Special Feature: Zenit 3m


Zenit 3m with Helios 44 58mm f2


Zenit 3m with Industar 50mm f3.5


Camera type: Single Lens Reflex

Lens Type: Standard fitment is either Industar 50mm f3.5 or Helios Type44 - 58mm f2

Shutter Type: Focal Plane Vertical Blind  Shutter 

Speeds from 1/30th to 1/500th sec. + B




First produced in 1963 the Zenit 3m* was the first Zenit produced for a market outside of the communist eastern block. The Zenit 3m was an SLR derivative of the FED Rangefinder, which, in turn, was a direct copy of the early Leica but without the engineering finesse. The fundamental chassis design of the Zenit 3m was a FED rangefinder with the centre housing enlarged to accommodate a mirror and prism but with the lower speed range omitted and a lever wind added. Although the engineering was crude in comparison with Leica it was none the less robust with many examples still in good mechanical order. The weakness with these being the curtain fabric which was prone to stretching, perforation and tearing. So if you're looking to buy one check the curtains very carefully for damage and fire the shutter a couple of times at 1/30th to check that they run square, it's not uncommon for the curtains to drag on one edge. As standard it was supplied with the Industar 50mm lens, but for a few pounds extra came with the Helios 44 58mm lens. This has been heralded by many as the Russian's secret weapon of the cold war, the original Helios 44 was and indeed still is one of the best lenses ever produced. I still use one on an adapter with my Pentax digital SLR, as a prime lens with an effective focal length of 85mm, and get amazing results. The Zenit 3m is not an easy camera to work with and definitely not for the weak or inexperienced. It weighs a ton, or at least that's what it feels like after 3 hours round your neck, and it is entirely manual, including the stop down. There is no mechanical auto stop down so you set the f stop on the front ring and the ring immediately behind allows you to open the aperture for focusing then you have to remember to close it down again before you shoot. Talking of focusing, the viewfinder has only a matte ground glass type screen with no focusing aids but with practice can provide exceptionally sharp pictures and is especially good for close focusing. Exposure is manual with no built in meter so you will need a separate light meter. Winding is relatively heavy and it is recommended to wind on before you set the shutter speed just as you would with the FED. The lens thread is also unusual at 39mm which limits the availability of alternative lenses to the small handful produced specifically for the Zenit 3m, rangefinder lenses, although the correct thread, are no good because of the different rear length. Oh and if you're still interested the mirror is non return so it blacks out when you fire the shutter and is reset when you wind on. On paper then this doesn't sound like a very desirable camera but wait until you see the results. This is where all that hard work pays off, providing you have set everything right and you have a good film in there you will see some of the best shots you've ever taken, particularly if you have the Helios lens. Just take a look at the ducks, yes I know but I can't help myself, in the centre is a crop from the original (left) which gives an indication of how large you can take the images if you have a high resolution scan or enlarger.

*Originally produced as Zenit 3, without self timer but not many were produced.



Zenit 3m with Industar 50mm


Zenit 3m with Helios44


Zenit 3m with Helios44 (Original)



Zenit 3m with Helios44 (Crop)


Zenit 3m with Industar 50mm



As a footnote to this special camera, I now have 4 examples of the Zenit 3m, including one which came with a Jupiter 85mm f2 lens, a huge beast. Sadly this lens is damaged and in need of major repair. 

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