibly weird stat of being a 53mm lens. F2 is nice, though.
The case my 35mm came in is actual a Зенит case, which I found amusing, and it still has the original price sticker on it. An Industar 2/50 cost 7 rubles (Probably something like 1/5 of an average monthly salary, according to a discussion with an ex-soviet).
Using the Jupiter-12 is also strange for me because, when screwing it in, it really feels like you’re pushing the lens in to the shutter curtain, it just seems so much deeper than the camera body.
Loading it with film is another thing that took a quick look at the manual. You must turn both dials on the bottom to pull off the back. And fitting it back on is finicky to say the least. Sometimes the dial will turn but not be locked in and you’ll have a dreaded gap for light to come in and ruin your film.
Regardless of all finickiness of it, it’s still one of the prettiest cameras I own. I’ve since found myself a Kiev-88, but that’s a mess of a repair that’s two years in frustration already. So, a story for another day.