PHOTOGRAPHY   © mike connealy
Kiev IIa
home     vintage cameras index

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The Kiev IIa with the 35mm Jupiter 12 lens and accessory viewfinder.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The standard lens for the Kiev IIa was the 5cm/f2 Jupiter 8.

I used the Kiev IIa along with the 35mm Jupiter 12 in producing the little photo essay, Krispy Kreme, in 2006.

A manual for the slightly later Kiev 4 model can be found at

The Kiev IIa was the second model in this line of Soviet cameras; the main difference from the first model was the addition of the flash synchronization port under the viewfinder window. The first model Kiev was not just a copy of its Contax II predecessor. In fact, it was an actual Contax as the entire German factory was carted off to the Soviet Union as war booty. Subsequent variations such as the 4 and 4-AM would incorporate additional feature enhancements, but it is said that the quality of materials and workmanship did not hold up in later models. The relocated factory also brought with it the competition between the Barnack/Leica style cameras and the Zeiss Contax as Leica-copies were already being made well before the outbreak of WWII hostilities.

While the Contax/Kiev cameras were not as compact as the Barnack-style Leica, FED and Zorki cameras, they did have some superior features. The entire back slides off the Kiev, making film loading a lot quicker and easier than with the Barnack-style cameras. The wide-base rangefinder was very accurate, and the rangefinder and viewfinder were combined in a single window. The top shutter speed of the Kiev may have been a little over-rated at 1/1250, but it was reliable and relatively quiet.

Of most importance in regard to features, however, was the fact that the Kiev - like the Contax - came with a superb set of optics. The standard Jupiter 8,a Zeiss Sonnar copy, was a fast f2, and just as sharp as the Zeiss original. Likewise, the Jupiter 12, modeled on the Zeiss Biogon, is an extraordinarily fine performer. Lenses made for the Kiev cameras have doubled in price over the last few years, but still represent a great bargain, though they often need some cleaning and re-greasing.

While the revolutionary impact of the Barnack-style cameras on the art of photography is undisputed, the Contax II and IIa cameras on which the Kiev is modelled, also played an historically important role in the '30s and '40s. American documenary photographers were particularly fond of the Zeiss rangefinders; the FSA photographer,Russell Lee, for instance, made hundreds of Kodachrome slides during the late Depression and early WWII years with a Contax II.

Some sample shots from the Kiev IIa with the Jupiter 8 lens:

home     vintage cameras index