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My Russian Camera Experience
In the late fall a couple years ago I was introduced to the allure of some of the cameras of the former Soviet Union. One specific camera that struck a cord with me was the enigmatic Kiev. Upon receiving my first Kiev it was only a short period of time before I was taking it apart to try and understand how it works and how to better the performance.

A History
Other than repeating the rather interesting history of the Kiev I will direct you to the Related Links section that will point to some other people's interesting sites to fill in the historic and technical aspects of the Kiev camera and Arsenal.


Curious oddly wrapped package (c.2003)                                      Kiev 3, Junk or Project? (c.1957)

The Beginning of the Madness
A suspicious package arrives on your doorstep, something like illustrated here. You took a leap of faith and either bought a Kiev camera outright or won it on auction. You were probably not in your right mind at the time.

You unwrap it with great anticipation. Thoughts keep going through your mind over and over, "Did I get taken? Have I bought a pile of junk?" You find something like the example on the right. A sort of well worn, probably dirty with decades of accumulated grime, but obviously well loved Kiev. You were probably expecting something closer to perfection but hey, this thing has lived its full useful life and has been cast off and now it is looking for another lease on life. You decide to take matters into your own hands and try to revive this specimen back to its former glory.

If you are somewhat adept, have a certain amount of patience and some rudimentary jewelers or hobby tools handy you have come to the right place, the Kiev Survival Site.

My Philosophy
The way I figure it owning a Kiev rangefinder camera is a bit like owning an old Volkswagen Beetle. At some point you are going to have the hood open and you will be in there with your wrenches. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just a fact of life. In fact, you probably desire it that way.

There is nothing within our power to prevent us from taking the rough discarded Kiev and with some intuition and tools, make something that is worthy of acclaim. Within these web pages I will show you the results of my discoveries. I do not profess to be a learned expert on the workings of the Kiev camera, I'm just working my way through these things. I will show how I approached the problems towards some solutions to put your Kiev back in as close to practical order.

Note: most of these pages have many images, it may take some time to download the complete document. Be patient, it will be worth it.

Kiev 3, with Jupiter-8 lens, Zeiss Yellow Filter and Walz Lens Hood (c.1956)

The Projects
Now you could pay top dollar and get a nearly perfect Kiev, as I did with the above Kiev 3. But even this nearly perfect camera begged to have "the hood open" due to circumstance. It wasn't more than my 6th roll of film before it succumbed to the age old weak link of the Contax/Kiev shutter, a broken shutter ribbon. This series of events forced me to become more acquainted with the inner workings. I first had to solve the broken shutter ribbon problem, thanks to Rick Oleson's web page he had the information I was looking for. But then I started to ask, "Can I tweak something since I have the back open? How can I fine tune or influence the shutter speed to be closer to perfect?" This first "project" taught me shutter ribbons and the basic shutter mechanism and how you can make basic adjustments.

A $7 Kiev 4A
Some projects just start out as being "junk". For some reason probably due to stubbornness this $7 dollar camera, which should have stayed as spare parts, took me well into the depths of the shutter mechanism further than I ever wanted to go. It forced me to truly understand how it all works. For $7 bucks I learned an awful lot and I got a perfectly working, consistent camera in the end.

Kiev 4A, with Jupiter-9 lens and Walz Variable Auxiliary Viewfinder (c.1976)