Start .. or at least re-Start -- USSR camera

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, Nov 22, 2012.

  1. Start [Ctapt]
    USSR SLR Camera
    Kadlubek KRA0250

    Lens: Start Bayonet-mount Helios-44 58mm f/2 (the Russian copy of the East German Biotar 58mm f/2 lens)

    Soviet SLR camera from KMZ in Krasnagorsk, maker of the Zorkis and Zenits

  2. Ralf posted on this camera recently ( ) where my responses started with a statement of envy
    Followed by some research on the subject
    And finally by buying one of the things.

    Here was the classic camera classic acquisition syndrome.

    This is my report on my GAS binge.
    I am a camera collector. I haven't bought a camera for 5 days. (applause from the fellow members of Cameras Anonymous -aka CA, not to be confused with Chromatic Aberrations)

    The package winged its way to me from Ukraine with the usual efficiency of Ukraine Post. When I first opened the package, the camera and leather case at first emanated the smell of leather, metal, and Mahorka tobacco. Heck, I never made it to the old Soviet Union, but this smell makes me nostalgic for it, all the same. Memories of times lost, and all that.
    Unlike some of my old USSR purchases, however, the smell shortly abated -- not sure whether to be happy or not.

    In any case, took the camera and cleaned it off some. I found it had a bug in the viewfinder system, but took off the removable pentaprism and blew it out with a rocket blower and the (deceased) tiny bug was gone.

    on-line sources:
    ( )
    ( - some links to sites now gone dead, unfortunately)

    70,000 plus made, a rare camera by USSR standards. . Mine is the post 1961 model with the knob on the quick-wind lever.

    It has a knife like the Exaktas to be used with take-up cassette. Otherwise the take-up reel has an interesting pinch mechanism, but the film leader needs to be cut to the middle to fit.

    Between Ralf's post and the links given, there's not a lot to say except that mine is in excellent condition. I'm not sure if it has been restored a little or whether the black enamel on it was originally put on with a broom, but all the chrome and nylon parts look fresh and clean. The lens works smoothly, including the automatic aperture (works like the Exakta with an external couple). The camera has no instant-return mirror.

    The lens mount was probably inspired by the earlier Praktina mount but is not interchangeable with it, unfortunately. The Start has much finer and smaller bayonet leaves. I asked, but the vendor did not have the M39 adapter, alas.

    I used Kodak Ultramax 400, the _only_ film they had at Walgreen's the day I was there. The results are a little grainy, and the Helios-44 on mine seems to be a little less crisp than shown in Ralf's images.

  3. Above - the Campus Lake (where else?) from what is known as Thompson's Point, a cluster of Modern-style residence halls that are really quite nice. In the center you will see one of the few remaining geodesic picnic domes left over from the days when Buckminster Fuller chaired our Design Department.

    The front side of the Modernist residence halls (not to call them "dorms"). The banner is a feeble effort to "post-Modernize" them a little.

  4. Here is the lakeside view of the buildings - the Helios is nice and rectilinear, not surprising of course for a 58mm lens.
  5. We are far enough south (actually about the same as Richmond, VA.) that cypress grows here naturally. Here is one on the edge of the lake with its bare knees.
  6. Here is my carport screen at f/2.0, showing focal depth and bokeh of the lens which has a completely circular opening.

  7. I shot a series of shots at each speed, adjusting the aperture as I went and all speeds seem right on - at least relative to each other - including the 1/1000 top speed. Even the self timer works. It's actually a very pleasant camera to shoot with.

    I'm still having fun, anyway.
    That's all folks.
  8. Awesome write up, worthy of this camera, yours actually looks better than mine.
    "I'm not sure if it has been restored a little or whether the black enamel on it was originally put on with a broom, but all the chrome and nylon parts look fresh and clean." This made me chuckle as it accurately describes the crudeness of the decor which doesn't age very well in the harsh Russian winters...
    Photos are excellent and interesting subjects from landscape to form and depth of field study. Love the Cypress trees, where I grew up they were plentiful and have a special place in my memories.
    As far as my interest in the Start, well I tried to acquire a second body with no lens and no prism, and made an offer to a seller asking $59 with the "Make an offer" option, well he came back by lowering it a whole $2 so that fell through, and will need to keep on looking...
    Thank you for posting, really enjoyed it.
  9. Excellent post JDM. I was intrigued when Ralf was posted this becyasue I didn'T really know this camera. And as you mentioned it is ratre by USSR standards. I have been too poor of late to indulge in GAS etc, but I have noted the name and if I see one I'll bee keen to note if it's a good buy, inflated and what the condtion says about the exemplar wit hat least tw to cmpare with. The Biotar is indeed a lovely lens and the soviet copies do it justice or is that due it justice, So a rather unique camera .. M39 adapter eh? Well I'd probably be like you... having fun with it!
  10. I always find posts about Soviet equipment interesting even though I have little interest in actually buying any of it. I have two Helios 44 lenses (a 44-2 and a 44M-5) in M42 mount, and they're quite decent performers, but that's the only Soviet gear I own.
    My GAS has been improving lately since I realized I had too many cameras to actually shoot them all on any regular basis. I'm not running a museum here, so I figure if I couldn't shoot all my cameras within one year even at the rate of one every two weeks (26 cameras), I have too many. Since I actually have about 40 cameras from several different systems, I have more lenses than I know what to do with. So I've started cutting down a bit.
  11. Ah, so the beast has arrived...It must be a legacy of the Cold War, the FSU installing bugs in their cameras...Very nice indeed, JDM. As was noted in a previous post regarding Russian cameras, the reasonable prices, the quick delivery of the tantalisingly weighty package and a heady blend of aromas currently makes their acquisition a pleasure. The camera is reminiscent of many designs of the era, typically Russian and most attractive, to my eye. It certainly appears to be in fine fettle, and the results from your first film are encouraging. Great post, many thanks.
  12. I haven't bought a camera for 5 days.​
    Well done. Please share the secret of your success!
  13. Love the Campus Lake and Fuller's monument. I recall that he was [reputedly] a Harvard "drop-out"; in later years Harvard School of Design invited him to give special lectures!Have you seen his automobile? It was a modified water droplet shaped Ford V8 of 1933-34. It had two front wheels for the drive and a single rear wheel that would steer the car. It could do 120 Mph top speed. My Grandfather's Ford V8 of 1934 could do only 75 Mph.
    I am happy for your "addiction"; it gives us the benefit of your posts with new pictures! I notice that the Soviet factories though located far apart made use of common parts in the different cameras. The speed selector dial looks very much like the ones on the Zorki-4. Of course the lenses were all common though branded for each maker and mounted accordingly. I believe that the Start [if it were supported, well] would have been a professionally competitive camera. I read that the designers intended or hoped for such a scenario. Thanks for the very interesting post. sp
  14. Informative write up. And nice photos as well. Thanks for posting.
  15. Great write-up, JDM. I always look forward to your posts because your wit and humor often have me laughing out loud, not to mention the amount of knowledge you impart to the rest of us. The camera is a looker for sure and capable of very nice pictures. I still don't have too much experience with the Russians but I'm working on it and hope to share shots from a Zorki sometime soon. Thanks again for a great post!
  16. Sweet. But my desire for FSU SLR is limited to Kalimar (export version of Zenit-B). Start is way too high maintenance
  17. Thanks all.
    I enjoy these old cameras so much.
    However, I did fall off the wagon, and bought another camera today...... but that is another story.
  18. Nice camera and excellent write up. The images are quite good as well. I enjoy this forum for all its info on classic and forgotten cameras. The problem is I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time at pawn shops and junk stores:)
  19. Excellent reading as always JDM, and I would really like one of those Starts one day, looks really interesting indeed.
    I remember bidding on one a few years back but got trounced by the final price...I guess they were still in great demand way back then.
  20. Really nice photos and a to me unknown camera! i am oft tempted to indulge but as a retired watchmaker, my fun was NOT working on Soviet timepieces..
    Strangely the lenses seem to be very good. i gotta think of some for my Leica..
  21. I have some M39 Soviet lenses. With one notable exception, they are all very fine shooters. There is some debate about whether the Soviet M39 is really the same as LTM mount in all details (e.g, and ), Of course, the 39mm SLR lenses have a totally incompatible flange distance.
    My largest collection of FSU lenses, however, are the kit I bought to go along with my Kiev RF (Contax replica). They are really very fine, and every one I have got so far is a little gem.
  22. Having posted some more Start images today, I looked back at this to reference it, and found that I had apparently neglected to post a link to my subsequent adventures with an (Z)M39 to Start adapter:
    more at

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