In 1968, the KMZ plant (Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod – Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk) located just outside of Moscow, created an SLR called the Zenit B, and more than half a million were produced between 1968-1973.
In Russian it is Зени́т B, and when translated to English it’s Zenit-V. Zenit meaning Zenith, a point in the sky that appears directly above the observer.
The original Zenit was based on the Zorki rangefinder, and many versions were created, including some all black models, but most have the silver and black. You can find the different variations of this camera here and here. This camera was also produced and sold under different names by several retailers such as Foto Quelle in Germany and Kalimar created the Kalimar SR 100 a rebadged Zenit B.
It was a more affordable SLR for consumers to buy during a time when the big companies like Pentax and Nikon were putting out the next best thing at a high premium.
The Zenit B doesn’t have a cold shoe like its predecessor the Zenit E, but you can add an accessory shoe. Early models have the ZM39 lens mount, not to be mixed up with the M39 Leica Thread Mount. If you do put an LTM lens on a Zenit, it will not focus correctly. Most Zenits have the M42 lens mount. They came with an Industar 50-2 50mm f/3.5 or consumers had the option of a Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 lens. Mine has the Industar-50-2 50mm f/3.5.
It also doesn’t have an automatic diaphragm. You have to focus first then set the aperture of the lens. There is a flash X PC socket on the front with sync at 1/30th of a second. The shutter speed dial includes speeds of 1/30th up to 1/500th and B.
The frame counter is located around the shutter button and requires a manual reset.
There is also a film reminder dial that you can set to show the type of film and ISO you have loaded.
The first two digits of the serial number on the back of the top plate show the production year, so mine was made in 1972.
My Experience with the Zenit B
I received my Zenit B in a mail call from my Uncle B. He often sends me vintage cameras he finds when exploring flea markets and antique stores up in Long Island, NY. I was excited to find this Russian camera included in his latest parcel because I haven’t yet had the chance to shoot with any of the USSR cameras.
I went for a photo walk with it loaded with a roll of Kentmere Pan 400 film and pushed it to 800 so I could shoot a couple photos around the house.
The mirrors inside the prism are a bit rusty so it’s a little difficult to see clearly to focus.
After I processed and scanned this roll I could see that a lot of the photos had a sort of foggy look to them. I heard that the Industar lens would give my photos “character” so I figured that was the culprit.
I have a Praktiflex camera from my cousin Jean with the same lens mount, so I decided to switch lenses. The Praktiflex actually has a really nice lens, a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar 50mm f/2.8, so I was excited to see what results this simple camera could get with a nice lens.
I loaded the camera this time with a roll of Ilford HP5 400 pushed to 800, and took photos around my home.
The photos I took with the Industar lens weren’t too bad. In fact, I liked the compositions I got, but it does give a character to the photos almost the way a plastic meniscus lens does on some of the older box cameras. I definitely like the photos taken through the Zeiss lens better.
A big pro for this camera is the M42 mount. Which means you can use a wide array of non-auto m42 mount lenses and there are quite a few available. There are plenty of these cameras out there if you want something simple to shoot with that can mount some nice quality lenses. You can find them on Ebay for under $50. I would definitely recommend this camera to a beginner because it is a bare bones camera that will get you learning quick.
To watch my video with this camera click here.
Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.
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4 thoughts on “The Zenit B – An SLR from the USSR”
Excellent images Aly. I’m a Tessar fan myself. Years ago major manufacturers relied on them heavily, I have a Carl Zeiss for Hasselblad Tessar 80mm f2.8, for which I bought an M42 adapter, it produces wonderful images.
Thank you. That’s a nice lens.