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…?