10 Most Celebrated Vintage Soviet Cameras


For those who don't know, Soviet cameras were produced by the USSR around the 1940's and were patterned after German models. Very little is known about the specific details in the history of Soviet photography, but most of the Soviet cameras were built for simple use and easy repair. Nonetheless, Soviet cameras remain a favorite among analogue lovers for their reliability and unique results.

© Valentin Antonucci via Pexels


The Zenit 35mm SLR camera is one of the most popular Soviet camera brands, created by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Factory (KMZ). The Zenit was based on the Zorki camera, a rangefinder transformed to an SLR. The Zenit-E camera is the brand's most famous model. Vintage Zenit cameras are usually heavy and sturdier than the Leica.

A Zenit-E camera by Alvintrusty from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about the Zenit.


The Horizon is a swing-lens panoramic camera produced by the KMZ. Vintage models of the Horizon (then named Horizont) are made out of metal, but current ones are made out of plastic. The current models are sold as Horizon Perfekt and Horizon Kompakt. The Kompakt is smaller than the Perfekt, and it allows double exposures.

Horizon camera by BillC from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about the Horizon.


Zorki is another KMZ-produced rangefinder camera patterned after the Leica II. It is cheaper than the German counterpart. It has many variations, the Zorki 4K model being the most popular. These cameras are no longer in production and are only available in secondhand shops.

Zorki 4K camera by Elmo Alves from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about the first model of Zorki.


The Moskva is a folding medium-format camera made by the KMZ as well. It's very portable and can be used to shoot 6x9 cm negatives. It uses an earlier technology of bellows. The disadvantage of this camera is that it's really fragile and easily worn out in heat, humidity, and prolonged usage.

Moskva-5 by Andshel from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about Moskva.


The Kiev is a camera produced by the Arsenal Factory in Kiev, Ukraine, hence its name. It has two medium-format camera models, the Kiev 88 and the Kiev 60. The Kiev 88 is patterned after the Hasselblad 1600 F, while the Kiev 60 is a patterned loosely on the Pentacon Six. Kiev attracted a lot of amateurs and enthusiasts because of its cheap price.

Kiev 88 by Jaubouin from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about one of its models, the Kiev 88.


The FED is a rangefinder camera also patterned after the German Leica II. It was named after the factory Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky. It is known as the Soviet Union's first 35mm SLR camera.

FED-2 by Serge Serebro from Wikimedia Commons

Read about one of the models, the FED-5.


The Smena camera is made by the LOMO factory. The material is bakelite or plastic, and the configuration of the camera is totally manual.

Smena-8 by Dr. K from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about the model Smena-8m.


The Chaika is a 35mm metal-encased half-frame camera made by BELOMO factory. It was named after the call sign of the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova.

Chaika-2 by Jarek Tuszynski from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about the model Chaika-2.


The Sport is one of the earliest known 35mm SLR cameras. It was manufactured by the Soviet factory GOMZ and patterned after a prototype camera named Gelveta. Similar contemporaries are the Asahiflex and Contaflex.

Sport by Jan von Erpecom from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about the Sport.


The Lomo camera is one of the Soviet camera brands that still is in production. Its most famous camera, the LC-A (then produced by LOMO), is remodelled as the LC-A+ by the Lomographic Society. Another popular camera made by the same factory is the Lubitel, a twin-lens reflex camera.

Lomo LC-A by Zebrio from Wikimedia Commons

Read more about the LC-A+ or visit the Lomography Shop for other Lomo cameras.

What's your favorite Soviet camera? Do you prefer the older or newer models? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

2016-04-01 #gear #lifestyle #analogue-photography #analogue-cameras #soviet-cameras #film-photography #film-cameras

Mentioned Product

Lomo LC-A+

Lomo LC-A+

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  1. poglad
    poglad ·

    LC-A. <3

  2. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    Fed 2 is very reliable! LC-A is a legendary camera! Zorki 4 has a wonderful bright viewfinder. Zenit E is almost indestructible! Smena 8M is fun... don't forget the "perfect" Horizon Perfekt!!!!

  3. brine
    brine ·

    I have a few Kiev 60s, a Salyut-S, a Zenit 12ca and a Lubitel 166U that I love ... have been using Russian cameras and lenses for ages ... great bang for the buck!!!

  4. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    Oh no smena? Still a cool list.

  5. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    A very fine stable. I love my LCA

  6. mdtrudell
    mdtrudell ·

    My Kiev 6c is my all time favorite. No matter where or what I am going to shoot, I always take it along and fire off a roll or two.

  7. subculturalhippie
    subculturalhippie ·

    I'm currently using a Zenit EM.
    Bounced it a couple of times on the floor by accident, but that Russian Tank keeps on going, love it! :)

  8. cyberpunkrocker
    cyberpunkrocker ·

    Kiev RANGEFINDERS, which were unfortunately completely omitted from the list above. I currently own 3 of them, '61 Kiev 4A with a 35mm Jupiter-12 lens being my favourite combination!

  9. poglad
    poglad ·

    @clownshoes Smena is there! :-)

  10. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    @poglad :D

  11. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    My favorite Soviet camera is Kiev 2a. I have one with a Jupiter 3 lens. Serial # dates it to 1956 and it works great. The lens has bokeh like butter!

  12. cmart
    cmart ·

    great, I have a two Fed 5b's, a regular one, and the 1980 Olympics model.

  13. cmart
    cmart ·

    I have two Fed 5b's, a regular one and the 1980 Olympics model.

  14. cmart
    cmart ·


  15. cmart
    cmart ·

    that was weird, I commented and then it disappeared so I retyped it. oh well.

  16. alienmeatsack
    alienmeatsack ·

    I'd put the Smena 8m over several of these cameras hands down. Super easy to use, takes great photos.

  17. alexkon
    alexkon ·

    I would like to add Vilia-Auto and LOMO-135.

  18. nymphadora
    nymphadora ·

    I have an original Lubitel 2, made in the USSR, with glass and Bakelite. And a Smena 8, which is cheap plastic but has glass lenses. Very underrated camera. And a Kiev 88...built like a tank, LOUD as a tank, and as heavy as a tank. Makes great photos.

  19. kurtwist12
    kurtwist12 ·

    How can the FED be a rangefinder and SLR at the same time? Moskovas are not particularly fragile - they just need to be treated with some care. In exchange you get a nice large negative from a compact (when folded) package. And finally, there is no way Zenit and Leica can be compared (except in the most general terms). Some Zenits use STRING in the mirror mechanism!
    However,in spite of my carping. I did enjoy the article. Thanks

  20. ussrphoto
    ussrphoto ·

    It's a nice list, but it's a jumble of both historical cameras and user cameras.. I think it's imperative to separate these as it comes to Soviet cameras. Here's my two separate lists and what I think are the top 10 cameras in each category:

    Historically Significant Soivet cameras:
    1. Fotokor - 1927 - First mass-produced Soviet camera
    2. FED-1 - 1934 - A first Soviet Leica clone produced by homeless children in a commune
    3. Sport - 1936 - (a contender for) the first 35mm SLR in the world
    4. Kiev II - 1947 - A first Contax II copy made in Kiev Arsenal from German reparations
    5. Zenit-1 - 1952 - an SLR directly converted from a Leica clone, a first of it's kind
    6. Smena - 1953 - A simple and affordable camera of unique Soviet design made for the masses
    7. Lubitel 2 - 1955 - A very simple and affordable 6x6 plastic camera for the masses - 2,200,000 units produced
    8. Zenit-E - 1965 - the most mass-produced SLR in the world of simple design - More than 3,000,000 made
    9. Gorizont (Horizon) - 1967 - a redesigned FT-2 (not Widelux!) swing lens 35mm camera for panoramas.
    10. Kiev 6C - 1971 - First real competition in MF on the market from USSR

    User favorites:
    1. Zorki-4 - huge selections of speeds and sharp J-8 lens make this camera ultimate first step stone in USSR cameras
    2. FED-2 - A compact robust body with removable back and retro image producing I-26 lens
    3. Zenit-E - built like a tank, no battery needed, all mechanical and built-in light meter.
    4. Smena-8M - shockingly sharp lens for a simple plastic cameras, cheap and compact
    5. LOMO LC-A - Incredibly compact, very unique lens with vignetting that a lot of the art crowd adores
    6. Horizon Kompact - super-simple swing lens camera that is light and easy to use with sharp lens
    7. Kiev 4a - a compact and modernized-enough Contax copy with great lens and very soft shutter.
    8. Kiev-88CM - a superb Hassy clone for people on the budget. Can take Pentacon 6 lenses.
    9. Moskva-5 - an Ikonta derivation with great lens and mechanics for more serious shooters
    10. Lubitel-166 Universal - just all around great art TLR for capturing those "retro" looking images. Soft lens lens with vignetting.

    Vladislav Kern

  21. albaker
    albaker ·

    My favorite which always raises eyebrows when I take it out is my Photosniper, Since the camera, a Zenit-ES with a Tair-3 300mm mounts on a gun stock pistol grip. It's great to "shoot" pictures with and very steady. The premise being it's easier to hold a gun steady to take aim before shooting. It works the same way with this camera. I don't bother metering with it. I just use the Sunny-16 rule and fire away. She hasn't failed me yet.

    My second would be my Original made in USSR LC-A which I recently acquired from eBay for $40 plus shipping. The camera is in mint condition straight from the Russian Federation. For its size it has a solid weight and feel to it. Super easy to use also. I have put two rolls thru it waiting to be souped. I'm sure the pictures will have that classic look to them.

  22. mmxi
    mmxi ·

    FED-2 is not an SLR it's a rangefinder. I use one, but prefer Zorki 1, because it's smaller. The smallest favorite is of course the LC-A. Smena 8M is almost the same size, I used it because it can do double exposures and is very light, no batteries. I like playing around with my Kiev-88. My First camera was Zenit TTL Olympic edition, but I replaced it with a Canon A-1.

  23. lightandwonder
    lightandwonder ·

    I have a fantastic Kiev 88cm reworked by Arax. 6x6, medium format, HEAVY; a dependable joy to use. The improvements made to the original design made a huge difference in this camera's reliability.

  24. argentic-translation
    argentic-translation ·

    Lomo Lubitel =)

  25. ibkc
    ibkc ·

    My Lomo Lubitel 166 Universal has seen decently heavy usage since I got it in 1997 and it has held up very well. While the image quality is no Rolleiflex, it has a unique charm of its own.

  26. cubrilovic
    cubrilovic ·

    There was one called Almaz Lomo in the beginning 80ies. A copy of nikon f2 with pentax k mount. Beautiful and classic, she should had been a winner but never was. Design in the 70ies wasnt a strong part of russia except kiev 4, but this wascexceptional elegant. Would love to see revival, would buy it.

  27. jimsturges
    jimsturges ·

    I bought a Semena SL from Czech Republic. Worked perfectly out of the box even though it is OLD and SL means you need to use “rapid” cassettes. Other similar cameras from similar time have needed repairs (Zeiss Ikonta, Argus C4). I definitely plan to buy more Russian-made cameras.

  28. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    I have Kiev IIa, and a Zorki 2. Each of these were particularly good Soviet cameras, but they didn't stay in production long. It seemed there was too much labor in producing these, and they got simplified...

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