Zenit 12, Another Workhorse from KMZ


The magnificent Zenit 12 is a sturdy and reliable 35mm SLR camera with TTL metering system, interchangeable lens (M42 mount), and a reputation of being almost indestructible.

The Zenith 12 is considered the last truly durable Zenit from the KMZ factory in Moscow. The magnificent Zenit 12 is a sturdy and reliable 35mm SLR camera with TTL metering system, interchangeable lens (M42 mount), and a reputation of being almost indestructible. This was my first camera ever, along side with my old Zenit E. In that time I was starting photography and my dad’s Zenit E was suffering from severe light leaks. Luckily enough, after many weeks of research, I manage to bought one from a friend that used it only a couple of times. When I had it in my hands, it felt like a long time promise about to come true. The camera felt sturdy and reliable, and it had an attractive design that really impressed me. The camera had some fungus (just a little bit) on its HELIOS-44M 58mm/f2 lens, but that’s it! Another friend of mine that used to work in a camera servicing shop took care of it. He also cleaned, lube and adjusted the camera, leaving it in perfect working condition.

The Zenit 12 is a fully mechanical camera, you have to set the film speed on the left side knob in the top of the camera, and then choose the correct exposure by selecting the appropriate shutter speed / aperture with the help of the TTL metering system. When I first took it for a spin I quickly realize that using it was gonna be more difficult, but more rewarding than the digital point and shoot I normally used. Focusing with it is easy because it uses auto aperture activation, allowing you to focus with the fullest diaphragm aperture, and changing the apertures without the viewfinder getting dark. When you are ready to shoot, you press the shutter half way, and the TTL metering system activates, allowing you to choose the correct exposure using the metering needle in the right side of the viewfinder while looking through the viewfinder. I found this needle exposure indicator more convenient and easier to read that the quirky two led system used on later Zenit 12s (CD or XP models).

This is a wonderful camera for learning the basics of photography, and a reliable one for your toughest shootouts. I have used my Zenit 12 primarily for street photography, portraits, city landscape and architecture photography, and it has performed like a champ. You can literally beat someone to death with a Zenit 12, and later photograph the body with it (not that I had try).

The quality of the photos taken with the HELIOS-44M multicoated lens is remarkably outstanding, with sharp detail on the focal plane, and lovely blurring on the out of focus areas. On color film you get beautiful vibrant colors, and with b&w film a lovely contrast. On low light situation it gives a distinctive vintage look in some photos, especially when used with Fujifilm Superia film.

written by seiglie on 2010-10-28 #gear #film #russian #35mm #review #analogue #slr #soviet #zenit #vintage #krasnogorsk #kmz #zenit-12 #fsu


  1. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    true, this camera is a real "weapon"! great lenses these Helios.

  2. panelomo
    panelomo ·

    i've got the 12XPS as well. these helios are a steal! :)

  3. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Good camera and wonderful gallery. The Soviets exported those metal Zenits over the whole world. Watch for them in charity shops, swapmeets, garage sales, etc.

  4. spacechampion
    spacechampion ·

    Love this camera, I own the Zenit 12 made in the USSR. Awesome pictures, body made of tank metal

  5. phantomphoenixphotos
    phantomphoenixphotos ·

    I bought a Zenit ET at our local thrift store and instead of it having the Helios lens, it had a Levnoc 44-2 2/58. Is this lens good? I haven't heard/read much about it. :\

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