Back in 1956 LOMO PLC produced their most professional and expensive camera ever. Powered by a spring-motor drive and a Leica screwmount system, the sole purpose of this camera was to find its place among the worlds top rangefinder cameras of its time.
Back in 1956 the GOMZ-works, today renowned as LOMO PLC, produced their very first gold-medal winning photo camera: the “Leningrad”. Whereas the St Petersburg-based factory actually focused on producing rather simple and cheap cameras for the mass-market, they produced the “Leningrad” in order to compete with world-known German models (such as the Leica) and show that the Soviet Union could produce cameras just as good – or even better.
That ain’t a surprise: being produced straight after the second World War, the “Leningrad” was actually developed by German war prisoners in St Petersburg. After the development phase the first models of this quite sturdy metal camera rolled off the GOMZ-belts in 1956. It was the most professional and expensive photo camera ever produced by the works. In 1958 the camera won the “Grand Prix de Bruxelles” at the World Exhibition in Brussels.
Besides its premium optics, a typical gift of all-things LOMO, it bore a robust silver-top case and had all attributes that made it a professional range-finder camera: a coupled range-finder, focal-plane, interchangeable lenses, complete speed and aperture settings, hotshoe connection and a self-timer. Other than more accurate Leica screw-mount clones, such as the Russian FED and the Zorki, the “Leningrad” is all-Soviet technology. Its revolutionary spring-motor drive, which meant that you could take twelve pictures in a row without rewinding (ideal for sport and action-photography) attracted many a photographer but unfortunately was not prepared for the upcoming future. It did not let any automatic space between each frame, which made the film almost impossible to be developed with the new automatic development machines. However, the mechanism was kept and further developed by LOMO PLC and found its final destination in the LOMO135 cameras from the 1970s. These much smaller and simpler cameras also feature the spring-motor drive, but in a better developed version that leaves spaces between the frames and therefore makes it suitable for automatic film development.
Nevertheless the camera brought pomp and glory to the St Petersburg works and specifically modified versions ("Leningrad Space Program ") were even used in outer space. Obviously, astronauts could not be bothered to wind on film on the moon, so the automatic spring-drive was just what they needed.