Zorki 4 – A Russian Odyssey

I bought this Russian rangefinder camera for very little money from a  local camera shop with a window full of classic stuff. It has as few features as absolutely possible, and yet is still bigger and heavier than my Nikon FE. It is all mechanical and all manual so you need a handheld light meter to guarantee a decent exposure, and even then it is a gamble with the spring-loaded shutter and stepless aperture ring. The focussing is typical rangefinder, with a small portion of the image superimposed with a greenish hue which you align with the primary view to set the focus. The viewfinder lacks any kind of frame, so it’s difficult to judge the field of view from the 50mm lens.

All that being said, it’s actually not a bad camera (although lacking any kind of strap lugs it requires a firm grip). I loaded it up with a roll of Tri-X and took to the streets of Edinburgh to see what it can do. The results impressed me, all shots in focus, well exposed and no signs of any light leaks or mechanical difficulties.

With a 50mm f2 Jupiter lens I went looking for details and abstracts rather than broad vistas and managed to find some interesting things. I posted a set of images on Flickr and have pulled out some of my favourites below.

Zorki 4 - Edinburgh

Close up the pictures are sharp with no visible distortion and plenty of contrast. No need to worry about parallax as all aspects of framing are a little vague with this viewfinder.

zorki-4_film-scan-25

Prior to buying the Zorki I had been shooting exclusively digital and neglected my film gear for a few years. After shooting with the Zorki I realised just how much I had been missing out on. The shot below is a case in point, no blocked up shadows, no blown out skies, just a whole world of rich monochrome tones.

zorki-4_film-scan-32

Using the hand held light meter I just take an incident light reading and set the camera, no worrying about how the in-camera meter is interpreting the scene, you just take an absolute reading of the light falling on the scene and set the camera accordingly.

zorki-4_film-scan-7

Overall well worth it. Not as ‘arty’ as a Holga but just as cheap and genuinely usable for serious work.

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