Here a Zorki, there a Zorki . . .


    When the old Soviet Union was in high gear, the Communists made millions of cameras. It was a good way to keep the masses employed. One Soviet plant began cranking out copies of the German Leica II, called the FED, in the mid 1930s, part of Stalin's plan to industrialize the nation. After World War II, another Leica-based brand -- Zorki -- was produced by Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod, better known as KMZ. Kiev cameras (Contax copies) were made by Ukrainian-based Arsenal. Very few of these cameras got to America until after the collapse of the USSR.
     Old Soviet cameras (technically they are "Soviet" cameras because they were produced before the break-up of the USSR) attract a small but dedicated group of collectors and users around the world, including the United States.  Because many of the cameras use the old Leica thread mount (LTM), Pentax (M42) or Contax II mounts, there are dozens of wide angle and telephoto lenses available that were produced by Russian, German and Japanese manufacturers.

A few words on quality:
    Although the Soviets produced some excellent cameras and lenses, anyone interested in such equipment should understand most of these cameras aren't of the same caliber as a Leica (or a Canon) from the same period. It's not unusual to encounter two examples of the same camera model, probably manufactured within days or weeks of each other, where one is a treasure and the other is junk. Some cameras came from the factory out of optical and mechanical alignment. (if a 50-year-old camera is in mint condition it may be an indication that it never worked correctly and the disgusted owner left it in the closet). In addition, when a camera had a problem, the owner sometimes grabbed a screwdriver or bread knife and tried to make repairs, often with less that desirable results.

Anyone contemplating using one of these cameras also should remember most are nearly 50 years old. Shutter curtains dry out and lubricating grease hardens. The best way to insure that the camera will work reliably to to have it cleaned and adjusted. (See RESOURCES and Links).

    On the following pages I have attempted to describe the characteristics of the various models. Bear in mind, however, that much of the information comes from personal experience, and is not based on factory records.Very little "official" information is available and those of us who study this equipment sometimes disagree on what constitutes a new model.

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