KMZ Zenit C / S

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KMZ Zenit C / S

Zenit C user manual
Zenit C current value

KMZ Zenit models list

It is said that the Inuit have many words for snow, though it is a myth spread for a reason unbeknown. The English language, however, has plenty of words for stealing: Pilfer, swipe, thieve, purloin, plunder, ransack, pillage, loot, and many more.  All well describe how the Soviet Union established its sorry optical and camera industry. It had all begun after the great war, once one master murderer lost the war to a coalition of nations, amongst which there was arch mass murderer history had ever seen,  a certain Koba Stalin.

Stalin, who excelled in murdering his very own people with a passion greater than killing the enemies, had kept the grand Red Army progressing by throwing into battle any warm body available, ill-prepared and under-armed, to no end. Further, to keep them going, any deserter would be shot on the spot, and any soldier who surrendered for facing a sure defeat in a battle was to be sent to the Gulag directly from POW camps. At the offensive, the other motivation for the krasnoarmiich to march forward, a motive often eliminated from history pages, was the implicit right to loot and plunder all that they came across, as well as raping free for all. It was not uncommon to see a soldier wearing several wristwatches on each arm as if badges of valour. Supply trucks drove back loot loaded, but the fallen were interred there and then.

The Soviets did it all on a grand scale. So, state-scale plunder happily took place too. What we deal with here, optical plants were moved stock lock and barrel, to the last screw, to the Rodina. I assume that the engineers and technicians were forced to their new homeland, no visa was needed.

This was the cornerstone to the illustrious Soviet optical industry. In the beginning, when cameras were made per the German plans, by the imported working hands and supervised by the founding engineers, all was fine. When minor changes were made, adopting to the advanced technology elsewhere, cameras were still sort of decent.  But, when the local engineers ventured further than the initial basics, glory dissipated.

The Soviet economy with the industry as a part of it had been based on state-controlled directives. Policies and production targets were dictated from above with all but a remote tie to reality and probability. There was a flow of directive seeping down to the hands on the ground, often making no sense. Instruction to sow field when the ground is still frozen had to be complied with, else the kolkhoz brigadier would be cast as an enemy of the workers and be sent way up north. The same applied to industry, where parallel to the downwards directives a stream of upwards reports was returned, all false. The gap between reality and reported data kept increasing until there was little actual industrial output, which could not be sustained. At the extreme, crops, expected to be harvested per the targets planned did not mature, causing unsustainable famine.

The rift between Ukraine and Russia can be traced to the great famine in the early ‘30s, even before the war. About 12 million Ukrainians perished once farming was placed under inept and corrupt state control yielding meager crops, in turn, taken to Russia.  This was further augmented by 1946 by another man-made famine, a repeat of food transfer.  This time it was orchestrated by Nikita Khrushchev, an ethnic Ukrainian and leader of the USSR after Stalin’s demise.

The Zenit C, actually Zenit S, precedes the Zenit B and Zenit E,  It is a mutation of the Zenit of 1953, which looks like a love child of a Zorki 4 and an Alpa. Regrettably no Alpa DNA. As per the above, it does carry plenty of Leica DNA, duly pillaged from the Germans. The single visible difference between the original Zenit and the C is the flash sync dial around the speed selector, quoted in milliseconds. Hence the handle ‘C’, the letter ‘S’ in Russian for synchronization.

The camera carries the Zorki / Leica winding button, requiring the user to have tiny, yet strong digits, long nails at peril. Same speed selector to be set while shutter cocked. Add on tho the original rangefinder are the top bulge containing the prism and the protruding lens mount.  The mirror winds down with cocking, leaving a blank viewer till then. Bottom loading is a familiar pain and self-loading cartridges/offtake spool were included with the camera. In short, it is an SLR in rangefinder skin.

Here is the place to debunk the notion that the USSR citizens had no right to free choice. On the lens, there are three sets of F values, so one could select which set to use. Or could it be that the manufacturers admittingly accepted that the production standards were not up to snuff?

Rick Olsen has an article about it, again, difficult to read. Green on black? Add red and am ready for an eye test.

The camera was sold in the west under its original name, not sure to what extent.


List number 10466
Brand KMZ
Format 35mm
Model Zenit C
Introduced 1955
Country USSR
Type SLR
Body material Metal
Mode Manual
Weight 520 gr,  Body only
Class average weight 580 gr,  Body only
ASA range NA
Kit lens 1.35/50
Lens make Industar
Filter size 33mm ?
Lens mount Thread
Mount size 42mm
shutter Focal plane cloth horizontal
Light meter None
Winder Knob
Lock Yes
Speeds B-500
DOF preview Yes
Exposure lock No
Exposure compensation No
Shoe No
External sync X/M
Sync speed NA
Timer No
Battery None
Battery style
Battery voltage
Integral flash None

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