film photography · Rangefinder Camera · Soviet Camera · Vintage Camera · Vintage Camera Reviews

Kiev 4A – A Contax Clone

The Kiev 4A is the third Soviet camera that I have gotten to try. It is another camera from the extensive collection of Mike Eckman, who was nice enough to lend me this one along with the FED-2 that I previously reviewed. I don’t call this camera the Contax copy. I like to call it the Contax Clone. I’ll explain why.

The Kiev 4A

The Kiev is more like a clone of the Zeiss Ikon Contax because after the defeat of Germany in World War II the Soviet Union claimed the Zeiss factory where Contax was produced. They moved everything from there, even some personnel, to the factory in the Ukraine. This means that many Kiev cameras have Zeiss parts, and the ones made after the parts ran out, were still made with the same machines and tooling. This makes it more like a continuation of the Contax than a copy.

Later on the machines broke down, and quality control started to go down so later models may not be as reliable. However, I have never had a Contax, so I will not do a comparison.

The Kiev 4 is a 35mm rangefinder from Soviet Russia (modern day Ukraine)produced in the Zavod Arsenal Factory from 1958-1980. Within that time, between 1974-1980, the Kiev 4a type 2 was produced. It had a top speed of 1/1000 in place of the erroneous 1/1250th. The one I have is the 1st type.

The Specs

On the top plate is the shutter speed knob with shutter Speeds 1/2 up to 1/1250th of a second and Bulb. To change the speed you have to lift the top wheel and turn it to match the dot to the number. Next to that is the manual frame counter. You have to set it back to zero after you finish a roll of film.

You can tell what year it was made by the first two numbers on the serial number located on the cold shoe. Mikes starts with 68 so it was made in 1968.

On the other end is another winding knob for rewinding the film back and a film type reminder on top.

The Kiev 4A usually left the factory with a Jupiter 8 50mm f/2 lens. It has a Bayonet Contax Rangefinder Lens mount and is compatible with other Contax RF lenses. The lens is coupled to the rangefinder, so it can be focused using a wheel on the top plate, or by turning the lens manually. The lens locks at infinity and can be unlocked by depressing the button nest to the focus wheel.

On the front of the camera is a self timer lever and a PC socket

Like the FED I just reviewed, the back comes off by turning two locks under the camera.

Buy a Kiev 4A on Ebay.

My Experience

Kelsey and I went to Tradition for a day in town, and so that I could shoot something other than our neighborhood. I was in a good mood, and excited to take some color photos. The Kiev was loaded with a roll of Fuji Superia Xtra 400. I thought it would pair well with all the green growing everywhere now that its spring. I finished the roll, happy with the compositions I got. As we drove away I rewound the film only to open the back and find that it had torn off and was now exposed to the light.

My good mood quickly turned south because it was so hot out and I did not want to go back and shoot another roll. This time I loaded a roll of Kentmere 400 because I didn’t want to use an expensive roll of Portra.

Kentmere Pan 400
Kiev 4A – Kentmere Pan 400
Kiev 4A – Kentmere Pan 400

The ergonomics are a little bit uncomfortable because your fingers can get in the way of the rangefinder window. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I said “WTH is wrong with the rangefinder?” and it was just my finger blocking the window.

Town Hall
Kiev 4A – Kentmere Pan 400
Meeting Street
Micheals Wagons

I like the way these photos came out, but I just couldn’t resist capturing the colors I was seeing around us. The only color film I had with us was a roll of Kodak Portra 400.

Tradition Square

I’m not sure why these came so blue/purple. I don’t know if the chemicals were too warm, but if you know let me know in the comments. The chemicals had only been used once before this. The other thing could be that the film got hot from being in my purse, but I am not sure.

Kiev 4A Kodak Portra 400

I did my best to correct the colors in post. Despite these issues, they still represent the colors I saw in person pretty well.

Kiev 4A Kodak Portra 400

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Kiev 4A Kodak Portra 400
Kiev 4A Kodak Portra 400
Kiev 4A Kodak Portra 400

A rainbow appeared, and my day started to brighten up again.

Kiev 4A Kodak Portra 400
Kiev 4A Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400 Kiev 4A
Kiev 4A – Kodak Portra 400
Car Selfie

Final Thoughts

At one point I thought the rangefinder wheel was broken because it wasn’t turning the lens. Fortunately it wasn’t, it is just very delicate. I am not sure if this is the way it is on all Kiev rangefinders, but if you put any force at all on the wheel after it locks, then it comes loose even though I was extremely careful. I didn’t even notice this happened because I mostly like to focus by just turning the lens. Luckily it was fine and I just had to be really careful with the wheel.

My results really surprised me. I really like these photos, and it was really easy to shoot through a roll of film despite the quirks I ran into. The only thing that is upsetting is the color shifts because I don’t know the cause was.

Be sure to watch my video below to see my day out with this camera.

Until next time, stay motivated and keep shooting.

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Click here to Buy a Kiev 4A on Ebay.

3 thoughts on “Kiev 4A – A Contax Clone

  1. Peggy – United Kingdom – I am a teacher who loves taking photos to relax. I especially like trying new-to-me cameras.
    Peggy says:

    I have the Kiev4 with the flip up light meter. It took me two attempts to get a good one. The Kiev/contact grip catches me out all the time…but it is worth it, they are gorgeous cameras. Which do you prefer the fed or the Kiev?

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