Zorki 4
5 frames with...

5 Frames with Kodak Portra 400 on a Zorki 4. Or: Down a Rabbit Hole – By Lawrie Conole

September 22, 2019

There are times when you think you know where this is heading; the comfort of being in familiar territory. That’s where I thought I was going too, but before I knew it, I was off down a rabbit hole and into a new world.

Back in the day – 1980s & 90s – I was up to my ears in film photography. By day as a pro scientific photographer I was shooting bones & stones in an archaeology laboratory on an Olympus OM-1, usually Ilford FP4 but occasionally Pan F. Out of hours, a nature/landscape/travel photographer, shooting kilometres of Kodachrome 64 on a Pentax MX and ME-Super. Around 2000 I stopped shooting film, and aside from family snaps on a phone & compact digital, no real photography at all until late 2016.

A couple of second hand Micro Four Thirds cameras later, adapting old classic lenses, the inevitable happened. Someone kindly gifted me a Pentax Spotmatic to go with my clutch of Russian M42 lenses. A thrift shop rescue for a Minolta SRT101, and a home for my Minolta MD lenses. Shot a few films. First revelation; my eyesight ain’t what it used to be in 1990, and these ground glass SLR screens are (now) very hard to focus on. Focus nailed, occasionally. Lots of squinting.

Rabbit hole time.

A friend kindly gave me a Zorki 4 rangefinder – “… have you tried one of these?“.

In all my film photography meanderings I had never used a rangefinder – old technology, surely! Wow. Not only can I see stuff in the Zorki’s bright viewfinder, it has dioptric adjustment so stuff is in focus while composing, and that obvious yellow patch makes precise focusing a cinch.

I hadn’t shot colour negative film since I was a kid with a Kodak Instamatic. Seemed like the perfect pairing with the novel rangefinder.

So here goes – Zorki 4 rangefinder camera, Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 lens, Porta 400 film. I pushed the Porta 1-2 stops most of the time, but with standard processing. All images taken about 15 minutes down the road from home (Guildford and Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia).

I’m sold. The Zorki 4 is probably the only 35mm film camera I’ll use from here on in. Otherwise I shoot 6×6 120 film on a Pentacon Six TL. My Micro Four Thirds digital mirrorless camera continues to render classically with Russian lenses.

The image of my Zorki 4 was taken with a Google Pixel 2 mobile phone camera, using the portrait algorithm.

I blog infrequently at mikrokosmfotos.art  – and I post often on Instagram @MikrokosmFotos

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  • Reply
    Dale Rogers
    September 22, 2019 at 11:13 am

    What a great post. I bought a Zorki1 a couple of months ago and I love it! For a 70-year-old camera, it produces surprisingly good results. If you are ever down Phillip Island way, give me a buzz. Cheers dale

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 22, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      Thanks Dale. I find that my Zorki 4 is so nice to use that it is encouragement enough on its own to make me shoot 35mm film. Keep enjoying yours!

  • Reply
    September 22, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    trovo l’articolo eccezionale dal punto di vista delle previsioni. penso che se sarà così come pensi Tu, saranno “cazzi amari” per i Costruttori !!!
    un Saluto di ♥️ e tanti Auguri !!
    …………. ciao…………. ..

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 22, 2019 at 1:29 pm

      Sono contento che ti sia piaciuto l’articolo! I migliori auguri e buonanotte 🙂

  • Reply
    September 22, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    I got a Zorki 4K as my introduction to real rangefinders. I still love the beast. I don’t shoot anything but the Jupiter 8 on it, since my other lenses are wide angles not supported by the viewfinder, but it’s a great camera. Plus it was cheap, and they threw in that Soviet Smell free of charge!

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 23, 2019 at 2:44 am

      Ha, yes the smell! Mine isn’t very smelly because it had a full CLA with new lubricants (ie. not the 60 year old lard …)

  • Reply
    September 22, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    Very impressive and beautiful pictures. Thank you for sharing.

    Regards Bernhard

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 23, 2019 at 2:45 am

      Thanks Bernhard. I’ll check out your web page later.

  • Reply
    September 22, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Lovely images! They look very crisp and dreamy at the same time. I love the rendering of the Jupiter on my MFT Panasonic as well, not as much on the Olympus. Don’t know what’s wrong there. What other Russian lenses do you use? I inherited an old beaten Zorki 4 from my grandpa, thinking of sending it away for a proper CLA after seeing your pictures and love for the camera. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 23, 2019 at 2:49 am

      Thank you Anna. I think the film/lens combo worked well here. The Zorki 4 is such a nice camera to use, but I think I’m lucky to have a good one and had it CLA-ed expertly as well. On MFT Lumix my favourite Soviet lens is the Jupiter 9. I do use a Helios 44_2 occasionally, or Industar 50_2. Rarely the Mir 2W. As far as LTM lenses for the Zorki go, not much – two different age variants of the Jupiter 8, and an Industar 50.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    September 22, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    I enjoyed your story. I like it when a old camera is resurrected and it get’s a second life.
    Nice pics. Beautiful countryside.
    I ‘rescued’ a 30 year old Leica M2 20 years ago from a second-hand junk shop. Cost me a few $$$ to get it out of the camera ICU, but it was worth it…I carry it everywhere I go. I know how you feel.

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 23, 2019 at 2:50 am

      Thanks Dan. Sounds like a similar connection!

  • Reply
    September 22, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Very nice shots – the third picture (with the orange leaves) is a masterpiece for me, stunningly beautiful.

    I also like your b/w gear shot of the Zorki, but also a bit frightening what these algorithms on the smartphones can do

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 23, 2019 at 2:52 am

      Hi Matthias. Probably favourite of those 5 shots as well! The Google Pixel 2 phone camera and its algorithms is disturbingly good. You can see the future of photography there, but I’m not comfortable with that eventuality …

  • Reply
    Eric Rose
    September 23, 2019 at 2:45 am

    I had a Zorki 4, great fun to shoot. I hadn’t used RF cameras in years but it brought back all the fun. I had the same problem with focusing older film SLR’s as you do. Got so excited about it I went out and bought a Leica M3. Then an M4 and finally an M5. Gave away the M3 because it was a PITA to load with these old hands. The Zorki was a gateway drug lol.

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 23, 2019 at 2:56 am

      I have an inkling that a Bessa-R might turn up in the post one day 🙂 – but for now I’m enjoying the Zorki enough to keep going with it for a while yet.

      • Reply
        Eric Rose
        September 23, 2019 at 3:31 pm

        I had a Bessa R as well. It was the temporary bridge between the Zorki and the Leica’s. Great camera with an awesome viewfinder and meter. The downside are the gears are plastic. Mine stripped which rendered it useless at a very inconvenient time. Hence the jump to Leica. If he Bessa’s were made better I would have stuck with them. I do however still use a VC Color-Skopar 35mm lens on my Leica’s. Great lens.

  • Reply
    Thomas Sheppard
    September 23, 2019 at 5:53 am

    Great Camera and lens combination Laurie.
    We have friends in Castlemaine and house sat for them a little while back. Absolutely loved the area.
    Your images are splendid, and a credit to the photographer as well as the lens and camera.

    • Reply
      Lawrie Conole
      September 23, 2019 at 10:02 am

      Thanks Thomas. We like it around here! That scene in image 5 is near Guildford, and I photograph it from different angles in different lights almost weekly. It’s as close to a project as I have at the moment.

  • Reply
    Mihnea Stoian
    September 23, 2019 at 5:03 pm

    Fun read – I literally just got my photos back after shooting a roll of Portra400 on my Zorki4 with the 35/2.8! It’s a nice combo that I like for the street, as it’s super discreet with that tiny 35 on it.

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