Zenit Historical Time Line

or Time for Timeline?

KMZ History

KMZ, Krasnogorski Mechanicheskii Zavod or the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Factory, the builders of Zorki Rangefinders and Zenit Single Reflex cameras.
KMZ as we like to call it, since it is a lot shorter and easier, began its live in februari 1942 during the Second World War. The Russians call it the The Great Patriottic War. It all began at a small factory in the suburbs of Moskow. During the war they manufactured optical equipment. They even built the FS-2 here, production of the FS-2 was moved from sieged Leningrad, formerly and now once again known as St. Petersburg. KMZ started to build the Leica II copy with the big lens. How long they built the FS-2 is not really known, they seem to have built about 500 during 1943 to 1945 allthough some say 1947. After the War the Red Army returned but taking with them a lot of equipment from the Germans, scientists (see Operation Paperclip) but also complete factories. Some of them went to Kharkov, to Arsenal as replacement for their destroyed factories during the beginning of the War (see Operation Barbarossa). Others ended up in Bersk, Sverdlovsk and Krasnagorsk. How the Russian variant of Operation Paperclip went isn't exactly known, the answer to this lies in the Great Archive in Moskow. To which I have no acces, but pherhaps it will become known with time.

However, in 1946 KMZ was upgraded with Zeiss technology and other knowhow. At this time there was great enthousiasm to get started. And they did, one of the first cameras made here was the Moskow 1 and 2, copies of the Zeiss Super Ikonta. With the help of the FED factory the first FED Zorki was made in 1948. Only a year later in 1949 the very first Zorki appeared. The Zorki 1(a). KMZ also produced, and still does, its own lenses. In fact the Zenitar range is pretty good.

The Zorki Rangefinderline continued up to 1978 and allthough I don't want to go in to the entire line a few of them stand out. The Zorki 3M, one of the most beautifull rangefinders ever made. The Zorki 4, built to last. The Zorki 4K, one of the best user cameras. And lets not forget the Zorki 6, a real streat shooter.

But in 1951 Zenit appeared, one of the first SLR's in the world and with it came a whole new era for KMZ. Not going into the entire line of SLR's I do want to name a few. Offcourse there is the Zenit-E, the most produced SLR in the world, but how about the Zenit-12xp, now that is a workhorse. Or the Zenit-19 a great camera with an exceptional modular inner build. The PhotoSnaiper, who can forget that kind of camera.

But to say that KMZ only built cameras would be wrong. They don't. KMZ does more, much more. They make their own lenses, cast metal (the E-type was cast aluminum) and build their own presicion micro mechanisms. Example? In 1997 I was vistiting the Paris Airshow and came across this...

Havoc Havoc

A MIL-28 "Havoc" and, allthough I wasn't really into Zenit then, I saw the KMZ sign on the sightsystem beneath the nose. Look at the second photo, a closeup on the target sights, can't get no better proof than this. The entire optical system for this combat helicopter was made by KMZ! And not only for MIL but also for Kamov and several others. KMZ has, offcourse, also a very long military history. There were several military camera versions. Zorkis made for persiscopes, FS sets used by the Russian Border guard, ect, ect, ect.

This is version 2 of this article and will probably see more upgrades. in the future.

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Global Timeline, please note that I left out the Zenit 11, 4, 5 and 6 that were made during 1964 through 1968 Which were Zenit-Bayonet cameras Also the Zenit-7, and the prototypes. FS stands for FotoSnaiper which was a modified Zenit, it had a extra shutter on the bottom of the camera.

  • 1951-1952 Zenit Preseries
  • 1953-1956 Zenit
  • 1955-1961 Zenit-C
  • 1960-1962 Zenit-3
  • 1961-1962 Kristal
  • 1962-1970 Zenit-3M
  • 1965-1968 Zenit-E (early version)
  • 1968-1969 Zenit-B (early version)
M42 & K-mount
  • 1965-1970 FS-3 "Grey Snaiper"
  • 1967-1982 Zenit-E (KMZ) 1973-1986 (Belomo)
  • 1968-1973 Zenit-B
  • 1970-1982 FS-3 "Black Snaiper"
  • 1972-1973 Zenit-BM
  • 1972-1984 Zenit-EM
  • 1977-1985 Zenit-TTL

    A break with the E chassis (M42)

  • 1977-1978 Zenit-T1 (Exceptional modular design)
  • 1979-1987 Zenit-19 (Exceptional modular design)
  • 1980-1987 Zenit-18 (Exceptional modular design)

    E-chassis based cameras (M42) and K-Mount Please note that all K-mount cameras with an exception of the Zenit-122K are NOT based on the E chassis. The Automat is the first in the Automat series, which consists of the Auto, Automat, AM, AM2, AM3 and APK.

  • 1981-1982 Zenit-ET KMZ (E based chassis)
  • 1984-1996? Zenit-ET Belomo (E based chassis)
  • 1981-1990 Zenit-11 (E based chassis)
  • 1982-1989 Zenit-12 (entire series E based chassis)
  • 1982-1989 FS-12 (Series 1 and 2 with the 12s and 12xps/sds E based chassis)
  • 1984-1991 Zenit-Automat (K-mount)
  • 1988-1992 Zenit-AM (K-mount)
  • 1989-1992 FS-12-3 (Series 3 with 12xps/sds halfmetal E based chassis)
  • 1990-200? Zenit-122 (E based chassis)
  • 1990-1994 Zenit-AM2 (K-mount)
  • 1992-2002? FS-122 (E based chassis)
  • 1992-2003 Zenit-APK (K-mount)
  • 1994-1994 Zenit-AM3 (K-mount only 13 made)
  • 1994-2003 Zenit-212K (K-mount)
  • 1999-2003 Zenit-312 (E based chassis)
  • 2000-2005 Zenit-412DX (E based chassis)
  • 2001-200? Zenit-KM (K-mount)
  • 2001-200? Zenit-412LS (E based chassis)
  • 2003-200? FS-412LS (E based chassis)
  • 2004-200? Zenit-KM Plus (K-mount)
  • 2005-200? Zenit-KM2 (K-mount)
So to put them together.... Zenit, Zenit-C, Zenit-3, Kristal, Zenit-3M, Zenit-E, Zenit-B
and here the split occurs, Zenit-E, Zenit-EM, Zenit-10 and the line ends with Zenit-11 and the ET.

The Zenit-B however became, Zenit-BM, Zenit-TTL, Zenit-12, Zenit-12XP (SD), Zenit-122, Zenit-312 and finally Zenit-412DX/LS.

Zenit-122 had a brother, the Zenit-122K which became later the Zenit-212K. Which is only partlily a break with the E chassis. It looks more like a Hybrid 122/19, a Zenit-122 with slow speeds.

The APK is an AM2 but with the aperture program and a full manual setting.

The KM is an extension of the Automat but fully redesigned. It uses normal AA batteries, redesigned electronics (same features as the APK), motorized filmtransport and a whole new body. Since the KM suffered from problems the KM-Plus appeared. The KM2 is a KM-Plus with built in flash.

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Zenit Variations

  • Zenit Preseries, Square logo
  • Zenit-C Latin and Cyrillic versions
  • Kristal Light Grey version
  • Zenit-3M, Revueflex version, Latin and Cyrillic versions Special commerative version, 50 years of Soviet Victories (1967)
  • Zenit-E, Black version, Olympic version, Latin and Cyrillic versions Also sold under different names, Kalimar SR200 and SR300, Revueflex-E, Phokina, Phokina XE, Prinzflex and Spiraflex. Also a no name version.
  • Zenit-EM, Olympic version, Revueflex, Cosmorex, with or without straplugs
  • Zenit-TTL, Cambron version, Olympic version
  • Zenit-19, difference in groundglass, flashsync at 1/60 or 1/125, Latin version, models with or without straplugs
  • Zenit-12xp, yellow paint version, subversions by Belomo Zenit-12PRO and Zenit-130
  • Zenit-122, Titanium grey version with gold text (commerative version of KMZ)
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I would like to thank,

Jean Loup Princelle for his fantastic book "The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras ". Also referred to as " The Soviet Camera Collectors Bibel ".

"Russian and Soviet Cameras (1840-1991)" a catologue by Yuri Ryshkov.

Isaak S. Maizenberg "All You Need to Know About Design and Repair of Russian Cameras, A Collector's and Repairman's Handbook"

Allthough Maizenberg does not mention the E-type he does covers the Zenit Krystall and the Zenit 3M. Which were the E-types predecessors.
This book is a MUST for everyone who wants to repair their Russian cameras. It covers the first SLR's, rangefinders and has full info on calibration of rangefinders and lenses.
Unfortunatly it is a rare and hard book to find.

Without them this article would not be here.

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