Zenit 122

The 12's new clothes

Zenit-122, the successor to the Zenit-12 series. Though it is almost exactly the same on the inside as the Zenit-12xps. There is not much to tell about the 122, it has the same speeds as the 11 and the 12, so it has B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/1250, 1/500. And it is just a 12 in a new plastic overcoat. You do not have to lift the speeddail to change speeds, it just rotates. It can take, auto lenses in M42 or the older ones. Plus that the 122 has a new groundglass, it now has splitscreen focussing. The remake is nice, you either love it or hate it. I didn't like it at first but it grows on you. In fact there is nothing not to like on the Zenit-122 IMHO.


As seen in this shot, the 122 has got a more ergonomic body. The selftimer is now located inside the new ergonomic handgrippy thingy. It is no longer a lever but a windup wheel with two colors in a little window on the front. It is also more easily repaired the topcover comes of more easily than on all previous versions. The lightmeter is almost identical to the Zenit-12, with as only difference 3 led instead of two on some models. Its got a hotshoe aswell and syncs to the usual 1/30. Just like the E-type, the 11 and the 12.

Zenit-122 variations, (in no specific order whatsoever)
  • 2 led design lightmeter (Zenit 12 style) early 122 versions usually with the 2 led design 1/30 on the speeddail is marked in red.
  • 3 led design lightmeter (red green red) usually with the 3 led design 1/30 on the speeddail is marked in green.
  • Zenit in cyrillic on the sides and in latin laid in with white on top of the prism (1990 only?).
  • later versions just have Zenit laid in with white on top of the prism (all 3 led versions?)
  • A grey version (commerative KMZ) Uncommon maybe rare
  • reset filmcounter with a button in front of the shutterbutton
  • later version has a self resetting filmcounter.
  • looking from the front right from the lens is a square hole in the body later versions don't have it. (seen in the shot above)
  • Snaiper version (122 S) with bottom shutter (all with 3 led meter)
  • without selftimer (122 B)
  • a K-mount version (122 K)

Personally I didn't want to like the 122, but I did, it is lighter then my Zenit-12xp, works very well and allthough I still like my 12xp a bit better because it is all metal but the 122 is a very durable SLR. And most important maintains the quality set with the 12 series. But in all honesty inside it still is an E-type upgraded to TTL that just got a more slick looking body.

Fun part is that you can still buy the Zenit-122 NEW in the box from KMZ and its many dealers. You can buy a 122 with either a Zenitar lens or a Helios for under 100 dollars, sometimes even cheaper. Now that is very cheap to start out in manual photography.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, I would. The Zenit-122 is a good, though basic, manual SLR camera. It takes every M42 lens around, has a good lightmeter, its Helios lens takes 52 mm filters. Well... try it out.

Copyright Tom A.H. Piel

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