My Second Encounter with the Russians: Zenit 3M!


So here it is, my second encounter with the Russians! But this time, it’s a single lens reflex (SLR) camera, the Zenit 3M! Read more about this camera after the jump!

I bought this camera from a retired architect who had been using it for, well, architecture, I suppose?

The Zenit 3M is a fully manual slr with no light meter. It has shutter speeds from 1/30 sec – 1/500 sec, and B for long exposures. It has a flash-contact, but no accessory-shoe to mount a flash directly on the camera.

The lens mount is the so-called “M37” screw-mount. It’s a little smaller in diameter than the “M42” which is more normal for a SLR. M37 is the standard mount of many older rangefinders, like Leica and FED, but the lenses are not cross-compatible (only for VERY close-up macro stuff) because of the difference in focal length.

There’s also a lot of dark-room enlargers that uses the M37-mount, and for enlarging the Helios works VERY well!

The camera looks very heavy, and that’s exactly what it is. It feels like as if it was cut from a solid block of iron!

Wearing this camera, you’ll never have to worry about getting robbed or anything. No one would ever have the courage to take on a guy who is heavily armed with a massive weapon like this, that says “Made in the USSR” all over it!

This particular one came with the original Helios 44, f-2/58mm (this lens is a classic! It has the greatest background swirl! It’s amazing for portraits!), a Hanimex f-3.5/135mm tele lens, and last but not least: the sought-after MIR-1 f-2.8/37 “Grand Prix” Brussels 1958, medium wide lens in very good condition! It looks just like new!

I immediately ran a roll of black/white film through it to test it, and it seemed to work as it should! The slow shutter speeds were a little too slow though, but after a quick search on the internet I found out that it was quite easy to fix it yourself, so that’s what I did.

I now own a very well working Russian SLR from the sixties with some great lenses. Of course, you need to know how to use it without a built-in light meter, either by using the “sunny 16 rule” or using a handheld light meter. But if you can work like that, it’s a really great shooter. It feels very good to use.

All images in this article were taken without a light meter (except for the portraits of the actual camera itself below)!

And I think I forgot to mention: It’s really good looking too!

written by michell on 2012-06-05 #gear #russian #review #slr #helios #zenit-3m #hanimex #mir #mir-1 #wmd


  1. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    the Mir 1b 37mm is a great lens!

  2. alex34
    alex34 ·

    Solid little tank ;-)

  3. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    nice review and lovely camera, i recommend the industar 50 :)

  4. jawatembak
    jawatembak ·

    great picture and review!

  5. saliminternationalekhan
    saliminternationalekhan ·

    I have a Zenit S in my collection its almost exactly like a Zorki rangfinder camera in that it loads from the bottom and needs a long film lead cut, but I like the 3 series model as well becuase the 3m opens like a normal SLR from the side. It makes it easier to use short lead film.

  6. alex_novak
    alex_novak ·

    I'm using the same. The only downside is maybe a hard recoil that makes camera shaky and spoils the pictures made on 1/60 shutter speed without a tripod. For example my Canon EOS 66 lets me shoot even at 1/30 while holding it in my hands.

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