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Zenit 3m

 

The technical stuff:

Type: Single Lens Reflex (Non return Mirror)

Lens: Helios 44 58mm f2/Industar 45mm f2.8/Jupiter 9 85mm f2

Shutter: Focal Plane Cloth Blind 1/30 - 1/500

 

 

As I have 4 Zenit 3's I've decided to rationalise and put 3 of them together on one page, the forth unit is the same as camera 2 and has not yet been used.

Camera 1 (Top)

It's not every day that you come across an original early model Zenit with the aluminum Helios 44 lens (top picture), it was an optional extra on the early models. This is a 39mm thread mount as opposed to the later 42mm. When I saw it come up on ebay I said "I've got to have that" and I did. Overall it is in superb condition, the lens needed some tlc, but the body and mechanics are spot on. If it has a down side it's the 39mm thread which limits the lens availability but the big Helios makes up for it.

A sunny May day seemed the the perfect occasion to re-acquaint myself with an old friend. My first SLR was a Zenit but, sadly, the shutter blind split and it was disposed of. It also had the big Helios and I have always held this in high regard. I still have my original Zenit strap and it feels great to have it back in service. So with pride I headed up to Stratford for the afternoon to enjoy some relaxing time on the riverbank and wandering around the town and I came back with some stunning pictures.

 

Camera 2 (Left)

I know I already have a 3M but I couldn't resist this one. It was in a rather dilapidated state and looked at me with it's little sad eye and I fell for it. Once home in a loving and caring environment I cleaned and polished it back to it's former glory. These 3m's with the all aluminium Industar lens are quite unusual and with a serial number of only 51104 made it very early in the series.

As for performance this was much as I had expected. It is a bit clumsy to use because it is a purely manual lens which doesn't have the advantage of a pre set aperture ring as on the Helios. So you either have to focus in poor light or you have to remember to reset the aperture after focusing. Having said, once you've got used to the system the results are very good. The small Industar lens produces pretty sharp images if it's focused right. Probably the biggest drawback with these early Zenits is the non return mirror so you have to wind the film before you can line up the next shot. Apart from this minor irritation I love these old 3's, they're solid and reliable and you very rarely have camera shake problems because the weight gives them stability. It's rather like using an old focal plane rangefinder but with through the lens focusing.

 

Camera 3 (Right)

Yes this is no 4 but I have a weakness for the 3M and this one intrigued me. It was fitted with a huge f2 Jupiter 9 lens normally only fitted as "standard" to the Zenit C, the predecessor to the "3". What intrigued me was the fact that it was with an antique brown leather case which appeared to be custom made to fit the big lens. I've since tried to fit it into a Helios 44 case and the bump is too small. So this is either a Zenit C case and lens and the body has been changed or it is a bespoke 3m. All the references I have seen so far show the 3m with either Industar or Helios lens so I think the former might well be the case. The camera body is however in a very poor state so it might become a victim for customization.

In performance there seems to be a problem with the big lens. Focus is difficult to achieve and it is not possible to adjust the focus ring to infinity at f16, the 2 rings are binding. This would suggest that the lens has been repaired at some time but not reassembled correctly which could account for the focusing issues. This lens is legendary for it's performance rated by many as third in line behind Leica's Summarit and Zeiss' Sonnar so I figure there is a real problem here. The top 3 pictures shows that the long range is poor but the middle to close range is far better. The glass itself is in excellent condition with only a few minor scratches on the front element. However, on the day, I had with me the Industar lens from model 3 which is in superb condition so I swapped the lens over and used this for most of the test. For a relatively diminutive lens this little f2.8 has turned in some superb shots. As for the rest of the camera it has now been customized and I'm working on the lens.

 

 

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