Zenit 12: A Scarce Soviet SLR


One of the few rare Zenit cameras out there, just over 90,000 units of the Zenit 12 were made. Basically, a 12 XP without the XP, this Russian tank combined with the Helios 44 is a classic combo that serves up amazing images.

After sorting out my box of negatives, I found some from the time I first started film photography; and back then, I shot with color film, whereas now I’m shooting solely with black and white.

Photo via Wikipedia

The Zenit 12 was my first analogue SLR. Not only did it spark my passion for film photography but it taught me the basics of exposure. I bought the camera off ebay. I didn’t really know to much about it but when I researched it, I found out that it is actually quite rare. Most Zenits were mass produced, and the first mass produced one was the Zenit 3M with 781, 678 units; the Zenit E was produced with over a whopping 3 million, the Zenit B with 889, 000 units, the Zenit ET with ±3, 000, 000 units, the Zenit EM 979, 140 units, the Zenit 11 ±1,500,000 units, the TTL 1, 632, 212 units, the Zenit 12XP, more than a million and then the Zenit 12 with only 94, 489 units.

Though it’s rarer than the others its very similar to the 12XP. In fact, there is no difference. As with most Zenits it has shutter speeds from 1/30th to 1/500th and bulb mode, a self-timer, and that’s about it. The 12, like the 12XP, has TTL metering, meaning that it meters through the lens.

Speaking of the lens, it comes with the fantastic Helios 58mm f./2 which is a lens everyone should own, as it creates sharp photos with great colours and fantastic bokeh. Though I don’t own this particular camera anymore but other Zenits, the Helios lens and Zenit combo is great and very hard to beat.

The camera itself is like all Zenits—very, very solid and feels like a tank.

I only found a few negatives from this camera and here are the results.

The film used was redscaled Boots 200 speed color negative.

Overall, this is a great camera, as are all the Zenits, which is the reason I sold it. I was able to get a lot for it since it’s quite rare. With the money, I just bought the Zenit E which, I hope to review soon. I recommend you definetily get one and the fantastic Helios lens.

Thanks for reading! Keep shooting!

written by brandkow93 on 2012-06-12 in #reviews #bokeh #lomography #russian #soviet-slr #soviet-camera #camera-review #slr #zenit-12 #helios-44-4 #user-review #ussr


  1. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    Please note that the photo of the camera lomography must have added is actually of a Zenit 12sd of which under 469,000 were made.

  2. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    I had no idea how many Russian made cameras there were till I started surfing Lomography. Nice article, thank you for sharing.

  3. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    @neanderthalis yeah there are loadsss i still have some more to review, check out this site www.sovietcams.com/ there are so many different cameras and some where only 2 known examples in the world!! thanks :)

  4. lupideeloop
    lupideeloop ·

    Good rewiew. I got one of those. Well, two. The second one, the pentaprism is dirty with oxide, but as well able to work. It cost just to pay a little more attention to focusing. And I got as well a pair of 122. Nice cameras.

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