Or why sometimes a bargain really is a bargain
Buying second hand cameras is a waiting and watching game, but knowledge also helps, and at least in junk shops you get to see and handle them, and explore what you’re getting. I recently came across a Zenit-B with an Industar lens going for £20.
The focus ring on the lens was extremely stiff, but I know a drop of lighter fluid can fix this. The camera itself is extremely solid, and shutter action looked sound, no visible holes or tears in the shutter screen, and lens looks clean, no fungus. There is no light meter on this model, so no worry about selenium cells having long since died out. Now I also know that this lens is a good performer and that alone online it might go for £20, so the price is already something of a bargain. But the other reason for the relative cheapness? The camera is branded Prinzflex 500, an export label used on Zenit B models exclusively in the UK. Do I care that the label on the camera isn’t ‘Zenit B’, when I know for a fact that it is in every other aspect a Zenit B, and that export models had, if anything, a reputation for slightly higher build quality and quality control? Of course I don’t care, not enough to pay an extra few pounds. The end result: a little bit of background knowledge on USSR cams, and the ability to check a camera whilst knowing what I’m looking for, gets me at most a desirable camera that is very likely to still be completely usable, and at least an interesting decently priced pancake lens which I can now compare to my Helios on my other M42 mount SLRs. I call that a result all round.