The Zenit E : Film Star or Russian Brick?
Written 7 years ago by Mark Evans
Rummaging through huge piles of once-loved bits of brick-a-brack in a cramped, dark garden shed. You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’re probably more likely to find a huge spider nestling amongst the junk than a camera. But surprisingly, that’s exactly what sprang from the heap. A Zenit E Olympic Edition, to be precise. Now once you go digital, you don’t really expect to go back to shooting films. But that’s exactly what I’ve done; well, for a day at least!
I managed to dig out an old roll of Fuji Velvia 50 from the bottom of one of my drawers and proceeded to load it into the camera. The very first thing I noticed was that although the Zenit is seemingly basic in operation, it is definitely not very intuitive! The problem I was immediately presented with was whether or not there was actually a film still in the camera from years past, but I couldn’t find any indicator, or little window to tell me if there was, so eventually, very tentatively I opened the back. Fortunately there was no film in it, but this again presented me with another problem, how do I load the film? Messing about with it for 5 minutes without success, I reluctantly gave in and consulted the dreaded manual. Turns out you had to slide the leader under a tight fitting curved plate, with little means of pulling it up to get the film under!
After finally getting the film loaded I began to get acquainted with this archaic yet ingenious piece of camera technology.Ã‚ Aperture, shutter speed and focus are all set manually; I had to remember to check all settings before taking a picture.Ã‚ Being completely manual, with no batteries does have its advantages though; bulb mode exposures for as long as you like and no batteries to charge up when you’re on holiday somewhere. Very cool.Ã‚ The Zenit also comes with it’s own piece of cunning Russian technology in the form of its built in light meter.Ã‚ Fitted into the front of the camera, making it look somewhat like a Darlek, it actually works surprisingly well.Ã‚ The meter itself is fairly easy to use; all you need to do is line the metering needle on the exposure/metering knob up with a circle that moves when you turn the dial, then read off your fstop/shutter speed combination which you then set and take the picture.Ã‚ Sounds simple enough, but the meter does have one fundamental flaw.Ã‚ Being a selenium light sensitive meter, the selenium will eventually run out (20-30yrs), outputting wrong readings, and being a 1980’s Russian Olympics model maybe I should reserve judgement till I get my film back from the lab!
The Zenit-E is basic, but a good camera to learn photography on nevertheless. Although I wouldn’t dream of using it for anything else than hobby photography.Ã‚ Having used it for a few days now I can say that I will definitely be looking forward to using my 5D again!Ã‚ A star of its time, and a well worn classic, the Zenit-E will no doubt now take its place in the back of my wardrobe!