Kiev 4A
5 frames with...

5 frames with a Kiev 4A and Lomography 400 – By Steve Phillips

December 4, 2019

It’s funny how these things happen. A chance encounter with my old Olympus XA3, hidden in a drawer for about twenty years, prompted me to put fresh batteries in it, find a film, and take it on holiday. I hadn’t used a film camera for so long, my children (both in their twenties) looked at it in disbelief. Even more so when I told them that the film in it was black & white.

It got me thinking about the first camera I ever used, a Cosmic 35 borrowed from my brother, c.1970. Of course, the next thing I did was look on eBay to see how much they sold for nearly fifty years later. Not a lot. But I resisted the temptation. When the holiday photos came back though, the thrill of seeing photos which had been taken the old way raised the temptation level by a few notches. Going right back to basics with a camera where all the settings are up to you really appealed. Even better if that camera is nearly as old as you are.

A few days later, the eBay algorithms had got the message that I was interested in old Russian cameras, and fed me a whole stream of them. After quite a bit of reading up on the various models, I decided to go for it. Not a Cosmic 35, but something a bit more solid – a Kiev 4A. It was worth it just for the smell when I opened the case for the first time, that combination of leather and old camera. Even better, the seller’s description seemed to be spot on – all clean, a clear lens, and everything working.

Built in 1968, but with a Jupiter 8 lens from 1957, it must have seen some life in its time. It has probably never been for a walk around York on an autumn day though, so that was where I took it for a first try. A roll of Lomography 400 colour film was loaded, a light meter app was added to my phone, and off we went.

Focussing with the little wheel on top took all of five minutes to get used to, the rangefinder patch was as clear as could be, and accurate. To say the shutter is quiet would be an understatement – it is more of a soft “chunk” rather than a click. The whole thing feels so solid. OK, some might say it weighs a ton, but I really wouldn’t object to carrying it around for a day. Unlike its brother the Kiev 4, it doesn’t have a light meter sitting on top, so there is one less thing which might not work after fifty years. On this trip I got by with my phone app and a bit of Sunny 16 guesswork.

I have to say, I am delighted with the results. It is a pleasure to use, and I can see it becoming a regular companion. Now, why does eBay think I am interested in some other Jupiter lenses…?

Steve Phillips

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  • Reply
    Thomas Sheppard
    December 4, 2019 at 10:29 am

    The Jupiter 8M is a gem of a lens and your images clearly show it.
    Thank you for sharing these, I have enjoyed them immensely

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      December 4, 2019 at 4:41 pm

      Thanks. I really didn’t know what to expect from a 62 year old lens.

  • Reply
    Gil Aegerter
    December 4, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    Interesting camera. Is it similat to a Contax?

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      December 4, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Yes, the Kiev cameras were originally built with the contents of a Contax factory which Russia claimed after the war. People describe them as Contax copies, but in effect, the early models were the same camera with a different name on the front.

  • Reply
    December 4, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    Lovely images! I have yet to try the Jupiter 8 on my Zorki 3 with colour but those results are delicious! A great camera for so little too.

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      December 4, 2019 at 4:40 pm

      Thank you! Definitely a bargain.

  • Reply
    David Cuttler
    December 4, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    I too have a Kiev 4A, and would recommend picking up a Helios 103 lens. I have been getting great results from mine.

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      December 4, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      Stop tempting me…

  • Reply
    david hill
    December 4, 2019 at 6:27 pm

    You have a fine camera there and the Jupiter-8 is giving you particularly lovely results. Charles says “delicious” and I second that taste 🙂

    “The Kiev 4A is a Soviet-era Contax camera made by the Arsenal factory located (where else) by the city of Kiev. After the end of WWII, the Russians seized the Zeiss factories as part of the war reparations. They took the tools, dies, left over parts, and a bunch of engineers and transplanted them to Kiev” [Karen Nakamura,]

    In similar fashion, Zorki cameras were Soviet-era Leica (Thread Mount) copies, built in the KMZ factories, near Moscow. The Jupiter-8 is the LTM counterpart to the Contax-mount Jupiter-8M. Unfortunately the Russian LTM lenses used the Contax thread pitch in their focus helicoid, not the Leica pitch – a very small difference but it causes focus issues on “true” Leicas and clones. The wide lenses work fine, 50’s are borderline but can be tweaked to work, and longer lenses (Jupiter-9, for instance) are fairly useless on anything but a Zorki.

    • Reply
      steve phillips
      December 5, 2019 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks David. The Zorki story is unknown to me, but maybe one day I will explore those as well.

  • Reply
    Nigel Haycock
    December 5, 2019 at 12:18 am

    I had the Jupiter 8 on my Contax III and agreed it is a lovely lens – I couldn’t get on with that little focus wheel though and sold camera and lens on

    • Reply
      steve phillips
      December 5, 2019 at 5:24 pm

      It didn’t take me too long to get used to that wheel, but I do still sometimes find myself holding it the “normal” way and wondering why I can’t see the rangefinder square.

  • Reply
    December 5, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Nice camera! And the example in your picture looks pristine. Back in a previous life, 1978, I visited Moscow and was taken to one of the Beriozka stores, where tourists and select Soviet citizens with Western currency could buy goods. I almost bought a Kiev but passed at the last minute. That was a dumb move because it would have made a wonderful souvenir of my trip.

  • Reply
    Geof Abruzzi
    December 5, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    This summer I took a trip to Russia (mostly Moscow and St. Petersburg) I brought a modern Pentax 35m camera and shot most of the trip with that camera. I wanted to bring home an old Soviet camera, so though the photrio forum, I made contact with a member from Moscow. He found a Novgorod based restorer who could get a Kiev IIa ready in time for me. I got the camera about half way through the trip with only one day left in Moscow before we hopped on a train to St. Petersburg. So I got a few shots in Moscow and about three rolls in St.Petersburg, but I really loved that camera. Mine was made in 1957, with a Jupiter 8 lens from the same year. I found the aperture setting was too easy to knock out since the Jupiter 8 has no click stops. When we got to St. Petersburg I found a shop that specialized in old Soviet cameras, so I got an 8M which is identical but has click stops. While I was there I also picked up most of the rest of the soviet made lenses for that camera for a song–a Jupiter 12 (35mm/ƒ2.8), a Jupiter 9 (85mm/ƒ2), a Jupiter 11 (135mm/ƒ4), and a Helios 103 (a 53mm/ƒ1.8.) I passed on the Jupiter 3 due to price and they didn’t have a Orion 15. To tie it all together, I got one of the shoe mount universal viewfinders. I still mostly shoot the 50mm 8M but its such a nice camera to use, and the lenses have turned out some very nice pictures. Far from being “commie trash” they’re actually really well made.

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      December 6, 2019 at 8:29 am

      That shop sounds like heaven!

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