KMZ Zenit 11
In the mid-1980s, I was posted to Zambia, one of the nicest places on earth, people and landscape and the best weather one could wish for. Alas, dirt poor. With the economy centered around agriculture, we dealt with such implements and, at a certain time, imported both Romanian UTB tractors and West Germa Deutz combine harvesters.
The UTB tractors were of a decades-old, obsolete Fiat design and molds, bare-bones, free of any unnecessary feature or attachment, with quality control done by the blind. The Deutz machinery was an industry spearhead with any advanced twist one could imagine, technology, controls, and operator’s convenience. The Romanian products looked as if clothed from a thrift store while the Germans were dressed for the prom. Parts from UTB came wrapped with newsprint, whereas the Deutz neatly and securely packaged, could survive a trip to the moon and back.
Repairing the Romanian tractors took a monkey wrench, hammer, and a cold chisel. The Germans, however, sent on their account a service engineer to train out mechanics, a Hungarian fellow that kept saying ‘degreeses’, much to the delight of his audience, with our service manager tackling him repeatedly.
Difference? One came from the Soviet sphere of influence, where nobody cared in the worker’s paradise, and the other came from the capitalist side of the wall.
The Soviet optical industry was just the same. The Zenit 11 was launched in 1981. The same year that saw the Canon AE-1 program and the Nikon F3, light years ahead of the pride of the Communist industry.
The Zenit 11 is a part of a family of almost identical SLR cameras. The early generations were based on the tried and true Zorki frame, defined by a rounded style. The later generations are bulkier and slightly different from each other.
I will refrain from adding to the many online articles about this dynasty. I pulled out a Fotosniper 12, AKA FS-12, and this camera was on the same shelf, so I looked at it as well.
The first impression of the Zenit 11 is its rugged look and heft. It seems that all Soviet industrial designers were sent for reeducation in the far north. A bulky design, with no grace other than the rounded corners at the back. Weighing 980 gr, about 2 lbs, it is not the equipment one would carry around for an afternoon stroll with the kids.
Perhaps to demonstrate the resilience of the Red industry, the camera back is made of heavy steel, which could also serve as protection against an attack by the crafty imperialists.
The camera is simple to use. Set the film speed on the inner dial on the left. Then dial the shutter speed calculator till the meter’s sliding lollipop meets the meter needle. Now select the aperture opening and the shutter speed combination. All this is self-explanatory; only the said guide dial reads speeds that are not represented on the shutter speed selector. Perhaps the missing speeds were on a need-to-know only.
The T and V marking by the trigger are amiss in the user manual. Press the trigger halfway and turn towards the T to lock. Turn to V to release. Guess the letters represented something in Russian and were lost in the manual’s translation. The translation yielded a gem like ‘shutter disengaging bush’, meaning the trigger.
This camera is one of the last models that operate without a battery, relying on a front-facing selenium meter. An almost identical model, the Zenit 12, uses a TTL CdS meter. The Zenit 12 XPS is coupled with a powerful telephoto lens to become the Fotosniper.
This model was made in large numbers and was also sold in the US as Zenit SLX, and Delta 3, not sure by whom.
|Zenit SLX, Delta 3
|685 gr, Body only
|Class average weight
|610 gr, Body only
|Focal plane cloth horizontal
|CdS, external uncoupled