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Zorki 1: Nearly a Leica

Heavy, fully manual, Russian: The Zorki 1 is a classic following the good tradition of Russian Leica copies.

I won’t tell you a lot of technical stuff about the Zorki or spend time talking about its history. Rather, I want to tell you something about old cameras since there has been cameras in my family for as long as I think.

The Zorki 1 is an old camera indeed. nothing is easy, automatic or uniform. Everything is old, heavy and fully manual.

I don’t want to report about the technical details here nor want to tell much about the Zorki’s history. I want to talk about these kind of old cameras as the Zorki is one. There´s nothing easy going with the Zorki 1, everything is old, heavy an manual.

I always questioned myself where my affinity to old cameras came from since I have a preference to the aesthetics of old materials and vintage black and white photography.

My granddad had a pre-war Leica, my mother made her first photographs with a Box camera. And these stories my granddad told me about his first camera planted the wish inside me to own a Leica. I wanted to own the camera that started photography within my family, but a real Leica is far outside my financial reach. A Zorki 1 was within it and is as close to a Leica as it can get.

Taking photos with this kind of vintage camera is laborious and tedious by any means in comparison to modern days automatic and semi-automatic cameras.

Starting with the film to be cut in shape before inserting it into the camera and ending withe the rangefinder being in a different window than the viewfinder. Everything needs a lot of time, slows down the process and makes you think about what you are doing.

And that’s what is charming about the Zorki 1. Thinking about light and shutter speed, about aperture an cropping, feeling the heaviness in my hands and hearing the fully mechanic sounds. I’m involved in every step of the process of taking a photo.

That’s exactly the opposite of the “Don´t think, just shoot!” rule. But that´s what other cameras are for. And that´s why the Zorki 1 is a camera for special occasions. While I carry my LC-A with me all the time, the Zorki is a special camera making me calm down in hectic everyday life, nearly meditation contrary everything that rushes by.

The Zorki is a piece of photographic history to history itself and my personal photographic history too.
If you want to experience how it must have felt to take photos with one of the first 35mm cameras and if you want brilliantly sharp pictures, you should really consider getting a Zorki 1.

written by zark and translated by zark


  1. explorette


    i do love the zorki range but i wont get one as i think i might break my wrists!! haha

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  2. herbert-4


    Wonderful review and glorious, crispy sharp ohotos!! I have a Fedka from 1950. These are all about sharp photos, but you can also be fast. You just have to be ready, on moment to moment preset, like a combat photographer using a Fedka in WWII.

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  3. plyshbel


    An excellent review! And really great photos just confirm the correctness of all words!

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  4. bulletofmine


    nice review. I do own a russian rangefinder. The lens is very sharp even it was old enough, older than my age :)

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  5. plasticpopsicle


    Crisp and beautiful photos! Great review!

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  6. burney


    awesome pictures!love them all!

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  7. droogieboy


    Beautifully sharp and saturated photos. Well done!

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  8. brommi


    great photos!

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  9. lomo__lurv


    I have a Zorki 4 and I fell in love with it! only problem is exposure! haha

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  10. myahcat


    I bid on a Zorki on e-bay; didn't win, but was kind of smitten, so may try again for one later in the year.

    over 3 years ago · report as spam

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The original version of this article is written in: Deutsch.