KMZ Start

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KMZ Start

I got this camera on the fly; it was not on my wish list, but I picked it up just for curiosity. As a first impression, as a Soviet mid-last century model, it is nicely made and carries its age well. There are already good articles about it by Mike Eckman and Alfred Klomp, amongst others, so I will not plow a cultivated field but add some pointers.

As a side note, it is a shame that much goodwill and effort went into camera pages online for the author to lose interest and let it drop, where there are dead links everywhere.

KMZ had offered the Start as a high-end professional use SLR to compete with the West German and Japanese models. True to the Soviet manufacturing culture, quality was of secondary importance behind the output quotas. Nevertheless, here they have succeeded in producing a decent product. The Start was made for a short period, from 1968 to 1964, with some minor modifications, and in two lines, the local, marked with Cyrillic letters, and the export, marked with Latin letters. I have a cyclic model made in 1961. In this unit, the film speed is marked in GOST, where I assume the export units would be marked in ASA or DIN values.

The earlier KMZ SLR cameras were based on the Zorki platform, where the Start was designed from the ground up as an SLR. The camera is big and heavy. Made of cast / machined steel, while most models of that era were stamped sheet metal. It is a good starting point to keep it operating for years.

It is just bare bones for professional use, only what you need in a camera. Speed is up to 1000, very typical today but outstanding at that time. An interchangeable lens mount, but with only one matching lens, a 39mm adaptor was available. An Exakta-type front-facing trigger with an extension bar mounted on the lens. Once pressed, the aperture closes to the set stop, allowing most light in for composing. For a current days shooter, it takes some effort to master.

As with some Exaktas, there is a mid-roll change option with a blade that cuts the roll. Guess was borrowed from the Exakta models. Needless to say that it would take using a receiving cartridge.

A removable top prism mount can be replaced with a waist finder, although, not sure if any have survived.

A second model, the Staer 2 was equipped with a light meter,  did not catch up, and was promptly discontinued.

List number 15410
Brand KMZ
Format 35mm
Model Start
Current value
User manual Butkus
Zenit Camera (Russian, Google translate does a sterling job)
Introduced 1958
Country USSR
Qty made 75000
Initial price
Type Compact SLR
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 710 gr,  Body only
Class average weight 620 gr,  Body only
ASA range 11-350 GOST
Kit lens 2,0/58
Lens make Helios 44
Filter size 40.5mm
Lens mount Bayonet, proprietary
Mount size
shutter Focal plane cloth horizontal
shutter make
Light meter None
Winder Lever
Lock No
Speeds B, 1-1000
Mirror None auto return
Viewer Interchangeable, prizm to waist finder
DOF preview Yes
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe No
External sync X/M
Sync speed 30
Timer Yes, mechanical
Battery N/A
Integral flash None
Other Cyrillic marked CMAPM


KNZ Start with two earlier sisters, still sold at the same time.


Mike Eckman
Alfred Klomp



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