I sort of remember when my father handed me The Brass Brick as I unaffectionately called it for years. Not precisely, but at least withing the ten year bracket that was the 1990s. It was a camera he had bought years before in St. Petersburg during a Russian winter when his trusty Canon failed to function, a solid block of pointless weight in his bag. Some things we can’t overcome, batteries and severe temperatures still don’t play well to this day.
My pre-teen arms grew strong under its weight, while my spine and shoulders rolled inexorably forward as it hung around my neck. My bank balance precluded me from using it much in those early years. My ability to focus on anything for more than a few hours probably didn’t help much either.
Throughout the ’90s the Zenit came with me wherever I went. To school, hiking with Scouts, around town on bikes with my friends, until finally it was replaced with a smaller compact 35mm camera. It sat in a box unloved for many years, a box that had successive film cameras added to it with the acquisition of a run of digital cameras.
Eventually The Brass Brick came to see light again when I cleared out my family home for sale after my fathers death. Unknowingly I’d left film in it, some shots a rare pre-digital glimpse into my forgotten past. After putting some film in, and assuming the selenium light meter was dead, I went for a wander around Manchester to see what I could capture.
From early morning train journeys, to family portraits, the 44mm F2.8 lens can deal with most things. Yes it is soft. Yes it doesn’t focus that well. Yes it is unbalanced, unwieldy, and unfailingly slow. But it works. Even if it does leak light like a sieve in bright weather.