The first real (=35mm SLR) of the collection, the Kodak Retina S was my father’s old camera. So I was more than happy when I received my second real SLR as a present from my father in law. As it’s older counterpart from the west, it documented the families’ life until it was replaced by more modern and smaller cameras. Which is totally understandable given the size and wight. But due to this massive construction, every mechanical part works as new and so she is back in service. At the time, it was a very expensive camera in Hungary, so I will do my best to keep it running in the best condition.
About the camera:
The Zenit TTL is an evolution of the Zenit E, but instead of a selenium-meter, it’s equipped with an trough the lens light-meter. The Zenit were not only sold in the east, but also successfully exported (sometimes re-labelled as Revueflex or Cambron) to the west. Due it’s success (over 2 million cameras were sold), later models were not only produced by KMZ but also by Belomo, some say with a lower quality. The camera is build in a massive but still elegant way, offers full manual control and the electronic circuits accept modern day’s batteries. With the camera came the standard 55mm Helios 44m, a f 2 lens with an automatic lens and an amazing bokeh. The M 42 lens mount offers a wide choice of lenses, so I bought a Pentacon 2.8/29 mm as secondary option.
As it wasn’t used for while, the 55mm went a bit sticky and the light-meter does not work properly. But the first results are amazing and with the Berlin winter ahead of us, I’m sure I’ll get both fixed. If you want to start (again) with film photography I would consider one of those beautiful cameras.
Open the back with the tiny lever on the bottom, insert your film (up to 400 ISO if you want to use the build in meter and you are too lazy to calculate) and close the back. Set film speed (in GOST, here you find a conversion guide) and there number of exposure with the little knob on top of the advance lever. The standard lens comes with an automatic aperture. Set the slider to “A” and you can compose your picture with the lens fully open, then slowly press the shutter release and the lens stops down. Now you will see the effective depth of field. The speed is set in 5 steps with the wheel on the top left, the aperture on the lens barrel. In the viewfinder a little index helps you to find the right exposure: select the speed, press the release half way down and adjust the f-stop until they index is in the middle of the + – signs.
(So much for the theory. As she was sleeping for some years in the basement, my Zenit TTL’s light-meter does not work properly (yet) and the automatic lens works only in manual mode. But as this camera works fully manual, this does not really mater…)
Now shoot. In low light connect a flash to the accessory shoe and a PC sync cable or catch a tripod and use the “B” setting. The camera is also equipped with a self timer: to set use the little silver lever on the front left and press the small release button. To remove the film, turn the ring around the shutter release to the left and fully wind it back. For me, the unusual 55mm focal length of the lens is perfect for portraits with an open aperture because it has a certain softness and of course due to the famous bokeh of the Helios 44 lens.
|Year built||Probably 1981, the Zenit TTL was produced between 1976 and 1985|
|Lens||Helios-44M 2/58, Auto Revuenon 1.7/55, Pentacon auto 2.8/29, Revuenon 2.8/135|
|Special features||Self timer, TTL metering|
|Accessories||Ever ready case|
|Date of purchase||1981|
|Place of purchase||Dunaújváros, Hungary|
Keep the camera in the lower part of the base, as you might accidentally open the back. If your light-meter is off, try this repair guide.
Film purchase & processing:
The camera can use any 35 mm film from 20 to 400 ISO if you want an can use the meter. With an external meter you can use any film as the camera works fully manual. I metered the first shots with the Light Meter App for Android, as the light-meter does not work yet and I forgot my paper calculator at home.
http://www.zenitcamera.com/mans/zenit-ttl/zenit-ttl-eng.html (English manual on the manufacturer’s page!)
https://www.flickr.com/groups/1286562@N25/ (The Zenit E group on Flickr)
http://tomtiger.home.xs4all.nl/ (Tom Piehl’s rich page on photography and Russian cameras)