Zenit E, The Training Vessel of Photography

2012-05-22 2

This camera weighs as much as a steam iron, it is completely manual (you must manually close the diaphragm before taking a photo). An SLR without frills, and a wonderful “training vessel” for the beginners!

A day at the Como’s Lake

Some years ago, this camera has joined my set of Russian cameras (SLR and rangefinder). I bought it in a market (charity shop) for few Euros and it was fully functional, including the selenium cell exposure meter. What I like about this photocamera? First, the total absence of any indication in the viewfinder. Plain glass, without fresnel lenses, without split image focusing aid, no exposure meter indications in the viewfinder, so you can concentrate on the composition ONLY without thinking about anything else. The indication of the light intensity is given by a needle of a galvanometer located in the upper part of the camera, on the left side of the machine. My light meter works well, and it is quite accurate (although it is not a TTL metering system).

Cattle fair in Como

The other interesting detail is that before you take a photo you must manually close the aperture, acting on a ring placed on the lens. Although this makes the camera not particularly suited for street photography (you can miss the decisive moment), I find it extremely interesting for the beginners, because it allows you to see in the viewfinder the depth of field in function of the lens aperture. If the lack of split image and microprism makes it more difficult to focus in low light, on the other side the plain glass allows to see it in a better way than with any other camera the depth of field.

The last sun of the year, Autumn 2010, Lake of Como

If you love photos of landscapes, nature, plants or flowers, this SLR can be a pleasant surprise for you! The frame counter must be reset by hand after having cocked the shutter for the first time, by rotating the numbered wheel placed around the shutter button. And when you have finished your film, remember to hold down a little button near the shutter speed dial to rewind the film!

Pedestrian path near Villa Olmo in Como

Finally, two words on the lenses. The standard lens is the mythical Helios (version 44-2), 58mm focal length, maximum aperture of F2. You can use the 44M version, that allows the manual closing of the diaphragm, as well as the automatic one. Newer versions, such as to 44M-4, up to 44M-7 don’t work with this camera, because they are designed only for the auto closure mode. The Helios 44-2 has unique tones, and if you overexpose a little you can obtain beautiful pastel and soft tones, a good sharpness and a very good bokeh! The Helios 44M is slightly more contrasted, and with a yellow filter is a good choice if you shoot in black and white. The small Industar 50-2 (maximum aperture of F3, 5) is a very sharp and very contrasted lens (it has the Tessar scheme, 4 lenses in 3 groups), and it is very small, maybe the smallest 50mm lens available for an SLR camera. As you can see from the photos, all taken with the Helios 44-2, with a filter 1b I have obtained nice warm tones with a slight pink dominant. The last picture shows both the typical circular bokeh of this lens together with its sharpness.

Pins, patience and creativity!

Other suggested lenses are: the nice Mir 1b (often called Mir 1v), a 37mm F2,8 which was designed in the 50s for the Russian space missions and which received the Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition of Brussels beating many Germans and Japanese brands lenses. And maybe even a Jupiter 9 (85/2) very good for portraits and with an amazing sharpness!

Here other samples:

Jumping “barefoot in the… sky!”, the fountain of Viale Geno, Como, with a wonderful rainbow effect!, Rowing (and public) in Como, a details in the park of Villa Olmo, Como

One flaw: the lack of attacks for a shoulder strap or a bracelet! Advantages: many, with this camera you can really learn Photography with a capital P!

written by sirio174 on 2012-05-22 #gear #review #zenit-e #training #zenit #photography #learning #learn #beginners
translated by sirio174


  1. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    A fantastic review...

  2. -walsh-
    -walsh- ·

    Fantastic review and great photos as well!

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