Zenit-12SD. Review of a film camera from reader Radozhiva

Review of the Zenit-12SD camera specially for Radozhiva prepared Rodion Eshmakov (instagram).

Zenit-12SD and Jupiter-9 (KMZ, 1959).

Zenit-12SD and Jupiter-9 (KMZ, 1959). increase.

Zenit cameras are the most widespread film reflex cameras in the post-Soviet space. Due to their availability, it is these cameras that often become the first film cameras in the hands of curious amateur photographers, although in Soviet times Zenit was the ultimate dream of many interested in photography.

The first Zenit camera was produced since 1952, it was a typical representative of its time and was not a new development, but a modified Zorky rangefinder camera. The unification with a small rangefinder camera made it impossible to install a viewfinder with a good coverage of the frame and a more advanced shutter with a long exposure range. What served to accelerate the development of the first mass-produced SLR camera in the USSR ultimately set a low ceiling for its characteristics, which remained unchanged until the cameras of the x12 series, produced until the early 2000s.

The review presents the Zenit-12SD camera, the production of which at KMZ was launched in 1983.

TECH SPECS [Source]:
Camera type - single-lens reflex;
Shutter - curtain, fabric, horizontal;
Exposure range - 1 / 500-1 / 30, V;
Viewfinder field - 20 * 28 mm, 67% coverage of the frame;
Exposure meter - TTL, photoresistor, with LED indication;
Exposure meter battery type - SC-32 (analogs: G12; AG12; V386; 386; RW-44; Duracell 10L-124 / D386; Timex H; Bulowa 260; Renata R386 / 6; Seiko SB-B8; Panasonic SR43W; SR43 ; ANSI WS10) [Source];
Mount for optics - thread М42 * 1 mm, size 45.5 mm;
Used film - cassettes type 135;
Additionally - [camera manual (PDF)].

Zenit-12SD is the last camera in the series, made without the use of plastic elements in the body. The Zenit-122 and Zenit-x12 produced further had a plastic body and, especially 212-412, a dubious design.

Like almost all Zeniths, this model is very austere and very easy to use. On the front of the camera there is a self-timer mechanism, which usually does not survive to this day, as well as a sync terminal for a flash. The name of the model is done in an elaborate slit font - thanks that the rest of the redesign has not yet touched.

Zenit-12SD without lens.

Zenit-12SD without lens.

Interestingly, the exported models were named Zenit-12xp, since in Europe the SD abbreviation still evoked unambiguous associations with Sicherheitsdienst. Or so they thought in the USSR.

The main camera controls are located on the top cover. In its left part there is a rewind handle and a drum for selecting the film sensitivity - the operation of the exposure meter depends on the latter.

Top panel Zenit-12SD.

Top panel Zenit-12SD.

On the right side of the panel is the handle (trigger) of the shutter cocking, combined with the frame counter (it must be set to the desired number manually after loading the film). The mechanics of the Zeniths are not particularly reliable, so a sharp movement of the handle, especially in cold weather, can damage the camera shutter. To the right of the pentaprism is the shutter speed selector - there are only 5 of them set and excerpt "B" ("bulb", excerpt by hand). Choice excerpts can be performed at any time, and not like with a number of rangefinder cameras - only after the shutter is released. There is also a silver release button next to it, which can be locked in the pressed position by turning to obtain a long excerpts (if selected excerpt "IN").

The right side of the top panel of the Zenit-12SD camera.

The right side of the top panel of the Zenit-12SD camera.

Unlike older cameras in the series, Zenit-12SD has a fairly convenient focusing screen with a microrastrum, which really makes focusing easier. It is important not to forget about the composition of the frame.

View of the Zenit-12SD focusing screen through the mirror.

View of the Zenit-12SD focusing screen through the mirror.

In addition, Zenit-12SD supports operation with a jumping aperture, which is available in Soviet M-series lenses and many foreign lenses.

The back of the camera has nothing interesting, except for the battery compartment (2 cells of the SC-32 type) and the sighting window. Unfortunately, before diopter adjustment JVI KMZ engineers never matured, so as a short-sighted amateur photographer I had to attach an additional negative lens to the finder. But the indication of the exposure meter is no longer arrow, as in Zenit-TTL, but LED. The correct exposure is considered one in which both LEDs blink alternately, in practice, with such a range of shutter speeds, it is difficult to see it, unless you shoot "with shutter priority", of course.

There is also nothing special inside the camera: a simple pressure table for film, fabric shutter curtains (check them before purchasing - they are often torn) and a gear shaft. My copy has a suspiciously loose back cover, so I glued on a strip of dark leatherette to cover the gap between the lid and the case and prevent the film from lightening.

Zenit-12SD with folded back cover.

Zenit-12SD with folded back cover.

Zenit-12SD has, of course, the smallest set of conveniences in comparison with modern cameras and the minimum set of inconveniences in comparison with cameras of previous models. If you do not mind the lack of automatic modes, then this camera is quite easy to use. At least it has a normal exposure meter and a decent focusing screen. But even before the German Praktica MTL5B, he was hopelessly behind, and, moreover, he did not even try to catch up. And you can feel it in the ridiculous set of shutter speeds and the small field of the viewfinder. However, this camera is truly a working tool, and very affordable and easy to learn, making it the perfect DSLR option for the hobbyist looking to try film.

This camera has been in my hands for almost 5 years, and although film photography has never been my priority, I have used it with a wide variety of photographic lenses: Helios-44, MS Mir-20M, Tair-3A, World 1, Vega-22UTs, Industar-22, Uranium-xnumx, Sonnar 180 / 2.8, Schneider Cinelux 70/2... Choosing a film, I limited myself to a simple color Fuji C200, which, alas, was not so long ago discontinued.

Below are photographs of Zenit-12SD, which were digitized by reshooting on Canon 600D and Vega-11U lens:

Here are photographs of the Zenit-12SD, scanned in a darkroom:

conclusions

Zenit-12SD is now a good version of the first film camera for the amateur photographer, which is facilitated by the extreme simplicity of camera control and a minimal, but effective set of amenities. But these advantages also lead to the obvious disadvantages of the camera stuck in the 60s.

You will find more reviews from readers of Radozhiva here.

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Comments: 46, on the topic: Zenit-12SD. Review of a film camera from reader Radozhiva

  • Alex

    you have to be careful with hedgehogs.
    a hedgehog can snatch and run rabies injections to do.

    • Neo

      Apparently he is home

      • Rodion

        +

    • Irina

      Most likely this is a manual hedgehog, similar to American ones. This breed is kept at home as a pet. They say very nice animals :)

  • Vladimir

    FED is better ...

    • Rodion

      In general, it is better than what I wrote about in the article about the FED-5. But it is also more complicated. And his exposure meter is an ordinary selenium one.

      • Vladimir

        Light meter ... This is not the most important thing.

      • Sergei

        I have a fed 4, the light meter is still working. Here, after all, what's the matter - selenium does not need to be kept in the light for a long time - I took a picture in a cover, then it will not be demolished))))

  • Garuvi

    In the eighties I had four film cameras: Zenit, Kiev, Smena and Kiev micro, with film, probably 16mm. At that time it was an interesting, long and exciting process. But today it all seems too complicated. Much more interesting and better quality, you can "develop" photos in digital editors.
    But enthusiasts have always been, are and will be.

  • Alexander Rifeev

    low quality of f / a Zenith in comparison with 1960, so the Start release of 1963 is fully operational, the Sharp release of 1954 is efficient except for exposure 1/30, FED-2 release of 1963, found in an old abandoned dacha and as dirty as a train station bum turned out to be completely serviceable :-)))) and the Zenit-TTL release of 1982 is already a corpse (a number of excerpts are completely inoperative), although they filmed about 4000-5000 ... Zenit-EM release of 1989 became a corpse (dead bolt) at the very beginning of its creative life :-)))) ...

  • Oleg

    Cool, the magic of the film is felt

  • Leonid N.

    The shutter speed can be selected at any time, and not, as with a number of rangefinder cameras, only after the shutter is released.

    IMHO on the contrary - after cocking the shutter.

    • Rodion

      Yes, of course - sealed up.

  • B. R. P.

    Of all the Soviet mirror images that had to be filmed, Kiev-19 left the best impression.

    • Rodion

      In the USSR, Arsenal was perhaps the most advanced enterprise producing photographic equipment. They own many interesting developments.

    • Vladimir

      So it was a little more expensive ... several times ...

      • Ivan

        You bent it several times.
        In 1989-1990 I was chasing Kiev-19
        At a cost of Zenits 120-150 rubles, Kiev-19 cost 195 rubles.

  • Sergei

    Fuji c200 is not out of production, Fuji has problems with chemistry and they gave priority to more expensive films. The C200 will be available from around September.

    • Pokemon

      Available in Moscow.
      On Wednesday (darkroom)
      Fujicolor C200 - 74 pieces right now, fresh delivery
      https://sreda.photo/goods/fujifilm_c200
      Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400 - 223 pieces right now, also fresh.

  • twm

    Gallery - it was nice to stay there. And I wanted to remove the coil myself. Thanks.

    PS snmki from the photolab, by the way - the feeling that tonal transitions are richer. And the grain is, perhaps, a little less accented / noticeable. But I would compare in one picture.

    • twm

      PPS and all, grandfather Kiev still asks to shoot the film, eh. Thanks again

    • Rodion

      The photos from the photolob were also taken by Zonnar Da Schneider, except for the first one (Uranus-27). So here there is a merit of optics, rather.

      • twm

        By the way, I will reread the articles about the first two
        I am also "fond of" the warmth of summer pictures, probably :)

        (And summer is still the element of this film from Fuji, it turns out.)

  • Irina

    Tell me, not in the know, but where in Ukraine you can develop a film and make a scan with shipment? I want to get my old Zenith. Recently I reviewed old albums, I realized that I miss the film.

    • Victor

      Irina, go to the Website of the National Union of Photo Artists of Ukraine ... a photo lab was working with them ... if they don't help, then maybe they will ...

    • Andrei

      Contact the Photo Fund.

    • Sergei

      I recommend fotovizhn, you can send by new mail. The scans will be sent to you through their file sharing service by mail, payment by liquor and negatives will also be sent back.

  • Inna

    Thus, I am deeply addicted to reading your website, in fact, I am not ready to exist without it and a working day

  • Alexander

    “Here are photographs of the Zenit-12SD” - the operation of the camera and its features cannot be seen in the photographs, provided it is working properly, of course). It all depends solely on the film, optics, development and scanner.
    12sd normal camera. In order to try the film or to feel nostalgic, it will be enough. The likelihood that the exposure meter will work is much higher than in the case of selenium elements from other Zeniths. The LED indication, by the way, is not very convenient, the arrow (like in the Spotmatic) is more to my liking, and it eats batteries quickly.

  • ñ

    How many zeniths did not come across only KMZschnye were relatively alive (especially the E-series) ... ET, TTL vileika quiet horror, it is especially painful to look at the state of the curtains

  • Sergei

    The only advantage of the Zenit-12sd carcass is the secondary price.
    A camera in good condition without a lens can be purchased within 500 rubles.
    But I would advise to draw the attention of fans of M42 DSLRs to the Japanese Asahi Spotmatic, Chinon, Cosina, early Fuji, etc.
    Much wider functionality, and the price is in the range of 1500-2500 rubles per carcass.
    And Zenith is good for risky filming, when you don't mind breaking or drowning (losing) the camera ...

  • Alexander

    Subjective opinion: the review has the right to be. Firstly - a master photographer, a pro. Respect. Secondly, both work and literacy are very necessary. Was. In the eighties. I just missed that then. But what kind of amateur is there to fool around with the film? A very unpredictable result in DOF and BB, for example. The high cost of color processing process and so on. It seems that soon the articles here will be from Lansky's book of the 70s "vchis fotografuvati".
    After all, now for $ 50, any 400d or d40 will be more efficient and effective. Not to mention that for $ 100 you can find full-fledged cameras with the widest DD type d5100 or just a good 650d.

    • Alexander

      "But what kind of amateur is there to fool around with the film?" - believe me, there are plenty of them. Of course, most of them just shoot and, at most, scan themselves. Developing and printing units. But still, there is demand. The film should not be compared with a figure, because everyone knows that in technical terms, the figure is long ahead. All (or almost all) filmmakers simultaneously shoot digital, just different techniques have different tasks.

      • Pokemon

        "Everyone knows that in technical terms, the figure is long ahead"
        This is a slightly controversial statement. For a long time there were similar thoughts, but after he himself recently began to indulge in filming on film, he changed his mind.
        If you choose the right film for the conditions and tasks of shooting, if you have a good film camera and decent high-aperture lenses, you can get an excellent result. In photolabs 35/135, the film is scanned at a resolution of 24-25MP (there are also up to 30MP). The color can be obtained very pleasant immediately (with good light, lens, film and head on shoulders). There are also commercial photographers who shoot on film. There are few of them, but there is a demand for them.
        DD for 35/135 films, for example cinematic (like Kodak Vision), is very good. At night, you can shoot with the Kodak Vision3 500T or Portru800 - it turns out very well.
        Some, having played with 35/135 film, switch to SF 6x7, 6x8, 6x9. But, alas, this is more costly - I dream of finding an inexpensive SF with AF, but there is no such thing.

        • Rodion

          It seems to me that the main problem with the film is its high cost. Having shot and scanned 25-50 films in the photo lab, you can scratch your head and say - why didn't I buy a digital full frame? If we talk about SF, where $ 25-30 is a type 120 color film, where 12 frames in total, then this is generally insane from an economic point of view. I had all ideas for medium format collapsed instantly after looking at prices)

          • Pokemon

            I have several cameras (including several ff).
            Soul film.
            For film for SF 120 type - if you are from Moscow, you can buy inexpensively in the photolaboratory environment Kodak Vision3 and Kodak Aerocolor for less than $ 10 per video:
            https://sreda.photo/shop/films/sfl
            They sell them under their own brand, but they do not hide that it is Kodak and they do not make any changes.

            • Rodion

              Interestingly, I have already sold Kiev-6C, prepared for this purpose. And there are no optics left for the Northern Fleet. Initially I wanted to drive KOMZovsky 137 / 3.5, but it did not grow together.

        • Alexander

          Absolutely nothing controversial if we talk about the narrow-minded.
          “In 35/135 photolabs, the film is scanned at a resolution of 24-25Mp (there are also up to 30Mp)” - unfortunately, there are much fewer real pixels there. And the color, in general, is better not to discuss, tk. here the markers are different for everyone. I have been shooting on film for more than seven years, I have tried many different materials, different scanners and laboratories, so I have some idea of ​​all this and I can say with confidence that it was in technical terms that the figure took off about 10 years ago, this is not talking about convenience and price per frame. Now, each press of the release button of a film camera costs 35-40p, but at the same time I prefer analog media simply because I like it more at the moment. It makes no sense to look for advantages here (although, undoubtedly, there are), just like it and that's it.

  • Jea reth

    At some point, I just swore to get involved with the Zenith.
    I bought a new Zenit-122K from KMZ - this khanurik, straight from the factory, crushed his "reliable" shutter every film put into it. Either the curtain will move, then it will not reach, then it will knock it off without a gap at all ... Although it was comfortable, you will not say anything. Only the jumping diaphragm of the K versions is extremely clumsy. I sold it to an enthusiast for a pittance and have no regrets.
    Then there was Zenit-E, I don't remember which plant. I got it from a relative as “I don’t need this garbage on the shelves to gather dust”. At first complete external serviceability, on the 36th frame of the very first film roll, he tore the first curtain for himself ... Here's how - I still don't understand, because they were not overtightened.
    Then there was the Zenith-ES KMZshny in the kit of an old photo sniper. The second curtain did not run there, but walked along the boulevard at a leisurely pace. I already twisted it and turned it, but the tension of the springs did not solve the problem. I gave it to the buyer as an appendage to the lens when I played enough with glass.
    There was Zenith-19 ... From that - a car! The shutter bangs so that after a dozen frames you begin to hiccup and involuntarily close your eyes. Everything would be fine, but the shutter ordered to live for a long time even at the stage “Oh, what a cool thing!”. Thanks even for so.
    Then there was a story - a friend brings me a box with a mysterious look. I opened, and there - "Zenith-Automatic"! Moreover, the same legendary (even semi-mythical) “Frenchman” - Zenith-Automatic with French digital electronics in automation. Collectible. I bought it at some flea market in Europe. After the second film was shot, the lower tape was torn ...

    What's the bottom line? Think carefully before buying from Zenith hands)

    If you want to guarantee the quality of film shots - buy a Canon film autofocus. And if you want vintage technology - look for something foreign like Spotmatics or at least a Practitioner. Well, or buy FED-2 - it's at least eternal)

    • B. R. P.

      That's all right. He also ate Zenits to the dump, back in the 90s.

  • Ali

    I read the comments here, and was extremely surprised. I don't know, maybe I was lucky, but not a single Soviet film camera let me down. And I had quite a few of them and of different brands, several models of Zenith, Fed, Crystal, Smeny, Zorkiy, Kiev. Zenith E and Fed 2 used in different climatic conditions. The only time the curtains were frozen at Zenith was my own fault. He warmed up and again forward. Yes, a clumsy cut down unit, the shortest exposure is 1/500, but it worked flawlessly. I always had 38 - 39 frames on all cameras. I carefully inserted the film and closed it and scrolled it once. I knew that the first frame might be slightly overexposed from the edge, so I cropped taking into account this exposure))) But I always liked the rangefinders better. I don't know why, but there is some magic in it. Somehow I decided to put things in order in a suitcase with spools. I found several films that were shot and not developed. He showed it, was very pleasantly surprised. The tapes were shot seventeen years ago. Now there is only one film left, Cosina 1000 S, that's enough for me.

    Self-portrait 1981. Zenith E, Self-timer, Helios 44 M lens 2/58, shutter speed 1/60

    • Ivan

      I'm surprised too. I have been using my Zenith 12SD since 93. Reliable as a tractor. I shot them in Western Siberia at minus 35 degrees. I will prepare my version of the experiment with this device and send Arkady.
      I have a Nikon F65 film, in order to get 39 frames from a slide film, I attach a small piece of another film to the end of the film with tape.
      Ali, your self-portrait is not attached.

      • Ali

        I see, thanks, Ivan. I also shot at Zenith in minus thirty. In Turkmenistan (Kushka) in the heat under +60 on Fed2 and Zenit E. It happened that everything was in the sand after a sandstorm. You shake it off, clean it, blow it off and go. I didn't shoot on the F65, I can't say anything about it. The F4 is a great camera. I am looking for myself in good condition without a batblock.
        image

  • Sergei

    Yes, in fact, nothing has changed over the years of production at Zenit ...

  • Evgeniy, Moscow

    A good overview, but for beginners I would tell you in detail about the intricacies of exposure metering in working with cameras of this type - it's not as easy as it seems. Otherwise, there are no difficulties in mastering the camera.
    I join the surprise and the opinion that the Z-12SD is really reliable just as a tractor. Personally, it has shown itself regularly since 1989. Of course, I don’t shoot it every day and gave it to the master for prophylaxis a couple of times, but every car loves care and maintenance. All its shortcomings are clear, what can I say. Well, what did you want - we had what we could produce. Now we can do nothing at all and do not know how. Only one arrogance.
    The undoubted advantages include a lively and high-spirited LED indication, which favorably distinguished it from the brake indication in Kiev-19.
    The camera should be taken in any cosmetic condition - it is extremely maintainable. Of course, if it goes through a qualified adjustment and adjustment, and then it will still see the dawn of the second half of the 21st century.
    The same applies to the Z-122. Although the case is plastic, in principle everything is the same. Workhorse, if not pont, then quite!

    • Ivan

      I think that the conclusions about the unreliability come from the fact that many get acquainted with cameras that are not the first freshness, bought from strangers. Here they often express dissatisfaction with faulty photographic equipment of any brands purchased from hands. I bought my Zenith new, in the store. I exploited it myself, carefully. And if you want, you can break anything.

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