Zenit E review

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by stephen_dowling|1, May 28, 2013.

  1. Hello all
    I've posted a few links to my film camera reviews on my blog... I thought I'd add a link to my review of teh Zenit E.
    I bought one of these nearly a decade ago at a market in London - it cost me £4. It's working perfectly - the Helios lens was a bit dinged, but paired up to a Takumar 55/1.8 taken off a faulty Spotmatic.
    Anyone else cut their teeth on this camera? I know they were exported in their many millions, and especially in Europe are ridiculously common. I've been heartened by the fact the basic design is capable of really lovely pictures with a bit of trouble getting to know its foibles/charms.


  2. Good review as ever Stephen. The Helios lenses were superb if you found a good working example and your pictures prove that.
  3. Zenit B was my first camera (same as the E but without the meter). I liked it until I got a real camera (Canon Ftb). Up until then I had never missed speeds below 1/30th, mirror lockup, TTL metering or decent TTL focusing.
  4. I'm not sure what the exchange rate to US dollars is, but isn't that just fish & chips money? If you got ANY photos out of the thing you're ahead of the game.
    I've always wanted one of those cameras. And a Lubitel TLR. You have to wonder if I should be allowed to go out by myself w/ that sort of thinking.
    Even though you (or the camera) chose a curious focus point for the first shot on your review, I really like it a lot. There is something going on in that image that is just timeless, and I don't even like color photos 99.9% of the time.
  5. I used to work in a camera shop in Manchester UK and while the Spotmatic was sleek and cool the Zenit E seemed to be a lot of camera and lens for a quarter of the price. Every so often, I would open a box and find inside a black version which was always a nice surprise for the customer.
    I too moved up to a Canon Ftb but have always had a soft spot for Zenits and the lenses. I still use an Industar 61 today. Great pictures by the way. Nice treatment.
  6. Fine review, Stephen; old Zenits never die, in my experience, though one would have to admit that they're not the most lively of cameras, to begin with. Of the several "E's" I have, there's a noticeable variation in the characteristics of the film wind, and in the quality of the shutter release, in particular. Just why the Russians thought a pointy little tube with a sharply serrated top was a good design for a shutter button is a little beyond me, and one I have arrived with a little disc screwed into the cable release thread, making life much more pleasant.
  7. Robin: I've got a Zenit 3M, which is essentially an earlier version of the Zenit B. My style of shooting is very much hand-held, out and about, street style or travel pics. I don't have any need for 1/8th of a second and I don't use flash. I have a Sekonic meter aswell - if i need meter readings.
    I have Nikons/Olympuses if I want something a little more sophisticated, but I think there's something really useful about shooting this way. Much more tactile and involving.
  8. Steve: £4 is little more than $6. Yep, putting a roll of Velvia pretty much doubled its value.
    While those shots from Amalfi weren't taken on the Helios that came with the camera (they're on a Takumar instead) I've used the updated version of the lens of a non-working Zenit 12. It's a cracking lens.
    Thanks for the compliments - there is something about that shot I love too... I think it's the quality of the out-of-focus water...
  9. Zenits are great for learning photography, but it is pretty amazing that they were still on sale new in 1980. A camera essentially of 1950 vintage albeit with an instant return mirror. But I guess they do have some kind of classic appeal if you are looking for a camera and lens like that without actually having to buy a Contax or Exakta etc. The Prakticas certainly run circles around them, but I remember they were too expensive for me back then.
  10. Excellent review. I came into one myself. It was a present b/c the shop owner figured he couldn't sell it with the intermiitent shutter. ( When you wind too hard it trips the shutter immediately) I wanted the Helios that was on it and for the same price ( EUR30,00) got a Spotmatic 500 and the Helios. Mine is all black too. Since that was mentioned I never really gave ot any thought. My meter seems to be OK too! It is a quite capable camera and I know of two other people who cut their teeth on this model. I really loved your pics. The Vespa was so cool and had really nice OOF areas.
  11. Chuck: Thanks for that. I am a bit of an aficionado of the old soviet stuff - when i got into photography around 2000 my first all-manual cameras were a Praktica MTL 5B and a Kiev 60. The Kiev glass made me realise just how good Soviet lenses could be. I've got a pretty good collection now... I took a bunch on a trip across Russia a few years back - it was a good icebreaker with Russian travellers getting out an old Russian camera to take their pics.
    If you type "Zenit E" in as a search term in Flickr and sort by interesting you can see all sort of lovely pics. I'm kind of heartened there are so many young photographers in Russia/Eastern Europe using them - probably inheriting their parents' old cameras.
    Robin: Zenit was still making cameras not much more sophisticated than the E well into the 2000s. The Zenit 412 is little more than an E wrapped in an ugly plastic body.
  12. The biggest problem with these old russian cameras was quality control. Also decades after being made, some of the
    designs weren't really made to last. But they can be very good.
  13. There is an excellent FSU camera support group on Yahoo. Search Zenit Camera Group and join up. Lots of info and links regarding the Zenits and their lenses.
    edit; I have no idea why the following is in bold type, I didn't ask for it and can't undo it.
    I received a Zenit B from a friend who was moving and was cleaning out his garage. It had a Takumar 50mm 1.4 jammed onto it. I also got the partially disassembled Spotmatic II that the lens came from, removed the lens from the Zenit and reunited the pentax parts.Being some what of a minimalist, and wanting to do some shooting with the most basic equipment, I paired up the Zenit with an old Mamiya Sekor lens that I had, which had the auto-manual switch on it, necessary as there is no provision for auto diaphragm on the early Zenits. Eventually, I felt the need to pair the Zenit with a Helios and purchased a black Zenit 11 with lens for about 10.00 on the great auction site. Alas, when it arrived I saw that it had no provison for manual diaphragm setting. I finally found a non working "E" with the Helios 44 for peanuts and so equipped the "B" with it's proper piece of glass. They are fun cameras to use and always elicit questions and comments from passersby.

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