Episode 56: Советские Фотоаппараты

Very few episodes of the Camerosity Podcast are recorded without mentioning at least one Soviet camera, or something about the Soviet photo industry.  When deciding what we should discuss in future episodes, it was quite a surprise to the gang and I when we realized we had never devoted an entire episode to the subject, so for Episode 56, we put out the call for all our Soviet comrades, poured a large glass of водка, and loaded some film into our favorite Советские Фотоаппараты.

Joining us on our tour of camera factories in Moscow, Kyiv, Leningrad, and Minsk are esteemed Soviet camera collector and blogger, Vladislav Kern and all around Soviet enthusiast Mark Beadle.  In addition to Vlad and Mark, regular callers Mark Faulkner, Ray Nason, and Ira Cohen came along for the ride as well.

As we often do, Episode 56 starts off with some history and a quick summary of Soviet factories and how their photo industry differed from those in Germany, Japan, and elsewhere.  A whole lot of Soviet GAS was discussed including recommendations for first Soviet cameras for someone whose never shot one, Mike raves repeatedly about Soviet triplets, Paul shares with us his incredibly rare Soviet Leica Summicron lens, and Anthony gets into a discussion about the Soviet motion picture industry.

In this episode we talk about Smenas, the half frame Chaika and Agat, the panoramic Horizont, medium format Iskra, the Leningrad and Droug rangefinders, Soviet fakes, swirly bokeh, and a whole host of other Soviet GAS.

Later in the show we get into a round of Soviet Mythbusters in which Mike asks Vlad several commonly cited “facts” about Soviet cameras, and whether they are true.  Find out if orphaned children really built FED rangefinders, whether cameras with English logos are built with a higher quality, or whether or not you really need to wind your Soviet camera before changing shutter speeds.

As always, the topics we discuss on the Camerosity Podcast are influenced by you!  Please don’t feel like you have to be an expert on a specific type of camera, or have the level of knowledge on par with other people on the show.  We LOVE people who are new to shooting and are interested in having an episode dedicated to people new to the hobby, so please don’t consider your knowledge level to be a prerequisite for joining!

The guys and I rarely know where each episode is going to go until it happens, so if you’d like to join us on a future episode, be sure to look out for our show announcements on our Camerosity Podcast Facebook page, and right here on mikeeckman.com.  We usually record every other Monday and announcements, along with the Zoom link are typically shared 2-3 days in advance.

For our next episode, we are coming back to a favorite topic of the show, which is film stocks and film developing.  We will be welcoming back Robert Shanebrook from Eastman Kodak to talk about all the different types of film from history and past, and hopefully get some insight into what might come in the future.  These film emulsion episodes are always fascinating, so be sure to join us on Monday, October 16th for the recording of Episode 57!

In This Episode

  • Differences Between Soviet and Other Country’s Camera Industries / Soviet Factories
  • Camera Production Was a Cover for Military Manufacturing / Very Little Official Information About Camera Production Was Kept / Photography Was Encouraged to Aide in Soviet Propaganda
  • What Soviet Camera Would a Photography Student Buy? / Smena 8 and 8M
  • Home Developing and Recycling Everything / Camera Repair Manuals Were Common
  • Pre-Soviet Cameras / Export Cameras Were Controlled by TOE aka the KGB
  • Soviet Cameras were Distributed All Over the World as Kalimar, Global, and Many Others
  • In the UK, Soviet Cameras Were Pretty Common and Seen as Good First Cameras
  • A Zenit SLR Could Be Bought For Less Than a Third of a Nikon or Canon
  • Soviet SLRs Came in M39, M42, Pentax K, Nikon F, and a Few Proprietary Mounts / KMZ Start
  • Soviet Cameras Built for Export Were Generally of Higher Quality / Latin vs Cyrillic Lettering
  • Ray’s Distributor Used to Bring Him Kiev 60 and 88s for Ten Bucks Each
  • After the Soviet Union Collapsed, the Arsenal Factory Attempted to Privatize and Compete on the World Market / Kiev USA
  • Arax and Hartblei Also Refurbished Kiev Cameras Making them Better than New with Upgraded Features
  • The Soviet Motion Picture Industry / Stalin Had to Approve Every Script That was Submitted for a Motion Picture
  • French and Japanese Equipment Was Used to Make Movies
  • The FED and Zorki Weren’t the Only Soviet Leica Copies / VOOMP II Pioneer and Foto Apparat Geodeziya
  • KMZ Started Producing Leica Copies After the War and For a Very Short Time, So Did Arsenal
  • Did Orphaned Children Really Assemble FED Cameras? / American Children Worked in Coal Mines
  • Are Other Eastern Bloc Cameras Made in Czechoslovakia and Hungary Part of Soviet Camera Collecting? / MOM Mometta III
  • The Soviet Union Helped China Start their Camera Industry / Chinese Copies of Smenas and Zenits
  • GOMZ Sport SLR / The Soviet Camera Industry Pioneered More Things Than They Often Get Credit For
  • Arsenal Kiev Rangefinders Were Built Using Actual Zeiss Contax Parts and Machinery
  • Paul Has Never Ever Shot a Soviet Camera / Mike Recommends the Smena 8 for Paul / Agat 18K
  • Mike Thinks Soviet Cloth Shutters Hold Up Better than Other Cloth Curtains
  • Soviet GAS / Lubitels / Kiev 17 and 19 / Kiev 10 and 15 / Kiev 30 Submini
  • LOMO LC-A / Chaika and FED Micro Half Frame Cameras
  • Panoramic Cameras / KMZ Horizont / KMZ FT-2 / Fedor Vasilievich Tokarev
  • Soviet Mythbusters:
    • Some Soviet Cameras Use Animal Fat Lubricant
    • KMZ Cameras Built for Export are of Higher Quality
    • Lenses with Serial Numbers Beginning with 00 Were Made for VIPs
    • Whole Warehouses of New Soviet Lenses Are Still Being Discovered
    • Don’t Change Shutter Speeds Until After Cocking the Shutter / KMZ Narciss
  • Soviet Fakes / Paul Has a Summicron 50mm f/3.5 Leica Lens / British Reid Soviet Fake
  • KMZ Droug Has a Rangefinder Coupling Wheel
  • Is it Difficult for Vlad to Get So Many Soviet Cameras Living in the United States
  • TSVVS Prototypes / Mike Raves About Vlad’s Collection and Rambles Off a Bunch of Soviet Cameras We Didn’t Talk About
  • Where Do You Get Soviet Cameras Repaired?


If you would like to offer feedback or contact us with questions or ideas for future episodes, please contact us in the Comments Section below, our Camerosity Facebook Group or Instagram page, or email us at [email protected].

The Official Camerosity Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/camerositypodcast

Camerosity Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/camerosity_podcast/

Vlad Kern – http://ussrphoto.com/ and https://www.instagram.com/ussrphoto/

Mark Beadle – https://www.instagram.com/Mark_Beadle90/

Theo Panagopoulos – https://www.photothinking.com/

Paul Rybolt – https://www.ebay.com/usr/paulkris and https://www.etsy.com/shop/Camerasandpictures

Anthony Rue – https://www.instagram.com/kino_pravda/ and https://www.facebook.com/VoltaGNV/

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