Cosmic 35

Cosmic 35 Review – and a multiple exposure project – By Dale Willetts

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:

Cosmic 35 Agfa vista 200 Walsall
Cosmic 35 Agfa vista 200 Walsall

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.

kodalith iso 12 Walsall
kodalith iso 12 Walsall
fuji 200 Worcester
Cosmic 35 fuji 200 Worcester
Cosmic 35 fuji 200 (B+W dev) Worcester
Cosmic 35 fuji 200 Gloucester
fuji 200 Gloucester

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).

Flickr: dawilletts
Instagram: @delusions_of_competence

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16 thoughts on “Cosmic 35 Review – and a multiple exposure project – By Dale Willetts”

    1. Thanks, With those two it was an old kodalith film I rated at iso 12. I think it was 3 exposures at 1/15th of a second each at f5.6 or f8. Somewhere around there though. Most of the time I take a light meter reading at what ever iso film I’m using then under expose whatever it says by a stop or two depending on how bright the light is, the brighter the day the more I under expose.

  1. What a nutty idea—but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. (If I was coining a term, I’d call it stutter-shooting, but I’m not. What do you call it?) You’ve some really nice impressionistic images in that set. And the odd little Cosmic is perfect for the task. Brilliant 🙂

    1. Ha, Thanks. I don’t really call it anything… but if I did…… ?
      Hmmm, maybe “Cosmic impressionism! 😉

  2. Your images make me feel like I’ve had one too many pint and I’m about to make an omelet on the pavement.

    They’re fantastic!

  3. I love this review. Full of relevant facts but with a healthy dollop of humour. I’ve not tried a double exposure project yet. The effects you’ve achieved are amazing (especially the Kodalith shots) and I’m really excited about trying something like this myself, maybe with a Holga.

    1. Thanks, I’ve got a few Holga’s too and I’ve used them do good effect for double exposures. I just wanted a little bit more control over the shutter speed and aperture for this project. Not to mention more shots on 35mm so more chance of keepers 😉

  4. Pawel M. Falcman

    Clever idea for multiexposures. Effects look like a cross between good old plain camera shake, stereophotographs, misaligned printing plates (like in old magazines) and futurists’ paintings (eg. Nu descendant l’escalier by Duchamp). Cool stuff.
    Smiena 7 (minor differences between 7 & 8 models) was my first camera, served me well for quite a few years. Bought brand new on a trip to USSR, approximately 50 yrs ago. Still have it… Along with a Smiena 3.
    Talk about GAS… 🙂

    1. Thank you, I’m impressed that you’ve still got that Smiena after so long, hope it still works.
      I’ve done a lot of multiple exposures but the idea for this project came from watching CCTV cameras at work. One of the monitors was failing and was showing 3 or 4 slightly misaligned images.

      1. Pawel M. Falcman

        That’s some source of inspiration!

        Sure it works. They are simple but actually quite well made. Preferred camera for Polish polar expeditions some time ago. They worked no matter how cold it was.

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