The Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant (Russian, Cyrillic alphabet: Красногорского механического завода - Russian, Latin alphabet: Krasnogorskogo mekhanicheskogo zavoda and often abbreviated to KMZ) was responsible for many of the brands most often exported from the former Soviet Union to the west, including Fed, Zorki and most especially Zenit (often written as Zenith in the west).
The Zenit brand was reserved for SLR cameras with the M42 screw mount (though a few of the last models had the Pentax K mount). They were by far the cheapest option for buying a brand new SLR camera in their day. Many a teenager growing up in the UK of the 1970s and 1980s (and even the 1990s) got their first taste of SLR photography with a Zenit!
The Zenit-E model you see here is both one of the commonest Zenit models and one of the simplest (the only model simpler than the Zenit-E was the Zenit-B which was the same camera minus the lightmeter). It has a simple uncoupled selenium cell meter above the pentaprism with a read out window and dials for determining the aperture to transfer to the lens on the top plate to the right of the pentaprism, a limit range of shutter speeds (1/30 to 1/500 and a bulb setting, seen here to the right of the pentaprism), and wind on lever combined with an exposure counter which must be manually set to 1 each time you load a roll of film. And there is no automatic aperture diaphragm mechanism. This meant you have to manually stop the lens down from the widest aperture for composing and focussing to the taking aperture before taking a picture. This really is SLR photography stripped back to it's bear essentials!
Other Zenit models had such niceties as an automatic aperture diaphragm and TTL metering. But they all shared a general design that could at best be described as rather basic.
The two lenses most commonly seen with this camera are the iconic 58mm f/2 Helios 44-2 with a preset aperture diaphragm, and the 50mm f/3.5 Industar 50-2 pancake lens with a completely manual aperture diaphragm. You can see both in the images at the top of the page. My copy of the Zenit-E has the logo of the 1984 Olymppics in Moscow. It seems to be in fully working condition, but as you can see it's in rather poor condition. But this is OK… I really bought this camera to get the 58mm f/2 Helios 44-2 lens that came with it. If you're looking for this lens, here's a tip: A Helios 44-2 lens attached to a Zenit-E is often cheaper than a Helios 44-2 lens on it's own!
Photographs taken the Helios 44-2 and Industar 50-2 lenses
I bought this camera primarily as I wanted another copy of the Helios 44-2 lens that came with it, so I haven't yet taken it out to shot a roll of film with it. But you can see photographs taken with both the Helios 44-2 and Industar 50-2 lenses in the Outlandish lenses section of this website:
- Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
- Helios 44-2 "lensbaby" conversion
- Helios 44-2 with front element reversed
- Industar 50-2 50mm f/3.5