Zorki 4 or Kiev 4A

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by giverin, Feb 16, 2011.

  1. I've never owned a rangefinder and I am keen to give it a try but initially spending the minimum. I've got a chance of buying either a Zorki 4 or a Kiev 4A and I wondered which one was the better buy. I note that the Kiev has a 9cm rangefinder base. Is this a good thing? Thanks in advance.
  2. Well, I've said it before, and will almost certainly say it again.
    There are two kinds of people in the world -- bottom feeders who load the film from the bottom (Leica and most early Leica copies), and back feeders who prefer to load film from the back (Contax and Contax copies).
    The Zorkii is a Leica clone, but without looking it up, I'm not sure where in the development of it they may abandoned the bottom loading. I find bottom loading and trimming the leader to fit to be less convenient. I only have one Zorkii, transmogrified into a "Leica". I do have a very nice FED-2, another Soviet Leica, and I find it a superior camera to the Zorkii I have. I'd personally recommend FEDs over Zorkiis, but that is just my personal experience.
    The Kiev is the Contax clone, in fact the earliest ones ARE simply Contaxes with the Kiev name on them, actually built on the original machinery after it was removed to Kiev. The later versions like the 4s are in some ways arguably better than the originals as the Soviets continued to "improve" some of the mechanisms. I have two Kievs. One is a "Contax II" all in black, a color that Zeiss failed to make, but a mistake rectified somewhere in the Ukraine. The other is an original Kiev 4AM. I really like both of these cameras. The "Contax II" actually works as well as the real thing ever did.
    Most of the good Soviet copies of both Leitz and Zeiss lenses are actually available for both, and some of these are very fine lenses. Often the best of them are as good as the originals, and sometimes with more modern lens coatings.
    There is a school of thought that sometimes more used looking copies of old Soviet cameras are a better bet since those were the ones that actually worked. Personally, I have too many old Soviet cameras and lenses, and I have to say that all of them have proved far better than the often uninformed, rumor-mongering would have them.
    Any way, this is the poor person's path to shooting lovely old 1930s cameras that just happen to have been made in the 40s and 50s or even later.
    Oh, and yes, the longer the RF base, the greater potential for accuracy, although this is usually not a problem on either of these sets.
  3. I have both. The Zorki 4 is not a bottom-loader -- the entire back slides off, as it does on the Kiev. Most important in considering these cameras is the mechanical shape each is in. USSR quality control was iffy. The Jupiter lenses (again, if in OK shape) usually supplied with both cameras are good quality Sonnar types. (The later Kievs came with Helios-103 lenses, also fine.)
    It comes down to personal preference. I lean toward the Kiev because of the long rangefinder base. I also like the focus wheel, but some people don't.
  4. Thanks to both of you for your helpful replies.
  5. Kiev. Far better build quality.
  6. If you just want to try out a rangefinder without spending much, I suggest one of the Japanese fixed-lens models of the 1960s, such as the Konica Auto S2, Minolta 7s, or Canon QL17. Very inexpensive these days, but well-built, with good lenses. They're not in the same ballpark with a Leica, but then again neither are the Russian cameras you're considering.
  7. As Alex S. says, the Kievs are better built; and a longer R/F base means increased focussing accuracy. An important consideration, if ever you use multiple lenses on one body, is that the Jupiters at any rate are made to the Zeiss rather than the Leica standard.
  8. I suggest one of the Japanese fixed-lens models of the 1960s, such as the Konica Auto S2, Minolta 7s, or Canon QL17. Very inexpensive these days,​
    I don't know about that. You can still get the 7s at decent prices (I say this despite my recent $70 purchase) but the KAS2 and QL17 have gone up in price IMHO. The QL17 thanks to its cult status. A better buy would be the QL19, same chassis, slightly slower lens.
  9. I have both. A Zorki with 50mm Jupiter, and 2 Kievs with 35, 50, 85 and 135 Rusian lenses.I had to take the focus mounts of the 85 and 135 apart and relube them with lithium grease as the original oil was gummed up.
    The Kiev was my first real rangefinder, and largely destroyed my long held prejudice against Russian cameras. The results from mine are superb - in black and white, the negs are amongst the sharpest I have, and that includes Canon Fd and Contax G shots.Not surprising as they are all old Zeiss designs. The Kiev has a really quiet, smooth shutter, but it is mechanically complex.
    Both Russians tend to be a bit iffy on frame spacing, and the focus wheel on one of my Kievshas packed up, so I just focus on the lens.
    On the strength of the Kiev I bought a Canon 7, and added 50mm and 135 Canon lenses, plus the 35mm Color Skopar and 90mm Elmar. I honestly do not feel the Canon outperforms the Kiev for sharpness, although it will probably be going long after the Kiev are dead.
    I recently added the Zorki. Much better camera than I expected and has the advantage of taking the 39mm LTM screw lenses BUT..... the 135mm Canon does not marry up with the rangefinder on the Zorki. All the other LTM lenses are compatible, so you do need to be cautious.
    Oh yes, the Zorki has a brilliant viewfinder dioptre adjustment built in, which if you are heading towards middle age or beyond could just be the clincher.
    It was said that quality control was better on Russian cameras sold on the British market as the importer, TOI, did pre-delivery checks and corrected any faults . I suspect a lot of stuff has been imported post the advent of E-Bay so it is now caveat emptor.
    In my view if you don't pay over the odds its worth a punt on either.
  10. Hi Mike, I bought the Kiev in the end. Both the Zorki and the Kiev were on Ebay with the same seller who is local to me (I've bought some stuff from him before). The Zorki went for about £29 and I got the the Kiev for £24 so I'm quite happy with that. I'll pick it up this week sometime. Interesting about the diopter on the Zorki as I am into middle age and I would have found it useful but I'm sure I'll get on fine with the Kiev.
  11. I think you chose wisely, but then I'm a sucker for the Contax line, even those from Zeiss Kiev.
    As I said, many of the lenses are excellent copies of Zeiss and even Leica originals.
    Ironically, a genuine Russian variable viewfinder to use with 35 up to 135mm lenses has in my experience more expensive than the Leica brand ones (some of which were made in the USA).

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