Secondhand Love Affair: My Zenit 122


My first reflex was a Zenit E, my true "photography teacher." After this camera, I bought other Zenit models, as a Zenit EM, a TTL...funny cameras to shoot with, but they are are QUITE HEAVY. So, some years ago, I had a great secondhand affair with a Zenit 122. Same family, but with less weight to carry.

Dear lomographer, I like to use film cameras, and I use mainly Zenit, Zorki, Fed, and Praktica cameras, or my faithful Lomo LC-A. In the last three years, I made a series of photos documenting the free time of the people of my city, Como, in the North of Italy. This project is made of photos of happy moments of the life of the citizens, with many images dedicated to sport activity or social activity. I seldom use expired film, and I seldom use cross processing. I like to switch between black and white and color, and I love to develop and print the black and white photos by myself. This is impossible (if you want quality) for color photography.

Here two events taken with my Zenit 122. The first event is a yoga session in the main square of Como, in Piazza Cavour, near the lake. This was made last summer and this is a very important social event. The yoga society forms yoga teachers to Africa, to subtract many boys from wars mercenary. If you are interested in this project, you can find more on Africa Yoga Project and here. The first photo (see above) reflects the solidarity between Europe and Africa.

Compare these photos with those shot in my previous article about Zenit E camera —you can see that the colors obtained with my Zenit 122 are more vivid and contrasted. Why? Simple answer: two different evolution of the same lens. The Zenit E uses a full manual lens, a Helios 44-2, which is a Russian copy of the famous German Biotar scheme. Meanwhile, my Zenit 122 (and also on Zenit EM, TTL, 122) mounts a more modern version, a Helios 44M-4 (automatic closure). The optical scheme is the same, but the glass is different. So, I always use Helios 44-2 when I want pastel and soft tones, but when I want contrast and vivid color, I use the 44M-4. Both are M42 mount lenses.

The second event was the anniversary of Aero Club Como a seaplane school based in my city. For this anniversary the club organized a free trial on balloon, see below:

For this event I used my Helios 44M-4 (58mm/f2) and a Russian tele, the Jupiter 37A (135/3,5), which is a full manual lens, sharp as a razor, usable on all my Zenit models. This is a valid alternative to my preferred tele lens, the wonderful Takumar 105/2,8.

Zenit E, EM, TTL and 122 have the same shutter, the same time selector (from 1/30 to 1/500, B and T pose), but different viewfinders, and different exposure meters. Zenit E and EM have an selenium cell exposure meter, while Zenit TTL and 122 have a batteries meter. The TTL camera uses a needle inside the viewfinder, the 122 three leds (the green one for the right exposure, two red for under or overexposure). The camera use two LR44 batteries, and the exposure is very sensitive. Only a half stop of difference and you can see the led color switching to under to overexposure. The leds are difficult to see in bright light conditions, and please take care to the light entering in the eyepiece that false the light measurement, so when you are metering the exposure, you must place the eye in contact with the eyepiece.

The Zenit 122 has a viewfinder easy to use even in low light conditions: bright with a split image aid to focusing (similar to the viewfinder of my Praktica MTL 5) and micro prisms. My others two cameras, TTL and EM have a less bright viewfinder. The E model is unique for its plain glass viewfinder.

When I tested the camera for the first time I saw some minor light leaks. The problem was solved changing the light seal on the back door.

- bright viewfinder
- reliable shutter
- good exposure meter sensitivity
- light camera

- light entering from eyepiece cause a wrong indication of the exposure
- the back is plastic, so be careful when you use infrared film

It’s a great camera to learn analog photography!

written by sirio174 on 2012-02-17 in #reviews #lomography #reflex #requested #secondhand-love-affair #analog #film #helios-44m-4 #analogue-lifestyle #zenit-122


  1. george97
    george97 ·

    Nice article, I myself have a Zenit EM and I love the shots it produces I bought it from a car boot for £7 a while back and i love it! check out my pictures on my Home if you want :D

  2. mintandcoke
    mintandcoke ·

    Great article! I have a Zenit 122 - what a lovely camera! Colors are gritty and vivid; lenses are sharp, but the bokeh is absolutely wild. I love the camera, got it as a present form my dad. I kept it in a box in my closet for nearly 14 years and - no surprise - it still works wonderfully!

  3. phantomphoenixphotos
    phantomphoenixphotos ·

    Heyo Lomo. I bought a Zenit ET at our local thrift store and instead of it having the Helios lens, it had a Levnoc 44-2 2/58. Is this lens good? I haven't heard/read much about it. :\

  4. jvujnovi
    jvujnovi ·

    I just bought a Zenit 122k and look forward to trying it out. It handles like my other SLR's.

More Interesting Articles

  • Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    written by adi_totp on 2014-09-15 in #reviews
    Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    Exactly seven years ago, I bought this camera from Indonesia's local Lomography community. I remember having some savings in my bank account and just spending it all on this camera. At that time, I browsed the microsite for the Lomography Fisheye No.2 and immediately fell in love with it! Coincidentally, my friend who introduced me to Lomography just bought this same camera for his birthday. My life has changed ever since I had the Fisheye, my first lomographic camera.

  • LomoKino: Life in Moving Pictures!

    written by adi_totp on 2014-08-21 in #reviews
    LomoKino: Life in Moving Pictures!

    I bought the LomoKino years ago, and since then I've been having great times with it. I will continue documenting my daily life with the LomoKino, which is Lomography in motion! You can see the movements and facial expressions of people - it’s priceless! Documenting life in moving pictures, the Lomokino can be used as a camera that not only shoots moving pictures but also works like the multi-frame wonder camera, Supersampler!

  • Reviving An Old Polaroid 1000 Camera

    written by Wessel de Haas on 2015-02-13 in #gear #reviews
    Reviving An Old Polaroid 1000 Camera

    Some time ago, my parents-in-law gave me an old Polaroid camera that they used during my wife's childhood. After some investigation, I found out that Polaroid had stopped making instant film. But the factory in Enschedé, the Netherlands had been taken over by The Impossible Project, so I bought a package of fresh film and gave it a try!

  • Shop News

    Recognizable Images of Petzval

    Recognizable Images of Petzval

    You want your subject be the center of attention? Petzval lens are recognizable for sharpness and crispness in the centre, strong color saturation, wonderful swirly bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field that will make your subjects stand out!

  • Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-04-06 in #gear #reviews
    Falling In Love With The LC-A 120

    There are quite a few perks that come with working for a film photography company, and the best perk of all is testing out the latest cameras. I can remember buying my LC-A back in 2009 and being really inspired to shoot film again. When the LC-A 120 came along, I couldn't wait to try it out around London. Join me as I test out this super medium format beauty.

  • Chemical Manipulations with the Lomo’Instant

    written by tomas_bates on 2015-01-21 in #gear #tipster
    Chemical Manipulations with the Lomo’Instant

    Perhaps you’ve already had chance to try light painting, multiple exposures and long exposures with your Lomo’Instant, but what can you experiment with next? Well, that’s exactly the thought I had which led to giving this Tipster a go. I wanted to shoot Lomo’Instant photos which felt a bit “messier” than what I’m usually used to and to use a technique which would open up new possibilities with the kinds of images I could create with my favorite instant camera. Well, here I go!

  • Awesome Albums: Brooklyn Botanic by Jonjonkam

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-04-21 in #world #lifestyle
    Awesome Albums: Brooklyn Botanic by Jonjonkam

    A New York-based designer brought out the pop art possibilities of the beloved LomoChrome Purple.

  • Shop News

    Summer Inspired Camera at 20% off

    Summer Inspired Camera at 20% off

    The brazilian summer inspired camera is now at 20% off! You can now celebrate life in full color and treasure every culture in a snap! This summer is no exception; make sure you’re prepared to capture all the sporty action with the Fisheye No.2 Brazilian Summer Camera!

  • Join the Lomography Team in New York City!

    written by pan_dre on 2015-04-21 in #world #news
     Join the Lomography Team in New York City!

    Looking for work in New York City? Have a big Lomographic heart and the desire to spread the love or know someone who does? Lomography in New York City is now hiring!

  • Kickstarter Funding for Adaptalux Underway

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-04-21 in #gear #news
    Kickstarter Funding for Adaptalux Underway

    Adaptalux, which is currently seeking funding for production on Kickstarter, is a portable "patent pending adaptable miniature lighting studio" that aims to make macro photography and videography and product photography easy and accessible to all photographers.

  • Being Young in Europe

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-04-20 in #world #lifestyle
    Being Young in Europe

    How do young Europeans of today live and forge their future? Thirteen documentary photographers find out.

  • Shop News

    Color Your World with Colorsplash Camera

    Color Your World with Colorsplash Camera

    At 30% off you can now color your analog images with 12 different color gels. Experiment with 35mm slide film and play with the built-in color flash for the most intense colors!

  • Getting Complete Strangers Together in a Photograph

    written by Kwyn Kenaz Aquino on 2015-04-20 in #world #lifestyle
    Getting Complete Strangers Together in a Photograph

    Can random strangers have chemistry right off the bat? To find out, photographer Richard Renaldi got them to hold hands and share a tender on-camera moment.

  • LomoMission: Going Green Winners

    written by Eunice Abique on 2015-04-20 in #world #news
    LomoMission: Going Green Winners

    The first LomoMission is finally over! Time to reveal who will be awarded with a Lomo'Instant camera for successfully fulfilling the task.

  • Россия в картинках (Russia in Pictures): Red Romance

    written by Julien Matabuena on 2015-04-21 in #world #locations
    Россия в картинках (Russia in Pictures): Red Romance

    In his latest travel series, Herr Willie shares a selection of fine photographs from his Russian adventures and tells the stories behind them.