Zenit EM: A Russian Tank


The Zenit EM is like all the other Zenits: heavy, built like a tank, but capable of some lovely photographs thanks to the lenses it comes with. Everyone should try one out as they are cheap, cheerful, and full of history. Find out my opinion and more in this review.

In some of my previous reviews, I have reviewed other Zenit cameras: the Zenit E and the Zenit 12. Why am I reviewing a third one then? Well, because the Zenit EM lies in between the E and the 12, although it is similar in features to them both, it is almost a hybrid of the two. The only major change from the Zenit E is a different focusing screen which I don't like as much and aperture automation. It still keeps the external light meter, but for some reason compared to my Zenit E, it is more accurate and reliable.

There were some 979,140 Zenit EM cameras made, so it's not a particularly rare camera and because they are so well-built, there are still many around today. In my opinion, this is the toughest Zenit as it feels stronger than both the E and the 12 (although its mechanics are still fragile), so always remember to cock the shutter before changing the shutter speed.

The Zenit EM came with either the Helios 44M (58 mm f/2) or the Industar 50 (50 mm f/3.5). The Industar is the sharper of the lenses but the Helios has lovely bokeh and being f/2, it's quite a fast lens, meaning it is more usable in different lighting situations. My EM did come with a Helios 44M but it broke so it has stolen the 44-2 off my Zenit E.

So, I bought my Zenit off eBay with the original case in pristine condition for around £11, which is the going rate for Zenits, to be honest. It arrived swiftly and I was itching to use it. I loaded it with some Lucky SHD 100 and did something I don't usually do: shot around my house and in my garden. The lovely tones and bokeh of the Helios lens make it great for flower shots, and it captures lovely details.

Here are some of the shots:

As you can see, the camera combined with the Helios lens produces some lovely tones and great details, and I feel this camera is better matched for black and white photography, though I also think that the Helios is capable of producing some amazing colors.

Overall, I can highly recommend this camera as I do with any Zenit. It's probably the best way to go if you are looking to get an SLR. They are cheap and come with lovely lenses, and can use a wide variety of optics. At one time the M42 mount was known as the “universal mount.” My only problem is that as with most 35mm SLRs, that they weigh the same or more than a medium format camera (for example, the Lubitel 2). But then again the Zenit is more flexible and can take more images.

Thanks for reading and keep shooting!

This is a review submitted by Community Member brandkow93.

written by brandkow93 on 2012-06-26 #gear #monochrome #review #zenit #bokeh #em #b-w #lomography #lucky-shd-100 #user-review #helios-44-2


  1. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    great camera, but I prefer the plain glass of the Zenit E or the Zenit 122 (light, ttl metering)

  2. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    Looks like a fun camera, thank you for the review.

  3. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    @sirio174 Me too, focusing with my E is so much easier.
    @neanderthalis haha it can be when it wants to be, thank you for your comment :)

  4. alex34
    alex34 ·

    You're clearly a Zenit addict now, congrats!

  5. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    @alex34 hahah thanks, ever model has its own little charm.

  6. triunfo_de_las_cosas_inanimadas
    triunfo_de_las_cosas_inanimadas ·

    beautiful pics!!! ^^

  7. brandkow93
    brandkow93 ·

    @triunfo_de_las_cosas_inanimadas thanks alot :)

  8. steffibrennan
    steffibrennan ·

    Thank you for this great review - I found it very helpful as a Zenit EM with its Helios lens became available in my local auction. Hope it works! Can't go wrong for 14 euro

  9. jhhooper
    jhhooper ·

    What's the film you used for those pics?

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