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.