Zenit 3M

The user zM39 camera.

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A lot of people don´t know that the first of the Zenit SLR cameras were M39 (sometimes called zM39 or zenit M39). M39 cameras take M39 lenses and this is NOT not the same as L39 (Leica screwmount) L39 is ment for Rangefinders. However they do fit and this causes quite a bit of confusion. There is a L39 Jupiter 8 but there is also a M39 Jupiter 8. You can see where this is heading. However it is easily spotted which is which since the SLR has a different focussing plane so if you mount a L39 lens it just won't focus. Funny enough this difference makes L39 lenses great for macrowork on a M39 SLR. The lens in the two upper left photos is an Industar-50 the standard 3.5 50mm lens. On the photos left the 3M is equipped with a Jupiter-11 M39 4-135 mm lens from 1972, an excellent lens for a great price.

A bit of history, Designer, N. Marienkov, production 781.678 cameras. Produced by KMZ from 1962 until 1970. This camera was the succesor to the ill fated Kristall. But lets look back a little. The first Zenit SLR's were bottomloaders (like the Zorki 1). This all changed with the Kristall which got a hinged back like all modern camera we know. Unfortunatly nobody liked the design of the Kristall which had hammered paint and ridges on the top of prism. Some people called it tractorlike. So Kristall stayed only in production for a year and then was replaced by the Zenit-3M. Now there was allready a Zenit-3. So there is some discussion on the M in Zenit-3M. Some say it stands for ¨modernized¨ others say it stands for it's designer Marienkov. At the moment I favour the first since in the old Soviet Union it was very rare to have a product named after its designer. And comparing it to the Zenit-3, it is more modern. Hinged back instead of the bottomloader. It is smaller, a LOT smaller than the 3. But its specs are identical.

  • Shutter: B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/250 (cloth, horizontal)
  • Flash: switchable X/F sync, hot shoe, sync at 1/30
  • Metering: none (this means use handheld meter)
  • Viewfinder, clear with 70 to 75 percent fov
  • Battery: none
  • Screwmount: M39 (This is NOT the same as L39)
  • No instant return mirror
  • Self timer
What do I think of it?

Oddly enough this camera reminded me of my fathers Exakta Varex. Because this camera does not have an instant return mirror. This is the only drawback of the Zenit-3M you have to cock the shutter to look through the lens. For the rest it is the predecessor to the Zenit-E we all know and love or hate. It is interesting to note that there are some variations to the Zenit-3M.
  • On top of the prism, the Battleship Potemkin with a rocket 50 Years of Soviet Victories
  • A silver Helios-44 2/58mm instead of the industar 50
  • A black Helios-44 2/58mm instead of the industar 50
  • Cyrillic version
  • Latin Version
  • Revue 3M
  • Just marked Zenit in latin
There were NO all black versions of the 3M, this is a well known fake. Which doesn't really matter since it looks very nice. Personally I find the 3M one of the great SLR's from the golden age of photography. A nononsense no frills camera. It just takes pictures and one has to love the design.

Here are some shots made with this 3M camera. No stripes, no lightleaks and the speeds seem to be okay. No adjustment was made on this camera. I only cleaned it and repainted some of it. In these photos I used both the lenses and I used a Jupiter 9 lens (L39) as a macrolens. For the full details on these shots read my Portfolio page.

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