I just couldn’t resist getting a Russian Leica and there’s plenty of them!
FED made the first Russian Leica copies dating back to early 1930s. KMZ then took over post war production (due to advancing german troops) and then separated out as the Russian camera manufacturer for export using the Zorki trade name.
Some suggest that post war FED/Zorki Leica II copies were based on original Leica drawings – obtained through post war reparations. Since I’ve never owned a Leica II, I can’t really comment, although like most Russian cameras, they are considered pretty agricultural and lack the finesse of a Leica.
Searching the auction sites it was evident that there’s even fake copies out there. e.g. a later model modified to look like an earlier model.
Given that literally millions of these Russian Leicas were made, there’s only a few early models and limited editions that can really be considered collectable.
Expect to pay between £30-£60 for a genuine post 1950s model. Although, I have seen early models priced up to £1000, so fakes can be a lucrative business.
After some deliberation I decided to look for a FED or Zorki to potentially renovate and add to my vintage stuff collection.
The original Zorki (coined the Zorki 1) was made between 1948 and 1956. Some early versions were made from salvaged FED parts and lens/body threads were also machined matched. e.g only the kit lens would fit the body. So with this in mind, I decided to get a later model.
This £50 Zorki was listed as a 1957 model, included the original bakelite lens cap and a Zorki 3 case. However, the serial number suggests that its actually a Zorki Type D (model PM1105) camera manufactured in late 1954. While the accompanying Industar-22 (model PT5870) lens was manufactured in 1956.
The top plate is stamped Zorki (in cyrillic latin) rather than hand engraved (early models), the shutter speed dial is the old speed type and the shutter release is threaded.
This 61 year old body is covered in hard wearing but slightly aged vulcanite rubber (similar to Leica) and there’s no sign of corrosion.
Being faithful to the Leica II design, the Zorki is a bottom loader with the baseplate being held on by one twist lock catch. However, the 35mm film leader needs to be modified (pre-cut longer) and attached to the take up spool before sliding the film assembly into the camera. From a practical point of view, one has to decide whether to carry pre-cut film stock or a pair of scissors….I would probably choose to carry pre-cut rolls.
The cloth shutter rolls horizontally and is capable of speeds up to 1/500s. Like many cloth shutter cameras, one has to remember to put the lens cap on (when no in use) as direct sun light can (over time) burn a hole in the fabric. The cloth shutter on this copy is light tight and shows little signs of wear, although shutter speeds seem a little slow.
The Industar-22 5cm f/3.5 lens is collapsible and imitates the Leica Elmar in looks although its actually based on the 4 element Tessar design. A step-less aperture ring is up front and focus is at the rear.
The lens had some internal dust, fungus and the front element has excess polish marks. So I stripped, cleaned and re-assembled it before adding it to my collection.