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LC-A Big Book Chapter 49: The Leningrad: Award Winning Rangefinder Camera

The “Leningrad” (that was actually developed by German war prisoners in St Petersburg) first rolled off the GOMZ belts in 1956 and was the most professional and expensive camera ever produced by the works. Besides its premium optics, a typical feature of all-things GOMZ, it bore a robust silver-top case and had all the attributes that made it a professional range-finder camera: a coupled range-finder, focal-plane and interchangeable lenses.

It wasn’t until 1958 that the Leningrad opticians acquired worldwide recognition by winning a gold-medal for their “Leningrad” camera at the World Exhibition in Brussels. The “Leningrad” (that was actually developed by German war prisoners in St Petersburg) first rolled off the GOMZ belts in 1956 and was the most professional and expensive camera ever produced by the works. Besides its premium optics, a typical feature of all-things GOMZ, it bore a robust silver-top case and had all the attributes that made it a professional range-finder camera: a coupled range-finder, focal-plane and interchangeable lenses. Other than the more accurate Leica screw-mount clones, such as the Russian FED and the Zorki, the “Leningrad” was completely developed in the Soviet Union.

lts revolutionary spring-motor drive, which meant that you could take twelve and more 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 allow any automatic space between each frame, which made the film almost impossible to develop with the new automatic development machines. 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. The camera could also compete well against other professional cameras of the era provided by firms such as Arsenal from Kiev and Zenit from Moscow.

Whereas these companies concentrated either on large format cameras (Arsenal) or exclusively on professional cameras (Zenit), GOMZ was putting its focus on mass production cameras, as models like the Smena and Lubitel illustrated.

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written by ungrumpy

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish & Deutsch.