This is a well known and classic Russian Camera; big bulky and heavy. My copy cost me £20 from a charity shop in Leeds. Prices on Ebay vary wildly – 99p in some cases, up to £30, depending on type, lens, condition and so far as I can see the postage which obviously would be a lot as is is so large.
The Zenit E was made by the Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod (Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk); over 3.3 Million units were made between 1965 and 1982 across a few different types and variations within these types. A further 5 million or so of a later franchised but identically named model were made by Zenit-Vilejka (part of BelOMO Corporation) from 1982-86.
It is a 35mm SLR, fully manual but with a built in selenium cell meter to calculate exposure using a match-needle and dial assembly.
Like many russian SLRs and Rangefinders (such as KZMs own Zorkis, and the FED series it is built like a tank, weighing over a kilo with case and lens; though not substantially larger than something like a Praktica it feels bigger, maybe due to the fact the body is a single cast chunk of aluminium. For that reason mine doesn’t get as much use as it could, which is a shame as when you get the hang of its slightly esoteric operation, it can produce some great images and the Helios 44-2 58mm lens which is included with most copies has a distinct charm I have not found elsewhere.
The camera has a cold-shoe for a flash, with a sync socket on the front plate, above the self time lever which allows for about 8s. It has the typically complex looking arrangement for shutter speeds and film counting which is common to many Russian cameras, with rotating dials and an obvious winding action to set the slower shutter speeds.
Lens, Shutter and Focus
Inside it has a horizontally travelling focal plane cloth shutter. One of two M42 lenses came with the body, depending on type (in addition some early models apparently had an M39 mount). The most common was the Helios-44-2 58mm f/2, the other was the Industar-50-2 50mm f/3.5. The Helios at 58mm has an angle of view of 35° x 23° requiring you to be 17ft away to fit a ‘street portrait’ in the frame.
Focusing is carried out using the viewfinder’s matte screen – this is soft and warped and has no guides to assist with this, so it is a matter of some trial and error. Additionally there is no automatic diaphragm control for the lens, so you need to remember to open the aperture to focus and stop down again before taking your shot.
The shutter speed can be selected to Bulb, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/1250s, 1/500s. The Helios 44-2 58mm has available apertures from f/2 to f/16.
The light meter can be calibrated from Gosht ASA 16-500 with the following steps marked on the dial: 16, 32, 65, 130, 250, 500 (DIN values are also given). These correspond to ISO 16, 32, 64, 125, 250 and 500 respectively so for standard ISO scale films you need to set this slightly off. The meter is not overly accurate by all accounts, mine
Picture size – 24 x 36 mm
Shutter speeds – B, 1/30s, 1/60s, 1/125s, 1/250s, 1/500s.
Viewfinder 77% H 83% V coverage 5x Magnification.
Metering – Uncoupled selenium meter
Tripod socket thread — 1/4ʺ 1/4ʺ
Camera overall dimensions — 138x93x100 mm 138x93x72 mm
Weight — 920 g 800 g
Standard lens – Helios 44-2
Focal length – 58 mm
Aperture – f/2 to f/16.
Focusing range – from 0.5 m to ∞
Filter thread — 49mm
Zenit E Page on SovietCAMS.com – Contains a runthrough of the different types and variations of the Zenit E.
Zenit E write-up on Alfreds Camera page – A review, comentary and some useful repair information.
User manual for Zenit E at Bukkus.org