I bought a job lot of cameras well over a year ago. Long before COVID19 was even a thing. I was mostly interested in the FD mount lenses to use with my Canon AT-1, and, to be honest, most of the glass had fungus issues so I just chucked the whole lot into the back of my camera cupboard and forgot all about it.
Just recently, after hearing about the Crappy Commie Camera Party on Twitter, I dragged the box back out again and decided that I’d have a go shooting the Zenit TTL and Helios-44M f2 58mm lens that had been a part of the bargain. I had heard ‘Bad Things’ about these cameras, and decided to see what the fuss was about.
I loaded up a home spooled roll of Ilford Kentmere Pan 400, rated it +1, and headed up to the top of my local valley.
Shooting a camera with a reputation like the Zenit TTL has for the very first time, in howling winds, in sub zero temperatures, might seem like a foolhardy thing now. But at the time I thought it sounded like a bit of a laugh to be honest.
My hands went numb very quickly from the wind chill combined with holding that solid metal body. That weird yellow filter in the eyepiece combined with what I found to be a challenging lens to compose and focus through all made for a brisk experience.
I found that shooting the K400 at plus one was a mistake as it meant I was forced to use f/8 and f/11 quite a lot, and with the lens stopping down as you use it I was constantly struggling to see through the closed aperture.
Maybe the loss of contrast I had heard about this lens suffering from is visible in my five frames, but I look forward to reloading with slower film and exploring the f2 end of the aperture.
In the end I shot most of the roll but the cold beat me and I climbed back down again. I finished the roll lower down the valley. Out of the wind.
I actually enjoyed the challenge this camera offered me, and plan on using it more in the future. Although losing the last 4 or 5 frames as I rewound was a bit of a gutter. Those lost frames were fantastic. The Zenit proved that it’s rep for being a rough old dog was deserved. But I feel like I have a chance to coax some pleasantries out of the old ripper.
Toby Van de Velde
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