ZORKI I MODELS, VARIATIONS AND LENSES

   The Zork 1i and FED 1 cameras have a particular charm because they are small, compact and closely resemble the early Leica II. In fact some of the cameras have been reworked into counterfeit Leicas and more than one buyer who believed he was getting a bargain on a Leitz classic was actually getting the Russian version of the Brooklyn Bridge.
   KMZ began producing copies of the pre war Leica rangefinder in 1948 in cooperation with FED. Between 1948 and 1956, 835,502 Zorki 1s were produced. Changes were made throughout production but many are difficult for a casual viewer to identify.
    Several attempts have been made to classify the various Zorki 1 models . Almost all of them conflict to some degree and this one will, too. This information is based on my personal observations or, where I don't have physical access to a camera, on material from other Russian camera users. Take it for whatever you believe it's worth.


Zorki 1 1948 - 1956 (KMZ totals)

1948: 1,636
1949: 15,000
1950: 38186
1951: 70,501
1952: 128,752
1953: 152,150
1954:190,500
1955: 204,400
1956: 34,377

FED/KMZ - The FED-KMZ has the FED name on top of the viewfinder housing with the KMZ old style "tombstone" insignia underneath and the year 1948 underneath the logo. At least some had uncoated 50mm f 3.5 Industar Moskova lenses. The shutter release does not have a flared collar and the body covering is the coarser FED type. There were allegedly only about 150 of this model made. I have seen one example on a collector's web site with the serial number 00026.

FED/ZORKI 1948-1949 - The Zorki/FED has the two company names inscribed on the top of the viewfinder with the KMZ logo underneath. A few hundred were manufactured with the FED name and the KMZ logo underneath. These earliest camera also have either 1948 or 1949 inscribed on top between the two company names. The FED/Zorki has three screws in the back of the top plate and a button shutter release rather than the later collar type. It also has a film guide on the bottom plate held in place by two screws.This camera's body shell wasn't as strong as later models and it was possible to dent it by gripping it too tightly. This weaker shell carried over to most of the Zorki 1Bs. Some very rare examples of this model have shutter speeds to 1/1000 sec. The Industar-22 lens on this model has the old KMZ "tombstone" logo on the front ring (see example at right). Some FED/ZORKIs were equipped with the f2 or f1.5 "ZK" lens in a collapsable mount.


KMZ "Tombstone" logo


ZORKI A-B transition - This camera was equipped with a collapsible ZK 50mm f2 lens-the same lens found on the Kiev but in a different mount. There also may have been some with a f1.5 ZK lens. There weren't many of these cameras made. All appear to have been made in 1948 or 1949. This was the first model with Zorki only on the top of the viewfinder housing and the newer KMZ logo with a line through the "tombstone." Some of these cameras had the flared collar aound the shutter release. This is the first model without the indents in the ears of the accessory shoe (see photo above)


ZORKI 1B - The 1B has the flared collar around the shutter button and the release is threaded for a release cable. The flare isn't as wide as that of a FED 1. Another identification mark is three screws in the back of the top plate. Later models ony have two screws. Most Zorki 1Bs have a finer grained vulcanite than the FEDs. All have a film guide screwed to the baseplate. Some 1Bs have Zorki inscribed in both Latin and Cyrillic on top of the viewfinder. The serial number is on top of the viewfinder, in front of the accessory shoe. The majority of 1Bs appear to have the soft shell body that is very easy to bend.

More on Zorki 1B


ZORKI 1C - The Zorki 1C has two screws in the back instead of three. The change to two screws appears to coincide with the introduction of a stronger alloy body shell that made the middle screw unnecessary. The 1C has black painted accent stripes around the top and bottom of the body-the earlier models don't. The 1C also lacks the film guide in the baseplate. The serial number is on top of the viewfinder housing in front of the accessory shoe. 1Cs were built in 1952 and 1953. There are at least two variations of the Zorki 1C:

ZORKI ZORKI
- An export model with the name in both Latin and Cyrillic and "Made in the USSR" engraved on the top. There also are 1B Zorki Zorkis. The Zorki Zorkis appear to have a better finish than later Zorki 1s. The shutters on the earlier cameras also seem quieter than later models. There is also is alleged to be a Zorki 1C with a slow speed dial but some information suggests they were made outside the plant.
ZORKI 1C Cyrillic - Zorki engraved in Cyrillic on top along with the serial number. Other than the single name, this camera has the same mechanical characteristics as the Zorki Zorki. The finish doesn't seem to be as nice as the export model.

SHUTTER CURTAINS -Zorki 1 cameras have slightly wider shutter curtains than later Zorkis which use the same curtains as the later FED models. Some enthusiasts report that the narrower curtains will work on the older cameras but others say they can cause light leaks. If you plan to replace the curtains, avoid problems by making sure you install the wider type.
 

ZORKI 1D -- Introduced sometime in 1953. The serial number was moved to the back of the top plate. "Zorki" is stamped in Cyrillic on the viewfinder top, although there also are examples of engraved models. Most 1Ds also has an accent stripe around the lens mount. The shutter on the 1D and the 1E that followed has a different sound than earlier models. If you remove the bottom plate and examine the bottom of the shutter assembly you'll see the long, flat Leica-type spring with a rounded end visible on early models is gone.
    There is a Zorki 1 that has the serial number on the back but no accent stripe around the lens mount. Some classify this as a model 1D, and call the first camera with an accent stripe around the lens mount a model 1E, and the final change model 1F. I believe, however, the camera without the lens mount accent stripe is a 1D variation and not a separate model.
    Some collectors consider the 1D the best Zorki 1 user camera. It has the stronger body shell and the newer shutter design (see photos above) that is easier to repair than the earlier version with the long, flat spring.

ZORKI 1E is the last Zorki 1 model and was manufactured from 1954 to 1956. Most of these cameras have eight digit serial numbers where the first two digits of the reflect the year of manufacture. The 1E is easy to identify because it has different shutter speed progression and a "B" setting instead of "Z" like earlier models. There are some early 1Es with six or seven-digit numbers where the numbers don't reflect year of manufacture. I have a 1E with a seven-digit number beginning with "55" but it was made in 1954.

ZORKI 1 LENSES
   Nearly all Zorki 1s came with the Industar-22 collapsible f3.5 lens. Some of the last cameras may have had the collapsible Industar-50 lens. A few cameras during the early 1950s were equipped with a rigid Industar 22 lens. The rigid I-22 is a different, more complicated lens than the Industar 50 rigid lens on some later Zorki cameras. A few cameras also were produced in 1948 and 1949 with the Contax-designed "ZK" lens either f2 or f1.5. Industar-22 serial numbers (which sometimes correspond to year of manufacture) can be found on the back of the lens mount (early models) or on the front (later models).

LETTERING
   Some Zorki 1 models are engraved while others are stamped--a cheaper way of applying lettering. All FED/Zorki, 1B and 1C cameras appear to be engraved. Zorki 1D and 1E models seem to be mixed with a few engraved but most stamped. Since KMZ tried to develop an overseas market for the camera a reasonable guess would be that the engraved models (which have a nicer look) may have been produced for export. The two types are easy to identify because the stamped lettering appears to be just that--letters pressed into the metal (see Zorki 1C illustration above). Engraved letters have cleaner, crisper edges on the letters. There were also at least two different styles of engraved lettering with letters that differ in width and font styles.

BODY COVERING
   Most Zorki 1 camera bodies are covered with a synthetic, hard rubber type material commonly called "Vulcanite." Zorki Vulcanite coverings are smoother and less rough than the covering on the FED 1. Most early Zorki 1s (models 1B and many 1C) are covered with a pebble-like material sometimes mistaken for leather. The covering tends to turn a brownish color with age. Zorki 1Ds and 1Es are covered with a rougher, more-artificial-looking Vulcanite. A few Zorkis prepared as awards or special gifts may have been covered with real leather.
Zorki 1B and 1C Vulcanite
Zorki 1D and 1E Vulcanite

Synchronized flash
   No Zorki 1 model had a connection for flash as a factory feature. There are, however, many cameras that had that option added later by a repair shop (or possibly by the factory). Maizenberg also describes how to add electronic flash synch in his book on repairing Russian cameras. This is a great feature when combined with the compact size of the Z1, and well worth a little extra money.

SUMMARY

   Although identifying some Zorki 1 models isn't difficult, there isn't any way to easily classify all of them. Apparently, KMZ sometimes used parts left over from earlier production runs in later model cameras, especially during the transition from the 1B to the 1C and from 1C to 1D. There doesn't seem to be any specific cutoff dates when production of one model ended and a new model began. There also are incidents of Russian sellers mixing parts from different models in an attempt to create something they feel might be more attractive to collectors. Then there's the problem of serial numbers.
    It is a common belief that the first two digits of a Zorki serial number is the year of manufacture. This appears to only apply to Zorki 1s manufactured in 1948 and 1949, when the year was inscribed on top of the viewfinder, and on 1955 and 1956 models that have eight-digit numbers. Some 1950 through 1954 models may have serial numbers that appear to be manufacture dates but they are simply coincidence. Zorki I-22 lenses appear to have had year of production included in the number earlier than the cameras. If the lens is the original for a camera produced prior to 1955, its serial number may aid in determining the date of manufacture.
   It is possible to get a general idea when a Zorki 1 was produced from the serial number, using the KMZ yearly production totals listed on this page. Keep in mind, however, camera numbering did not begin with "1". According to Nathon Dayton, each craftsperson who assembled cameras was assigned a block of serial numbers. It that person left the company or died the remaining numbers weren't necessarily transferred to another person--therefore there are breaks in the consecutive numbers.

2004 Wayne Cornell

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