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The Turning Turret – 38 years Apart

Just over a year ago I was lucky enough to find a working Horizont by KMZ in a second hand shop in Hong Kong whilst I was trawling for anything old and unusual.

My particular camera is from 1971 and apart from the light banding that can happen at the right of the frame (from a stutter in the shutter) it takes amazing 120 degree images from speeds of   1/30s, 1/60s and 1/125s , with an un-calibrated and unmarked 1/250s also if you turn the setting disk another notch.

Some 49,849 were made by KMZ from 1967 with a panning 28mm f2.8 lens that takes 24×58mm frames on 35mm film – and in 1973 the stopped making them for 20 years.

Although I can’t find a good story behind why they started to make them again – they did and the Horizon 202 in Black and Bakelite; that later became the Perfekt and Kompact (now made by Zenit) was born.

The big differences between the Horizont and the new version is best seen on the better of the two models (Black 202 and Perfekt) as this not only has the centrally and permanently mounted view finder and spirt level – but it also has so much more choice on speed from 1/2 up to 1/500 and the aperture of 2.8 to 16 – which allows for far more choice of shooting condition that the Horizont ever did.

As the Russian never understood selling into the West, they gave the rights for the 202 to Manfrotto (the tripod people) in Italy who passed it on at some point to it’s current home in Lomography where it has been rebranded as the Perfekt and simpler Kompact.

You will find that if you buy a Perfekt today from Lomography (instead of getting a second hand 202 or similar on ebay at a seriously reduced price) that they still come in a Zenit sealed box and will probably be a few years old.

Mine is actually from 2009 (38 years younger than it’s sister) – so it has only sat around for two years and like any of these machines it requires a little warming up by cocking and fireing an unloaded camera until the shutter sounds as if it is moving evenly. You are probably going to want to do this between 10 and 20 times before you load it no matter what age machine you have. Both of the Horizont and Perfeckt will band occasionally no matter what you do – although the position of the band on the KMZ model seems to be more consistent than the Perfekt.

The new cameras are also made of a plastic exterior (very hard wearing plastic) as opposed to my fully metal Horizont and as most of the weight of the camera is inside the shell it weighs about the same.

So that is enough of a history lesson (and I didn’t even mention the Widelux) and here is a little about the old and new KMZ/Zenit.

The biggest difference is a bit like having a classic car and a new car. The classic won’t always start in the morning and probably only has three gears to choose from; whereas the new one will start and has half a dozen gears.

The classic looks old and clunky in a old Russian way and the new is a little NASA in appearance.

The new Perfekt is about reliability and consistency and a breadth of choice not available on the Horizont – and this is why I find I have both.

If I was starting again would I skip the Horizont and just get a Perfekt or Black 202? Probably not.

Now that I have the Perfekt, will I use the Horizont as regularly as before? Probably not.

What the Horizont does for me is make a statement about the desire of the Russian camera builders to carve out a niche of their own in the 70’s and move away from their reputation as poor copyists.

They were one of only two makers who pushed technology into the moving turret panorama cameras (Widelux made a 120 and 135 version of their camera at considerably higher cost) and are the only maker of this style of camera today.

Don’t let Lomograophy’s stable of terrible cameras put you off getting a Perfekt because amoungst the sharp plastic and tin cameras that they are famous for are a couple of Russias gems and the Perfekt remains as one of these.

The above two were taken using Kodak 400VC and Sunny 16 for exposure estimates and the below images were at night outside and inside our flat, using a tripod and a seconic meter for correct exposure on Tri-X 400.

Posted by simon on June 10, 2011

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