Kiev 88 — The Beast from the East


Built like a tank (and weighing almost as much), the Kiev 88 takes amazing pictures! Compared to other medium format cameras of its class, it's inexpensive and yields crisp, clear pictures, much like the camera it was modeled after — the Hasselblad.

One of the things I always wanted as a photographer, even before the conversion to toy and vintage cams, was a really good medium format camera. Images of Ansel Adams-like crisp black and white pictures filled my imagination.

Kiev 88 © Lewis Collard via Wikimedia Commons

A logical first step towards medium format for me was to check out some old Russian cameras. I'd learned a bit about them through my forays into Lomography, plus I have the good fortune of knowing a gentleman who is an expert on Russian vintage cameras and has an impressive arsenal himself. I set my sights on the Kiev 88 and prayed to the eBay gods that I could find one that was affordable.

They didn't disappoint! I found an amazing kit, complete with two film backs, a waist-level viewfinder, TTL prism, and two filters for a very affordable 199 USD. The reason I dub it “the Beast from the East” is because it is hefty! The lens is a finely crafted MC Arsat 80 mm f/2.8 lens (the MC standing for Multi-layer antireflective Coating). This coating enhances the contrast making for a higher-quality image. I love this lens and have found it to be pretty flexible thus far. The relative aperture is 1:2.8 with a diaphragm setting limit of 22. The best part of the lens is the minimum focal limit of 0.6 meters (a little less than a foot) which allows you to get pretty darn close to your subject before needing any kind of macro attachment or diopter.

Looking through the waist-level viewfinder you'll find a couple of horizontal and vertical lines that assist greatly in composition and getting those horizons straight. In just the two rolls that I've passed through this camera, I've been able to use the guides to my advantage to composing better and more interesting pictures that are straight — something that is tricky to do with toy cameras.

As for the body itself, my 88 has a metal shutter curtain that the manual stresses you must not touch when the film backs are removed. It is absolutely imperative that you cock the shutter before doing almost anything with this camera. Much like my beloved Fed 2, not cocking the shutter will result in some ugly damage to your camera.

Aside from its sheer weight, the other drawback to the Kiev is its film backs. I love the fact that I got two of them and you will need at least that many in the beginning. Unlike loading a toy camera, it is quite complicated to load film in the Kiev. I don't normally read the directions to anything but I really studied and used them when loading my film the first few times. I won't go into the details but it would suffice to say that if you need to shoot more than two rolls of film at the same time, you're going to need an assistant. You must make sure you load your film the right way, that is, the frame numbers on the paper backing of the film and the exposure number on the film back need to match, otherwise your shots will be misaligned or overlapped. This happened to me with my black and white roll. Another thing about the film backing is to make sure to remove the light protecting metal sheet before taking pictures. I forgot to do that the very first time I tried to use the camera and missed seven frames worth of a really cool, decrepit gas station. It's akin to leaving your lens cap on.

Despite their reputation for being shoddily made, Kievs are really fantastic cameras. The bodies tend to break easily and can sometimes be non-functioning right out of the box. The same friend who collects old Russian cameras even suggested buying two Kiev bodies, since they're so inexpensive so that I always have a back-up or extra parts. So far (knock on wood) I haven't had any problems with my 88. I really hope it keeps trucking along like a champ because despite being a heavyweight and a pain-in-the-ass film loading characteristics, it's an amazing camera that I look forward to using for a long time.

This is a review submitted by Community Member ipdegirl

written by ipdegirl on 2009-02-17 #gear #review #camera #medium #format #lomography #hassleblad #copy #kiev-88


  1. babo
    babo ·

    What an impressive beast you got there! Those are amazing pictures. Now I want one of those!!!

  2. lomosexual_manboy
    lomosexual_manboy ·

    I've been looking into getting one of these for quite some time, but have held off for the same reasons you stated and the fact that repairs are quite costly. Now seeing these pictures I am wanting to get back on the lookout though. Really nice.

  3. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Oh that's a beautiful camera and I want one for some time now...The shots are stunning and your review is very interesting to read :)

  4. oldskool_rider
    oldskool_rider ·

    this is a great review, and a great gallery of shots, i love shot 1!

  5. eyecon
    eyecon ·

    I also heard a lot of stories about Kiev´s are really easy to break - that´s the reason why I never tried to get one...but looking at your pics, especially No. 10 - I should maybe change my mind....

  6. anarchy
    anarchy ·

    Very nice =) It's not for nothing we call 'em Hasselbladski ;-) I've been drooling about getting one of these for a long time, but I'm trying to keep a strict policy about buying new cams, but I really want one, I need one, hahaha ;-)

  7. stouf
    stouf ·

    Gorgeous pics and excellent review !

  8. graefin
    graefin ·

    I had a look at Kiev 88s and 60s ebay for a while now. By now the 60 is not that expensive if I find one without a fixed price. The 88 is rather expensive. I can't spend more than 100€ so I will have to wait a bit longer. But one day I will either have a 60 or a 88 (I like the 88 more, cause my best friend has a Mamiya that looks and feels almost the same as the 88 an I like this camera a lot!)

  9. ipdegirl
    ipdegirl ·

    Thanks for all the positive comments!!

  10. weechonghooi
    weechonghooi ·

    it's such a wild beast~!!
    I want that machine~!!!

  11. mattcharnock
    mattcharnock ·

    gorgeous images - anddetail in the pics - i might have to invest in one!

  12. -kosmonavt-
    -kosmonavt- ·

    great review! AWESOME shots :]

  13. alex_perez
    alex_perez ·

    i just got an slr from lomo and i think my next step will be medium format. this camera looks great!

  14. alex_perez
    alex_perez ·

    ps~ i love the shots!!

  15. 7samurai
    7samurai ·

    Nice camera

  16. kamdiptych
    kamdiptych ·

    what kind of films does it use? i LOVE number 1

  17. patriciapetunia
    patriciapetunia ·

    i got myself a kiev 88 and i got 2 film backs...and one does not fit the body, this made me angry.

  18. af-capture
    af-capture ·

    i want one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. ihave2pillows
    ihave2pillows ·

    I found one in St Petersburg and was surprised how HEAVY it was! The metal plate threw me off a little bit, because I knew, in the heat of the moment, I *will* forget taking it out before shooting...

More Interesting Articles