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 #zenit-122 #helios-44m-4 #requested #lomography #secondhand-love-affair #analog #film #reflex #analogue-lifestyle


  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.

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