Aug 12, 2009

Kiev 4a - Photo Gear (6)


Kiev 4a + Jupiter 8M

There are lots of interesting articles on the Internet about the soviets taking over the Contax production line as war reparations, after World War II. The facilities in Dresden, already almost destroyed by Allied bombing, were expropriated and dismantled, beeing transfered to the USSR, namely to Kiev, Ukraine, at the Arsenal factory.
That is how the soviets started producing a copy of the Contax II, launched in March 1936, together with several copies of interchangeable Zeiss lenses and other accessories.
Because of the Russian occupation of East Germany at the end of the war, Contax rangefinder production ceased, until the new West German Zeiss Ikon in Stuttgart launched its redesigned Contax IIA in 1950.

Beeing a deep lover of rangefinder cameras, and through my modest participation in Rangefinderforum, I became aware of the existence and possible quality this Former Soviet Union (FSU for short) cameras are able to deliver. My curiosity just kept on growing, until I finally was able to get a Kiev 4a and a Zorki 3-C.
Both cameras are equiped with a soviet copy of the standard Zeiss Sonnar lens: the Jupiter 8 1:2 f 5cm from 1956 in the case of the Zorki, and the Jupiter 8M 1:2 f 53mm from 1980 in the case of the Kiev. Both having a six elements in three groups design. Both focusing down to 0,9m. The Zorki Leica Thread Mount model has no click stops and has a non-rotating mount.
The version in Contax/Kiev bayonet mount has click stops and rotates.
Both lenses are coated.

I now utterly suffer from one more serious disease: FSU camera addiction!

I am doomed to deserve no salvation!

All photographs taken in Guimarães, North of Portugal, on the 21st of June 2009.
Kodak Tri-X film developed in Kodak D-76, diluted 1+1.

The day after we saw Judy Collins in concert, we made a short visit to Guimarães (World Heritage Site, emergence of the portuguese national identity in the 12th century).

In the North the wind typically blows a little cooler breeze...
Not so this time: the sun was hot and burning like if we were back home in Alentejo.

I started dreaming of a cool glass of bier...

Instead I kept shooting with my poor man's Contax!

My Kiev 4a is a type 2 (c. 1974-1980): the top shutter speed is 1/1000 sec.
Former versions were marked with a top speed of 1/1250!

Note the shutter release concentric with the film winding knob.
The rewinding knob shows a number: it serves only as a reminder. It has no connection with a light meter, as the 4a has no light meter!
You also have to manually reset the frame counter.

Please, also take note on the little wheel to the right, just before the rangefinder window: you can focus standard lenses by turning it with your middle finger, while your index finger rests on the shutter release. Beware not to cover the rangefinder window with your ring finger!
That's why you have to practice the "Contax hold" until you feel confortable with it: that is the price you have to pay for the uncommonly long, and theoretically more accurate, Rangefinder Base of 90mm...

Viewfinder Magnification: 0,9x.

Time to glimpse at the focal plane, vertical moving shutter with metal curtains.

Time to glimpse at the Contax/Kiev bayonet.

My Kiev shows some problems with light leaks, apparently a common problem with this type of cameras. Well, we should not forget that these cameras are now some decades old, and that they presumably had in their vast majority a rather poor maintenance.

Light leaks should be relatively simple to repair...

So, now the big question: is it worth to photograph with a Kiev?

Look at the face of the man in the photograph below, and find the answer for yourself!

I would like to kindly dedicate this post to all the nice and supportive people who have come to regularly enjoy my blog.

Your admiration is my energy to keep on moving.

Thank you very much for your kindness!



  1. Hi Rui! I have one after the other internet problems, which are not settled yet but today, I can take a bit of time in the office! As usual, I love reading your post - first, you have a most charming writing style! Secondly, I am getting more intrigued by these rangefinder cameras! And as always, your BW photographs are so awesome - they are simply a joy to look at. I am limited in the technicality of photography wisdom but I know what I feel when I look at your images! A very good feeling.

    Have a good day, Rui :-) Looking forward to the next post and more images.

  2. Thanks to this post, now I know what I want for Christmas :-))

  3. Nice story! we have 2 Kiev-4 in our "club" - both from '60s with 1/1250. One of them is my friend's and another - my girl's) And I have beautiful Zorki-4 with Jupiter-8 too from 1957. I like it very much. And Rui - I live in Kiev so if You need some help with Soviet cameras You may contact me via Rangefinder Forum

    Best regards

  4. Hello Serge,
    Thank you very much for your offer. It is very kind of you. Should you need something from Portugal, you can count on me.
    I also have a Zorki 3-C with a Jupiter 8, both from 1956. I just developed yesterday the first rolls with it. Jupiter 8 is a very fine lens. I will try to post something soon.
    I took a look at some of your photographs. It is a pity I can't understand a word, but I like the images. Specially the one you titled Waiting For the Sun (girl covering her breasts with her arms) is a great and very beatifull image. Congratulations. Thank's also for your nice commentar on Rangefinderforum.
    Many greetings,

  5. Thank You, Rui!
    I'm waitin' for Your new photos!

  6. bem, ainda bem que me tenho mantido afastado das "FSU cameras"... acho que o meu gestor de conta nao perceberia mais essa ;D