To some this camera is considered to be the most Sexy Zenit ever to come out of KMZ.
There is some debat over this point so don't bother me with it. I find it to
be one of the best Zenits around. But beware. It is not a manual camera.
You can't set your shutter speed. This Zenit is a semi-auto camera with an
aperture priority program. You set the aperture and the camera chooses the speed.
So no luck for the purists.
But is that really so bad?
You focus, set the aperture you want and you are off. But what if you want to over- and underexpose film? I can just hear you say that.
Well.... there is a very easy solution, on the left dail (shown in the left shot) is a scale to over- or underexpose you film, two stops up and two stops down. Good ain't it? It's even got a DOF button. The design is the same as the trend set by the Zenit-12 (late version). An abs plastic body with a metal inner casing. Stylish yet sturdy. Mine came with the seductive blue on black ever ready case. It even has the CCCP mark of Quality, which is not often seen (right shot). The AM2 came with a ever ready pouch. But not the blue one (which is common) but a more uncommon black one (no pocket on the front)
And here they are....
From left through right, starting at the top, The Automat, AM and the AM2, a closeup of the Automat in its ever ready case (with the blue lining like the Zenit-11 and Zenit-12xp/sd), two shots of the AM courtesy of Juhani Halmeenmaki (shots of the AM shown here with permission of Juhani Halmeenmaki) and three shots of the AM2. The AM shots show that the AM is closest to the original Automat. In fact it is the Automat but without the viewfinders eyeshield. The middle shot on the bottomrow shows the ever ready pouch of the AM2, a pentax lens box, a convertor ring and the external battery pack. The last shot is a very powerfull fully automatic combo. An AM2 with a Rubinar 8/500mm Mirror lens. Since the lens is locked at fstop 8 the whole combo is automatic. The only thing the AM2 does is vary the speed.
An overview of the Automat seriesThe differences in the Automat Series, please note that I have not mentioned the AM3 here (only 13 made). Also the AN, AP and APK are missing from this list. Both the AN and AP were not made in big quantities (like the AM3) and I have too little info on the APK (about 6500 made) to include it in this list. All of these came in K-mount. There are some odd things, Princelle mentions a much higher number of produced autos and automats, all numbers here came from KMZ. As said there is a Zenit-Auto and a Zenit-Automat. The Zenit-Auto has Russian electronics, the Zenit-Automat has Motorola electronics (supplied by France). Some Automats ment for export bare the CCCP mark of excellence. The Automat has a 2 led metering system with no warning of slow speeds, the AM line has a 3 led metering system with a low speed warning (the green led for correct exposure starts to blink with slow speeds). A warning, the Automat has two pc connectors on the right side of the mount. The upper one is for the flash and the bottom one is for an electrical remote shutter release. BUT... in the AM, AM2 and AM3 the electrical shutter release is gone and the bottom pc connector is now a connector for an externa battery pack. If you connect the remote shutter release from an Automat to an AM you WILL short circuit the camera. Don't say I didn't warn you....
Another thing is the battery compartment, it is on the front, behind a small door opened by an even smaller button. Very nice touch. The Automat series takes four 625 batteries of 1.5 volts or one varta V4034VX 6 volts battery. Both the AM and AM2 have a metal fan shutter which replaced the clotshutter of the orginal Automat. Some say that this shutter is either from Nikon or a Nikon based clone shutter. I have no idea, I can't prove it. But it works perfectly.
How does it handle?Exceptionally well! Allthough the automat series do not have a manual setting for speed the aperture priority program makes things very easy. KMZ learned from the Zenit-18 experiment. Where the 18 didn't have a depht of field preview button and you had to have to stop down lenses to make them useable with the camera the Automat is more advanced. It has a DOF button, it has Pentax K-mount. You can over- or under expose. The lightmeter is as accurate as in the "Mighty" Zenit-19. This is the easiest of Zenit-SLR's I've ever seen. And I'm not just talking about the Automat but the whole of the Automat series, there are only minor differences between them. For fun I've tried out an insane combo, an AM2 coupled to a Rubinar 8/500 mm mirror lens. This combo degrades the camera to fully auto. But it is a great combo to use. This camera is a handy and fast shooter. Big viewfinder, good meter. Allthough I'm usually against programs I'm willing to make an exception for the Automat series. It might not be fully manual but its level of creative control is enough for most users.
Conclusion? If you get the chance to get one.... GET IT. You can use an enormous amount of K-mount lenses and as a bonus you can use your old M42 lenses with a convertor ring. Treat yourself to the funside of photography, get a Zenit.
Copyright © Tom A.H. Piel
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