I have something of a fascination with with “Soviet” cameras. I have a couple of Feds, A couple of Lubitels, My Zorki 4k that I’ve written about here and way more Zenits than any one person really needs. So of course, when I was looking through my collection to find something to use for a little project I had in mind, and couldn’t find anything that quite fit the bill. I did what any self respecting G.A.S sufferer would do… I hit E-bay. An hour of happy browsing and a couple of more hours of research later and my wallet was once again a little lighter.
This camera, the Cosmic 35 (also known as the Smena 8 in its domestic version), has, it seems, a bit of a reputation online. Whether that’s a good rep or a terrible one depends on who is writing the review. Pretty much everything I found at the time was split fairly equally between “This is the worst thing ever, avoid at all costs” and “This is the best thing ever, buy one at all costs”. Needless to say I bought one. Frankly I’m glad I did too, it’s not the best or the worst camera I’ve ever used. But it’s small, light, easy enough to use and in my opinion makes pretty good pictures. It also has a feature that works for an idea I had in mind.
The Cosmic 35 made of that almost-Bakerlite hard plastic with a fairly middle of the road 40mm 3 element Anastigmat lens. Apertures of f/4 to f/16 and shutter speeds of 1/15 sec to 1/250 sec plus bulb that are set on a dial around the lens. Focusing is of course by guesstimation with a range sale on the lens barrel.
The three things that seem to get the Cosmic 35 the most bad reviews are the body grip, which is on the left instead of the right and is small enough to do its job but any smaller and would just be cosmetic (rather than Cosmic, bad pun intended).
The aperture ring is tiny and right up against the lens. This means that fingerprints on the lens are a certainty at some point (and probably when you can least afford them). And thirdly the frame advance/shutter mechanism. There’s a quite large easy to use thumb wheel to wind on the frames but this doesn’t cock the shutter. You have to do this manually with a lever on the lens like on most old folding cameras. Which is where the problem is. The lever flips back into its reset position when you fire the shutter. The problem is, with this being a small camera the lens and therefore the shutter cocking lever are right where your fingers are resting on the front of the body. This in turn means the lever can very easily hit your finger as it flips back, which interrupts the shutter itself often resulting in a frame that has one half (or even the whole) frame massively over exposed.
The lever can also be reset and fired without winding on to the next frame meaning multiple exposures are an easy mistake to make… Which brings us in a round about way to the reason I bought it, and the reason most of these pictures are the kind of pictures most people would delete not keep:
These images are multiple exposures created by simply taking a shot, resetting the shutter, and firing again and again until I have between 3 and 5 exposures per frame. They are all of the same subject with just a little bit of movement between each exposure. The amount of movement is entirely random as it’s just how much the camera naturally moves as I reset the shutter between shots.
If you ever consider buying a Cosmic 35, there are a few things you should take into consideration. The frame counter has to be reset manually each time you load it (annoying when you forget).
The Cosmic 35 tripod socket is also the larger 3/8 inch type more commonly found on larger “pro” level cameras which this surely ain’t. If you are going to use this on a tripod there is a threaded cable release hole in the shutter button.
It also has a 10 second self timer (never used it). There is a cold shoe for flash plus the necessary pc sync port (its a leaf shutter so syncs at all speeds). Most important to my mind is to make sure when you get one that the film take up spool is with the camera. The take up spool is one of those annoying ones that isn’t permanently attached to the body so can be easily lost, though I suppose you could replace it with the centre spool of a 35mm cartridge.
Finally, if you’re wondering why someone would bother writing such a full review about such a camera…? Blame Hamish. This was just going to be a quick 5 frames with post but he wanted more… (he’s greedy like that).