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The Kiev 4AM Range Finder

Kiev seems to have dabbled at most types of cameras over the years from the early Rangefinders to the SLRs in both 135 and 120 and these days seem to be more famous for the bigger Kiev 60 and 88 than the small earlier rangefinders.

Part of this is due to the fact that these cameras are known as being mechanically incomplete in many cases and generally in poor quality as they age. I guess this is why they are cheap and you will find many of the Kiev 4 range available for US$ 40 or less these days on eBay.

My first Kiev was in fact one of the rangefinders and not the MF 60 or 88 and it was the build quality of my particular RF (and of course price) that made me seek out the larger beasts for which Kiev are now more famous.

I am sure the story of how after the II World War finished, Kiev cameras took tooling and parts from Contax in Dresden, Germany and started to make their own copies of the Contax II and then III in the Ukraine is well know and for this reason the look of the RF cameras is identical, including the lens mount.

Over the years the earliest Kiev RF became the 2, then 3, then 4, 4A and 4AM and finally a 5th edition was also built with an inbuilt selenium meter.

Like the Contax, this is an extremely wide base RF – but as you can see from the above picture – this requires that the left hand is held out of the way of the RF window when using the focus/shutter. To me this is a very small price to pay for a camera that allows extremely sharp focusing because the full width of the camera is used for the RF.

The below photo is of Jardine House and I am adding this to show how sharp this camera focus is on the Helios 103 53/1.8 lens and a Fuji Acros Neopan 100 film with no manipulation. The camera can look unusually sharp to the point where pictures like this can look like they have been created rather than taken.

The shutter for all the Kiev Range Finders is the corrugated metal shutter design of the Contax – that may not be the quietest shutter as it sounds louder than the Kiev 88, but unlike the cloth curtains of many other brands, it will never pin hole from looking at the sun.

As the lens mount is a copy of Contax RF mounts, the Kiev can use the wide range of Ukrainian lenses as well as all the Contax and Nikon RF lenses too – making it a very cheap and versatile body.

So, why am I not using it every day any more? Simply because the RF I do carry in my bag each day has an inbuilt meter and so I don’t have to carry an additional meter with me.

This camera still gets a walk around from time to time though and remains the reason why I find myself with a RF in my bag more often than an SLR.

Posted by simon on May 26, 2011
6 Comments Post a comment
  1. 05/26/2011
    Darko Bojanic

    Really a nice review which made me order one from grixxly33bear on ebay. I will pay 80 bucks for it but it is aprox with shipping 650 kronas for a camera. It is cheap. I have heard so many good things about the Helios lens that I really would love to try it out.

    • 05/26/2011

      hopefully you will get a good one from this seller and generally if you have problems they will take it back. There is an 85mm lens that is f2 for this camera too making it perfect for head shots too – i’m looking our for one of these

  2. 09/27/2011

    I have also got a Kiev 4. In fact this is the reason I have found your blog, which I am reading a lot since than. I have my camera with the original box and documents from 1965 and looks like new. I have a Jupiter 8M lens, which supposed to be good as well. I am looking forward the first roll of film developed.
    Anyway, I really like your blog! It is good to see that there are other people out there with similar obsession.

    • 09/28/2011

      Glad you like the blog and hope the Kiev works wonders for you.
      Some sites will tell you the Jupiter 8M and the Helios 103 are the same design and some will tell you they are different with the Helios based on the Zeiss Biotar lens and the Jupiter on the Zeiss Sonnar. What they will all tell you is that the lens like all old Russian cameras vary a massive amount and if you have a good one then it will be brighter and sharper than you could ever imagine.
      If only the Kiev had a working light meter as then it would be in my bag on a daily basis instead of my Voigtlander.

  3. 09/29/2011

    Thank you for your reply.

    I am shooting the very first roll with the KIEV right now. It will result a wide variety of images since I am traveling right now. Few days in Spain than back to Hungary. I am eager to see the outcome, and I am testing the lightmeter too. It seems working, but I read everywhere that this kind of selenium meters are tend to unreliable. Plus the meter works in gosts instead of ISO or DIN, but this should be a big issue. If the meter works good, I will let you know. If it does not work well, than I would prefer the version without the meter, because that is smaller. I am using a digital camera to meter, but this is very inconvenient therefore sometimes I use my guess only.

    I am using now Fuji superia film, but wondering about the difference of professional films like Kodak ektar. I read a couple of posts of you according to films, but this is still not clear for me how big is the difference.
    Anyway if the camera works good, I will give ektar a try.

    • 09/29/2011

      good luck with the meter. I always tend to use a separate meter as these meters on old cameras stop working over time too.

      cheers, simon


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