Classic camerasKiev 15 Automat

Most of the Russian cameras that were imported into the United Kingdom (and, indeed, the West in general) where pretty boring designs that were either very basic (such as the Zenit SLR camera) or slavish copies of German designs (such as the Kiev rangefinder cameras which were pretty much screw-for-screw copied of the Contax rangefinder designs), but the Soviets also made some rather more interesting designs which they kept largely for themselves.

Examples of the later are the Kiev 10 and 15 Automat cameras that were made between 1964 and 1980. Unlike many other Soviet designs, these camera were both innovative and highly advanced for their time.

Actually there are several clues that the Kiev 10 and 15 models were heavily influenced by the Contarex SLR from Zeiss in West Germany. For example, note that there isn't any aperture ring on the lens… instead the apertures are controlled by a dial on the camera body just like on a Contarex. But unlike the Kiev rangefinders these cameras combined the Zeiss influence with large amounts of pretty impressive home-grown engineering.

One of the most intriguing bits of Ukrainian engineering in the Kiev 15 is the very unusual, and rather beautiful, fan shaped metal shutter illustrated in the first picture below.

And these cameras were far more advanced than the designs commonly exported to the West. The Kiev 10 was launched in 1964 with an automatic diaphragm and shutter speed priority automatic exposure (combined with selenium cell exposure meter above the lens) and in 1973 the 10 was replaced by the 15 which kept the automatic exposure but combined with through-the-lens open-aperture metering. All this automation was achieved with purely mechanical coupling between lens and camera…not bad for the 1960s and 70s!

Even though the Kiev 10 and 15 cameras were made over a 16 year period, there were only ever 5 lenses made for the Kiev Automat mount, but it was a very useful range never-the-less: 20mm f3.5 (illustrated in last picture below), 37mm f2.8, 50mm f2, 85mm f2, 135mm f4.

This example is in very nice condition and came (direct from Ukraine!) with the 37mm f2.8 semi-wideangle lens. It weighs a ton! (About 1150grams with the 37mm lens) But I'm still really looking forward to putting a film through this (rather big!) baby…

Detailed Kiev 15 Automat photos

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