An unexpected left turn

The Industar 50mm lens is a year older than me, and the Zorki-4 camera it’s attached to is a year younger.

Inside, a roll of CineStill BWxx 250 film. Does that mean the photos are going to look like scenes from ‘Raging Bull’ or ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ – both shot on the parent Double-X cinematic film stock? I sure as hell hope so …

And the biggest bonus for this photographer? A ~60 year old rangefinder camera is easier to manually focus than just about anything else when your eyesight is getting lousier by the year. The coupled viewfinder/rangefinder on this Zorki is remarkably clear and bright, and features a neat little dioptre adjustment which means even I can see through it in crystal clarity.

And did I add “it’s beautiful” – a lovely chunky little thing that feels great in the hand. It’s lineage back to the Leica 2 is pretty clear in both appearance and functionality. The Zorki is sometimes known as the ‘poor wo/man’s Leica‘, but that’s a bit unfair to the Russian optical engineers at Krasnogorsky Zavod. Sure, they copied the Leica 2, but then they innovated and improved the design, and with a fraction of the research funding. The lenses commonly found on the Zorki and FED rangefinders are based on the Zeiss Tessar and Sonnar designs that were part of the war reparation deals that the USSR took home from WW2 – but then the Leica Elmar was a Tessar formula lens too. The Tessar formula used in the Industar 50 is optically simple and the resulting lenses are small and light, but they are also tack sharp with nice contrast and colour. The Jupiter-8 lens (Sonnar formula) also has a very good optical reputation.

So maybe consigning the Zorki to povo-Leica status is a bit rude, but you do get some pretty lovely camera technology for very few $$$ compared to the German alternative.

I last regularly used film in a camera nearly 20 years ago, and didn’t imagine I’d be back there again. The unexpected connection between shooting through classic old film camera lenses on a digital camera, and film, is somewhat serendipitous. A friend kindly gave me her old Pentax Spotmatic SP 35mm SLR just recently, and being an M42 lens mount job, I can attach all my M42 Russian lenses, and use them at their nominal focal lengths rather than in cropped form on the Micro Four Thirds digital. Likewise the Zorki 4 accepts all Leica 39mm lenses (LTM or M39). That coupled with how easy it is now to get film processed and then scanned at very high resolution completes the loop, with final image development being back on the computer – in my case in the excellent open source DarkTable application.

Now it just remains to be seen what the first images from the Spotmatic and Zorki look like. Are the camera bodies light tight? Are the lenses focusing properly? etc.

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