The Russian Tank: Zenit 12XP


The Zenit 12xp is a Russian-made camera of the 80’s and early 90’s. Dubbed the Russian tank is capable of dealing with all situations and all your challenges armed with 58mm f2 Helios.

Credits: mvelez

The Zenit 12xp is a reflex also known as Russian Tank is a Soviet camera released before the Model 122 were produced between 1983 and 1994, so it’s quite easy to find secondhand. I’ve inherited from my father and I remember perfectly the first pictures with them.

Here are the technical specifications:

Brand: Zenit
Model: 12xp
Format: 35mm
Manufacturing: U.R.S.S
ISO: 16 to 500
Speed: 1 / 30, 1 / 60, 1 / 125, 1 / 250, 1 / 500 and Bulb mode
Objective Series: Helios 58mm f2
Weight: 0.95 Kg!

There was a previous model, the 12SD, the XP version has a meter that works with two LEDs: one indicating exposure and the other underexposure. When the two are lit, it indicated that the aperture and speed have been properly set.

As an older model, the mount is M42, so it’s very easy to find lenses for this mount, and best of all, are usually very cheap (you can find between € 15-30). Typically, it’s normal to find the serial Helios 58mm f2. Accordingly, if you find a model past 1983 or close to 1994, you can find the same lens, but better. For example it’s easy to see with the letters MC or M (multi-coated) that is better than those who do not have and as Helios 44-1, 44-2, 44-3, 44-4, 44-5, 44-6, 44-7, and up. In my case, I have a Helios 44M-4 1988.
(Note: the first digit of the serial number of the objectives will indicate the year of manufacture, and if you’re lucky enough to find one with a double 0, are said to be special versions for party members only).

The lens gives you very good quality, and a few bokeh that you will fall in love with, the Helios is based on the legendary Biotar Zeiss 58 / 2 (considered the most expensive of the series). And what makes them all unique is their bokeh.

It’s called a Russian tank because when you have one in your hands, you’ll definitely think that it could be heavier than a bus, if not equal to one. The fact that it weighs almost one kilo also contributed to the name.

Credits: mvelez

If you obtain one, you can see that you can go with her everywhere, and use all kinds of films: color negative films, slide films, black and white. You can take stunning photos with blurred backgrounds or landscapes where absolutely everything is in focus. You can put a flash and play with it at night, you can set the self timer…the possibilities are endless!

Credits: mvelez

written by mvelez on 2012-02-22 #people #gear #russian #review #zenit #reflex #lomography #helios #user-review #12xp #44m #u-r-s-s
translated by mvelez


  1. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Nice article, there is a similar, very stout, camera, mostly made in Japan, called Beseler Topcon Super D. I wrote a review of it… It got edited peculiarly, so read the comment, also. Enjoy.

  2. renenob
    renenob ·

    I have this one! so heavy!

  3. zoltan_enevold
    zoltan_enevold ·

    Just got one this weekend for 15€. The owner said it doesn´t work. I´ve put new battery but the needle stays up most of the time. Any way I think I can get good pictures just looking through the lens and changing the settings till the image is not dark anymore. Is that right?

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