Zenit 11 - Weapon of Choice: A Soviet Tank


When everyone around me is in the fuss of getting the best DSLR in the market today, I stumble upon a childhood relic. A relic of Russian decent kept away in a South East Asian attic: A Zenit 11 slr.

Many of my friends always talk about the idea of getting a Nikon or Canon DSLR and make their pictures come out the most beautiful they have ever taken. I have a Canon 450d and tell you the truth, I’m bored with it. Going through the interwebs, I luckily stumbled upon a local ad posted for an old Zenit 11 slr. The seller did not even know what she had so decided to open offers to whoever would be willing to buy the camera. I being an “el Cheapo” myself, decided to throw in an off the hook offer ( a lot lower than what the market tells me ) and prayed hard she would budge. She did an decided to throw in an electronic flash…Now I have my Zenit 11, named “Zoe” and I got my own heavy duty Russian wonder.

The Zenit 11 was produced in the 80s and in a sense grew up together with my generation being born in 1986. It uses 35mm film giving me a lot of options in the “El Cheapo” film department. Its made of metal giving it that Soviet tank feel, a little heavy but sturdy. It came with a Helios 44-m prime lens, with 50mm and f/2-f/16 aperture settings. No zoom, I need to apply one golden rule of Lomo: “Get as close to your subject as possible” and I did (looking all suspicious doing it). With the m42 screw type mount, there are still available lenses for upgrades and for specific purposes. Like old slrs it had a very dim viewfinder (mine has some dirt stuck inside it giving me this magical kaleidoscope feel) but its still workable for night shots. The good thing about it is when you set your framing and dept of field you pretty much get how the picture would look like through the viewfinder. The light meter is selenium but uncoupled to the viewfinder (mine is broken so this doesn’t really matter). Shutter speeds vary from 1/500-1/30 and a “B” setting ( which I have been looking for in a long time in film cameras ) . With all these settings ( all being all giddy with a new toy ) I took it around for a walk and a roll of lucky 200 film.

I took as many possible light conditions as I can to see how it would work and I’m pretty satisfied with the results. Even in low light I just had to open my aperture a little more and I get the bokeh that I like. In bright sunlight (and even against the sun) I still get crisp details. I haven’t tried it with the bulb setting yet ( and oh I will take advantage of that ) but with lower shutter speeds it still delivers the results i need. All in all it gave me a tingle of delight ( that feeling when Christmas is near and you know you’re going to get good gifts ) when my photos came in and the only thing I wanted to do was reload that next roll start shooting with my Soviet tank ( and hopefully not start any wars..;D)

Now Im sticking to this old thing, bringing it with me all the time ready for anything that catches my eye. My message to my friends now about photography “it’s not the spear, it’s the Indian”….

written by manfromuz on 2010-04-16 #gear #review #russian-cameras #zenit-11 #baguio #lucky-super-200

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  1. magdalenagabriela
    magdalenagabriela ·

    great review, nice gallery (#2!!!!); i've got a zenit 12xp (there are hardly any differences) myself and i can't imagine any better lomographer's friend!!:)))

  2. stouf
    stouf ·

    Cool review ! You're a good Indian ! 8D

  3. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Nice gallery, especially #2. These are generally good cameras. They take pictures exactly as good as the photographer. Spend a little money at a repair shop and get her CLA'ed (cleaned, lubricated, adjusted). You'll find your viewfinder brighter, and they might even get the meter to work. Enjoy.

  4. panelomo
    panelomo ·

    wow - nice find! :)

  5. manfromuz
    manfromuz ·

    thanks guys...appreciate the comments...will be doing the CLA when I have time to get to shop @herbert-4... :D

  6. renaishashin
    renaishashin ·

    Nice review :DD Nice camera :DD

  7. paramir
    paramir ·

    nice review! hope you'll many pleasureful miles riding your tank... :)

  8. dogma
    dogma ·

    Grat job man!

  9. simonjamesonweston
    simonjamesonweston ·

    this looks a good camera and a built in light meter (if it works) - plus they seem really very cheap on ebay for a mid 80's version

  10. dyluzo
    dyluzo ·

    Hi i just saw a ZENIT-C for sale on line in perfect condition .Do you know anything about it .It is from the 50 's just wandering if any one knows what kind of pic it shoots.

  11. cruzlui
    cruzlui ·

    korek ka dyan!brod!! its not the spear .... its the indian... dipende yan sa pumapana !! at nag hahanap ng magandang target !! very nice !! ( it depends on the archer who aims for a nicer target !!)

  12. rav_bunneh
    rav_bunneh ·

    A lot of people seem to be shooting with this camera these days. :3

  13. mikkokam
    mikkokam ·

    Excellent review! I like this camera a lot. I've only tested 2 rolls with one, but all the speeds seem to be OK and even the meter works. first results with many various vintage lenses from 17 mm to 135 mm, including wild lenses such as a 85/1.5: www.flickr.com/photos/mikkokam/sets/72157625313098314/

  14. danmeakin
    danmeakin ·

    I just picked one of these up from eBay on a whim, can't wait to start shooting. This review is great, hhopefully I've made an ok choice :)

  15. kshen
    kshen ·

    Hello, I just got my zenit11 from Ebay, and I was so disappointed as the shutter curtain and mirror seems to be stuck at times. do u have any experience in this?

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