Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Zenit S

Produced: From 1955 to 1961.
Shutter: rubberized silk double cloth curtain, horizontal focal plane.
Shutter Speeds:
    Before 1959: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500 +B
    Since 1959: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 +B
Lens: Industar-50 50mm f/3.5

The Zenit S is mostly a Zenit with flash synchronization added.  That is what the S is for.  The Zenit was one of the earliest SLRs being first produced in the USSR in 1952. The Zenit appears to have been developed by adding a reflex-box to a Zorgi 2.  The Zenit S lacks features like a self-returning mirror that we have come to expect in an SLR, however this was typical of the early slrs.  To me the most interesting feature of the Zenit S is its compactness.  The Zenit S weighs only 538 grams. That compares well with the Olympus OM-1 at 510 grams, which caused a sensation when it was released nearly twenty years after the Zenit S.

The Zenit S that I have was made between 1959 and 1961 as indicated by the shutter speeds.  The camera body is in excellent shape and functions well having been cleaned and serviced.  The green leatherette took some getting used to, however I have come to like it.  It really is striking how small this camera is for a classic era SLR.  I still have the sense that I am handling one of my old rangefinders when I pick it up.  In actual use things like the lack of a self-returning mirror make the Zenit S a little slower to use, however for me that is not a difficult thing to adjust to.  The main thing I would change is to make the viewfinder brighter.  Wide-open the viewfinder is usable, however it is fairly dim even in bright light.  Also the Zenit S is one of those cameras where unless you are using it wide-open you have to manually change the aperture after focusing.  Still I think that if you are able to slow down and adjust to the characteristics of the Zenit S then it is a very usable camera.  Although likely it would be hard to get good results from the Zenit with any fast changing subject.

I was near the end of my bulk roll of Kentmere 400 when I loaded a roll to use in the Zenit S.  And the roll turned out to be a short one. So I ended up getting only a few pictures.  Still it looks like the Industar 50 in the Zenit S is capable.

Most of my other images with the Zenit S I put the lens on its hyper-focal setting. 

So I am just staring with my experience of the Zenit S.  I imagine that in time I will have more to report.