Developed in the USSR by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant (KMZ), the Zenit C or Zenit-C was sold from 1955 to 1961. Some consider it to be one of the best Soviet cameras ever made due to its overall build quality and features offered.
The Zenit C is a mechanical SLR that looks like a rangefinder thanks to its slim profile and other physical traits attributed to Leica copies of its time. It is not much bigger than the Zorki C, a rangefinder camera that shares the DNA of earlier Leica cameras (specifically, the Leica II). The Zenit C is a bottom loader which means the film has to be loaded into the chamber by removing the base of the camera. Future users of this camera will greatly benefit from research on how to properly load it without messing up the spooling system. It also has a variety of knobs on the top plate that controls various settings.
This camera is charming as it is quirky. Ordinary photographers who are familiar with more modern cameras and equipment might find it too finicky to deal with but that is exactly what some connoisseurs are after. In a sense, it does bring you back to an earlier time where design intricacies are normal and not just "primitive inconveniences".
Appearance-wise, the Zenit C exudes old-world elegance with its metal construction and vulcanite coating. The arrangement of the knobs is as beautiful as it is intimidating, especially for beginner photographers. The Zenit C can attract photographers with its looks alone. That is why it's no surprise that the collectors cherish this Soviet classic from the 50s. The build quality, style, and enduring charm of the Zenit C will surely convert a new generation of photographers into fans.
Other Zenit C tidbits:
- The C stands for S in Cyrillic. The "S" means synchronized [flash] for this particular model.
- The film advance knob must be cocked before looking into the viewfinder in order to see the subject through the prism. However, there is a trick that can be used to lower the mirror without cocking the film advance.
- The camera must be cocked before adjustments to the shutter speed can be made.
- Only a limited number of lenses can be used with the Zenit M39 mount.
- An estimated 232,949 units of Zenit C were produced.
Sample Photo Gallery
Film: 35 mm cartridge film
Size of Picture: 24 x 36 mm
Shutter Speed: cloth focal plane shutter, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/250, 1/500 second, Bulb (B), and Time
Distance Scale: 0.65 m to infinity
Lens: Industar 50 coated lens 50 mm, f/3.5, Industar 22 f/3.5 lens
Aperture: f/3.5, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11. f/16
Synch Mechanism Scale: 0 to 25 millisecond
Viewfinder: Magnification 5x, field of vision 20 x 28 mm
Dimensions: 78 × 90 × 138 mm (overall camera dimensions)
Weight: 630 grams (22.22 oz)