After using my Voigtlander Bessa 66 a bunch, I was excited to try more 120 folding cameras. I had my eyes on a Zeiss Super Ikonta, but when I spotted a Moskva 5 — complete with 6×6 mask — for less than half the price, I clicked the buy button without hesitation.
Well… maybe a little hesitation. The Moskva 5 is the Soviet version of the Zeiss Super Ikonta, and Soviet versions of cameras are known for their idiosyncrasies. Some might call them ‘faults’. Some might be less kind. You never quite know what you’re going to get. The seller was reputable and had tested the camera, but I still felt like I was taking a chance.
I was pleased to find the camera in excellent condition. The focus was stiff, as it is on any Moskva that hasn’t been re-greased, but everything was in working order. A couple of test rolls confirmed that the exposure and light bellows were sound and that the Moskva was a good choice to accompany me on my trip to Bogotá, Colombia.
I shot 3 rolls with the Moskva in Colombia, 2 of them on color stock with 6×9 negatives. The third was on black & white stock with 6×6 framing. Sadly the B&W roll was a total loss. Not due to the camera, but due to the film apparently being stored underneath a radioactive rock. The negatives contained nothing but fog.
That left 2 rolls, each with just 8 (massive) negatives. I’ve picked 5 from those 16 shots.
I shot this at 100 ISO not knowing what to expect. I’ve never used any of Lomo’s LomoChrome stocks. Some shots came out very purple. Others had a more subtle purple cast. Sometimes I got different effects on two different shots with the same light. Fun, if you don’t mind the erratic nature of it.
You can see the non-purple version of this photo on Flickr. I think the purple here is nice. It adds to the odd feel of this always-crowded, somewhat-mysterious street.
Compare this to a similar photo taken at the same time on a more ‘standard’ stock. Here I was trying to capture this mural as it got hit by the golden light of sunset. Did the long exposure make it more purple? I’m not sure. But I think it’s too purple.
I’ve used Cinestill 400D a few times. The color gets a little faded for my taste, but it’s ok. With this final roll of 120 I tried to take photos of actual humans instead of my usual photos of graffiti or flowers.
Unfortunately I must have left the film out and some light snuck in through the edges of the backing paper. This shot, the first on the roll, was the most affected. But I still really like the composition and his pose. And a nice feature of the 6×9 negative is that I can crop in to compensate for me standing a million feet away from my subject.
Here’s where photographing humans can really shine. I asked him for a photo, he agreed and continued to go about his very thoughtful reading. He was interested in my camera and I tried to explain, in my rough Spanish, that I liked the Moskva because it forced me to think about what I was photographing. He really liked that response. Either that or he thought my Spanish was hilariously bad. Hard to say! But it felt like a great interaction.
I’m not sure the faded color here does Bogotá any favors, but I like the overall vibe.
There are some downsides to the Moskva. It’s nearly 1.4 kg (3lb), which is hefty. The ergonomics are…odd. I find it hard to frame the shot, hold the camera still, and press the shutter release. I’ve found it easier to bypass the shutter release button by pressing a lever underneath the shutter (Warning! this method bypasses the camera’s double-exposure prevention). The rangefinder focus window is impossibly small.
For me the biggest drawback of the camera is the minimum focus of 1.5m (5ft). It makes it hard to do anything candid or intimate. Though it can be done, as I found in my photo of the street poet.
But I do like the methodical, multi-step process that the camera forces me to take. Meter. Frame. Focus. Set the exposure. Frame again. Shoot. Like my Voigtlander it’s a camera that forces deliberate action.
And the small number of photos I get from a roll only accentuates that deliberation. Eight photos per roll encourages care and thought. And I love the detail on the resulting 6×9 negatives.
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