KMZ Zenit Photosniper FS-12
The Photosniper (anglicized from Fotosniper) is a line of camera kits made of a telephoto lens hooked to an SLR camera with a gun-like stock. There are several models:
|FS-4||Only a few were made|
|FS 12||1982||metal||Zenit 12 S||11,000|
|FS- 122||1992||metal||Zenit 122S||43,000|
This list is not cut and dry, as there were several sub-models and a few mix-and-match models.
The cameras used for that models were based upon production models, modified with an additional shutter key at the bottom, as seen in the images, and got the suffix ‘S’ for Sniper.
|Model||Year||Qty made||Camera used|
|Zenit 12 XP||1983||1,000,000||XPS|
|Zenit 12 SD||1983||145,000|
Several variations exist, also under different names.
Some online articles suggest that the photosnipers were used in covert or military engagements. I suspect it wasn’t, as they are too conspicuous and bulky for covert use, too delicate for combat, and too heavy for either. I would suggest they were used for recreational or nature shooting, moreover so as most were exported to the west.
Using it with the supplied stock is unnatural for a tall person. For me, the stock is a tad too short. Aiming with it, my right elbow sticks out, rendering it impossible to keep it steady. It means that the palm grip should have been positioned further toward the end, with the eyepiece still at the same place. Using tripod support at the front end makes more sense, but the stock has no tripod thread, so it is either with a tripod or the stock. The manual shows a shooting position with two elbows planted to the ground, but it would still be better with the front resting on a solid mount.
The model I have uses the Zenit XPS, a modified Zenit 12 XP that is based on the Zenit 12, which is the Zenit 11 equipped with TTL metering, so nothing new under the sun.
It isn’t easy to describe this kit; to decide where to begin, with the lens assembly being the prominent section. Further, I do not have the production Zenit 12XP model, and as the XPS is modified, with more ports and presumably features, I will fly by the seat of my pants.
It is prudent to check the battery first. So I tried. The battery cover freely turns right and left and does not lock or pop out either way. Just happily turns. So will get back to that later.
The camera part is a straightforward, no-surprises model of the Zenit dynasty. The modifications that merit the ‘S’ in the ‘XPS’ are at the bottom. An extra trigger centered within a pillbox mount. The stock’s trigger activates it via a pin that falls into the pillbox. Still at the bottom, at the side, is a protruding cylinder with a 2.5mm socket, similar to an audio socket. A plug wired to the lens body connects there. At the back, the viewer lens is proud of the body, with a one-sided rubber eyecup (eyecap?).
The body finish is not the greatest; would it been a motorcar, it would have had a lot of wind noise due to body panel gaps.
The stock is made of light aluminum composite, with the grip comfortably fitting in my palm and a rounded hold further down for the supporting hand. On top of it, there are two fixed pins to position the lens body into place, With a knurled nut in between that drives a 3/8″ screw into the lens’ base.
Additional two moving pins are activated by the trigger.
- The trigger pin is set within a bushing at the end closer to the body. A bushing protruding from the camera body fits in here, secured in place with a thumb
- The lens pin drives up the aluminum bracket attached under the lens.
The stock breaks into two for easy storage, held together with a thumb screw.
The lens is mighty in size and weight. It domineers the kit with 1.5 kg – 3 lbs weight and 30 cm – 1′ length. At the rear end, a 42mm thread hooks to the camera body. At the front, a 75mm – 3″ diameter lens.
Focusing is via a large dial at the bottom that drives a toothed bar that pulls the front lens assembly to desired focus. Setting the aperture size requires pushing a spring-loaded red knob, marked with a red arrow, so the aperture opens fully. A dial by it sets the opening value, but the aperture stays fully open. At trigger release, the lens pin flicks the bottom bracket, and the spring closes the aperture to the desired setting with a click that could wake up the dead.
I miss something here. The said spring-loaded pin stays put when used on a mount without the stock. So could it be that the Photosniper is to be used with the stock only?
Back to the battery cover. After reading the manual and sacrificing a fingernail, it is open. KMZ failed here. Most (all?) battery covers consist of one piece, with a thread or a bayonet lock. Here it is a plastic cover that tightly drops in the battery bay. A slotted lock, having two wings, turns freely within it. To open, turn until the slot is horizontal. It means that you can turn the slotted part to your heart’s desire, and if there are no batteries inside, the cover has no incentive to pop up. Simple as that, this is solved.
Lastly, there is a black wire hooked to the lens body that plugs into the camera body. I guess it is connecting something at the lens body to something at the camera body and activating something upon shutter release. I have no quarrel with this; only I don’t know what the three somethings are. No reference to that in the manual. Any reader who could shed light on this is highly welcome.
Lastly, there are two LED lights in the viewer. The top light indicates overexposure; the bottom light indicates underexposure. Both blinking denotes correct exposure. Only to see the lights look way to the right, far away from what you focus on.
The kit comes with an additional prime lens, a slew of filters, and two screwdrivers.
For the collector, it could be a conversation piece, but of no nostalgic value. They are frequently offered for sale, so one should wait for a nice kit resonably priced. My camera is a 1990’s crop, so not old enough in line with my other cameras.
|Model||Zenit Photosniper FS 12|
|AKA||Zenit XPS or Zenit 12S|
|Qty made||40000 XPS, 11,000 12S|
|Weight||630 gr, Body only|
|Class average weight||615 gr, Body only|
|Kit lens 1||4.5/300|
|Lens make 1||Tair-3S|
|Filter size 1||72mm|
|Kit lens 2||2/55|
|Lens make 2||Helios 44M-4|
|Filter size 2||52mm|
|shutter||Focal plane cloth horizontal|
|Light meter||Coupled CdS|
|Battery style||Button, 2ea|
|Other||Telephoto lens weight 1530 gr.|