Sunday, April 18, 2004
Fanatics Attack Major Eastern Seaboard Port, Using Soviet, East German Equipment
Well, Baltimore Commie Camera Day 2004 was a great success!
Three of us Comrades met to invade HarborPlace with our glorious Commie equipment. In the interest of detente, I also invited one of my running-dog capitalist friends, Lou. Lou had a great time as well.
So what the heck am I talking about?
I'm talking about collecting and using camera made in the Former Soviet Union and other Communist countries.
Why would anyone do that?" you ask. Good question - I personally think its some form of addiction. Stay away from it if you can.
I became an amatuer photographer at 17 and continued pursuing this hobby avidly until about age 30. Getting married and raising a family diverted my attention for the last 20+ years. But in the fall of 2001, I decided to return to my old and beloved hobby.
When I looked over several year’s worth of old photos, I found that the ones I liked the best were taken not with the fancy SLR’s and their many lenses, but with an old Leica IIIc and its 50 mm lens! My first thought was to buy another old Leica, but when I saw how much they now go for, I wished I had invested 20 years ago in screw-mount Leicas rather than my company’s 401K.
I recalled a dim memory of "Russian Leicas", screw-mount clones of the Leica II series. With a little research on the Internet, I found that the Soviets had indeed made relatively faithful copies of the classic screw-mount Leicas - both before and after WWII - and many more in fact than Leitz ever produced! Not only that, but the Soviet photo industry went on to make a surprising variety of Leica-Thread-Mount, focal-plane shuttered, rangefinders with a number of improvements over the original Leitz design. And not only that - but a quick check of online auctions and dealers’ websites showed that they were plentiful and cheap!
So I bought a Soviet camera... and then another, and another... and so forth, until I had over 30 Soviet, East German, and Chinese cameras. As I said, it can be very addicting.
In the process of learning about these cameras, I found out that there is a quite a large, international community of like-minded nuts. I've "met" many of these Comrades on the Russiancamera-user Forum, and even become quite friendly with some of them.
In the last year or so, I've become more or less an iridentist capitalist myself, shooting almost exclusively digital. But my socialist conscience was getting to me - I felt that I had to run at least some film through one of my glorious Red Beauties, so I decided to organize the Commie Camera Day.
Allan came with his near-mint Kiev 6C 6x6 SLR, sporting an 80mm Arsat lens. The inimitable Nate Dayton revived the zeitgeist of the DDR, toting his Praktica MTL-5B 35mm SLR. And, trying to atone, I went purist, bringing my 1964 Kiev 4a with its Jupiter 8M normal lens.
My friend Lou came with his Canon Digital Rebel, and I brought mine too.. er, that is, to use as a meter for the Kiev 4a.
Think you might be interested in Commie Cameras too? Run before it's too late! But if you must, here are some essential resources:
Newcomers should make Jim Blazik's Rangefinders of the Soviet Era site their first stop in becoming familiar with the wonders of Soviet RF cameras. Even veterans will enjoy Jim's engaging writing style and the variety of topics he covers. For FED-2 enthusiasts, this site is a MUST! Jim is a master craftsman, and this site is beautifully crafted indeed. Want to turn your dowdy chrome-cum-polycarbonate FED-3b into a gorgeous leather-clad black beauty? This is the place for you!
Nathan Dayton's Commie Cameras website it the Mother of All Soviet Camera online information sources. Nathan is one of the foremost experts in the world on Eastern Block photography. If it's details you want, here is the place to go.
Soviet camera expert and outstanding New Yorker Yuri Boguslavsky, affectionately known in the Soviet camera world as "Fedka" is a collector as well as one of the most reliable and respected dealers of Soviet photo equipment. His Fedka web site has a lot of useful and interesting information on the Soviet camera industry, and his new Fedka Online Store is the place to go if you want to buy safely and hassle-free.
Anyone interested in the Kiev line of rangefinders should visit Kieth Berry's website. Illustrated with very nice photos, this site lays out the development of the various Kiev models and provides instructions on using these excellent cameras.
Our Dutch friend Tom Tiger has an excellent site in English, "Tigers Lair", that includes great photos, useful repair tips, and interesting thoughts on using Soviet cameras.