top of page
  • Writer's picturemilo segundie kpims


Updated: Jul 29, 2022

‘The love I have for Russian/Ukranian Cameras’

Like most places in this country right now it is hot. Hot like being a fry cook in a small kitchen with pans blazing and orders slinging.

I’m sitting in my living room, in front of the last air conditioner Target had on hand, keeping my lucky cool and thinking about the difference between holding a French fry instead of a potato. How similar it is to holding a well made Mamiya C330 or Leica M camera as opposed to a Russian made HorizonT Panoramic or the Russian/Ukranian Kiev 6c. One has had all the needing to know how to prepare the perfect fry removed. A pristine machine, a golden glow surrounds it. Smooth parts, and a delectable flavorful draw. A snappy crunch when you bite down on the shutter button. Mmmm, delicious. Can you guess which ones those were? Then there is the potato. Lumpy. Dimpled. A piece of gear that has a weight to it, it makes sounds, looks camera-ish, and parts move. Lenses can be attached and film loaded. The guarantee this potato will prove to result in well spaced Images, properly exposed images, properly focused images or even last beyond a test roll…now that’s the clincher. The sub standard fry. Maybe soggy, wrinkled and leaning on an old browning piece of discarded lettuce. It looks at you, you at it, it beckons you…do you heed its call?

Looking almost anywhere online will send you galloping through the mine fields of info woe on a clumsy critter strapped with magnets. There isn’t too much good out there for the try hard enthusiasts of cameras made by the Arsenal or KMZ factories. The Kiev/6c/60/88 medium format cameras or the Saluts floating around online shops always come tied to worrisome tales and warnings of sensitive parts, and needed careful touches. Even if the seller doesn’t disclose this information. The Leica Barnack copies are oh so many and are used almost as if they were some kind of decoy, a test to keep the eyes of the onlooker poised and ready. An age of sharpening. A type of educational stepping stone to build you up to the standard of “I know better!” I’ve come across one too many sellers who are charging $300, $400 up to $800 for a Zorki Barnack Copy and whether they know it or not, it is not a Leica, and they are way over charging.

Or are they? Why not charge that much for a camera that looks so similar? They have a very similar mount to the point where even the lenses it can wear are almost puddle reflection reminiscent of other lenses with very renowned reputations. Some parts are even interchangeable, the shutter button collar for instance, and maybe that’s it.

If I were to lean hard on the Whoopi cushion of truth it would let out a long sputtered sigh that much resembles the word, History. That’s where the questions sort of stop and the answers to all the issues, sad stories, let downs, lack of quality control, and much much more, start to fill our fearful yet absorbent little minds. There is probably not one soul out there who has decided to place an order for one of these wonderful Russian machines, and hasn’t experienced the slow onset of dread upon receiving the camera or lens they ordered, If they received it at all. It’s funny to think about writing this article, trying to be truthful and forthcoming and knowing how I feel about all of the many Russian cameras I own. Whether they are functional or not, and how they are the ones I can say I won’t be letting go of any time soon. I love them all. My Kiev 6C with its Vega lens and the amazing warm colors that lens produces. The Chaika I half frame, more images per roll, and how sharp and wonderful the images are with flash.

Kiev 6C, Vega 12, Spokane, wa. Photo by Milo Krims

Kiev 6C, Vega 12, Portra 400, Spokane, wa. photo by Milo Krims

The HorizonT Panoramic camera, the sound the swing lens makes in its passing. This camera is just one of my favorites of all time, and a great alternative to a Widelux, or the Xpan! These are just such wonderful cameras and there are so many more I would love to try and someday, I will.

HorizonT, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Seattle, wa. Photo by Milo Krims

HorizonT, Portra 400, Spokane, wa. Photo by Milo Krims

Chaika I 1/2 frame w/ flash, Ultrafine Extreme 400, Spokane, wa. Photo by Milo Krims


I believe it comes down to their relatable nature. I feel one with them in their quirkiness and their let downs. There is an honesty there, which I know shouldn’t and doesn’t really tie to successful photography, but it speaks to me. And just to clarify, by successful I mean, a camera that most definitely will produce an image on a negative. There is a Humanness in their assembly and “fine touches.” The mechanical engineering prowess and “superiority” of other lenses and cameras and those manufacturing said gems in general is all fine and dandy, but this isn’t what attracts me. I will say I have fallen into the trap of buying the best of the best, I do own a Leica M3, and I will go into that more in another article. I have experienced what I like to call, ‘The Platinum Shrug’ so many times. I’ll start out with a high end fancy camera in hand, say the M3 or when I owned it, the Nikon F3, and I’d bring them over to the couch, coaching myself all the way and trying to couch my own reasons as to why I should leave it home.

Moments later after setting it down gently, I’ll find myself just on the other side of that wall rummaging for another camera, and deciding then, yeah, this is the one. Let’s say it’s a Pentax Spotmatic, or an Olympus 35RC, both of which I think are magnificent cameras. My fears and doubts subsided, I would take one last look at the fancy buster on the couch and shut the door, with nothing but the neighborhood and this $40 lens in front of me. This and this feeling alone is the biggest thing that gets in my way of simply enjoying gear. Whatever the price tag, and this is a very personal problem. Reaching back to the relatability, a while back when I was disassembling a Kiev Metered prism to reset the prism correctly in hopes of achieving actual focus, there were about 20 small brass washers loose and sliding around inside. What was that about? Was it just extra that they decided to put in because they needed to use them up? They certainly weren’t holding or spacing anything. I couldn’t help wondering while removing them and finishing up the job, about the person who had put the washers in. Were they about to go to lunch? Did they even get a lunch? How many hours did they work that day? What was there name? What does it all mean?

That moment and other moments like that are weighing heavy on all these cameras. When you pick one up, it oozes with mystery and uncertainty, mostly to a fault. In this world of camera assembly that has been formed by the unworked, unrefined, get it done however you can with whatever you can potato mentality, there has been born a proper sense of utility and a deeper connection, for me, with these cameras. I guess it’s somewhat tied to me worrying about them so much, but I don’t mind.

There are a lot of ways to view the vast and colorful landscape of cameras and manufacturers, and what to pick up or to leave sitting there forever. I highly recommend and will continue to do so, any and all of these great hunks of light catching Russian made brilliance. I will stand firm in these beliefs, “don’t knock it till you try it”, “Bad news is better then No news”, and that “one pearl is better than a whole necklace of potatoes.” Now its up to you to go find the pearl potato that works for you or maybe doesn’t work at all….among all those non pearl potatoes, and leave the French fries to cool in their little fancy basket, alone at the edge of the table. Let me just say, it’ll be worth it.


No news quote – King James I of England

One pearl quote - Etienne Decroux

Don't Knock it quote - unknown

42 views0 comments
bottom of page