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Zenit-E to NYC

Discussion in 'Help Team' started by Beaconjon, Dec 3, 2015.

  1. Beaconjon

    Beaconjon Well-Known Member

    So I'm lucky enough to be of to NYC soon and in the absence of a decent digital SLR I thought I'd dig out my dads old Zenit-E for an altogether different experience.

    Thing is, it's really dusty on the outside from sitting around unused. What would people recommend for cleaning it up? Some isopropyl alcohol?

    Also, I used to shoot with Ilford HP5 400. Will that be fast enough this time of year in the city for a little street photography or should I go for something a little quicker? (I don't mind the grain).

    Thirdly, if I was on the lookout for a wide angle lens for this camera, what could I go for (I'm not sure of the mount).

    Cheers Jon.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015
  2. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    I can't imagine that a slightly damp cloth won't do the job dust wise.

    The mount should be M42 (I believe a few Zenit Es were made with the M39 mount, but the odds on having one must be pretty low), so there should be any number of lenses out there that will fit.

    No idea about the film I'm afraid, never been to NY.

  3. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    I would run a cheap film from Poundland through it first and see what the results are like before using it for anything like this. Whilst these cameras were built like a brick, long term lack of use may have brought about some issues.
  4. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Quite a lot of issues with the good old Zenit E that you need to be aware of.

    First, yes, it's M42 mount, BUT it doesn't have an automatic aperture function; you will have to manually stop the aperture down. That means that automatic aperture lenses without an auto/manual override switch cannot be used. It's designed for use with lenses with either a fully manual aperture control (as with the 50mm f3.5 Industar that was one of the standard lens options) or a preset aperture, whereby you select the aperture on the main ring and then stop down for taking, or open up for viewing, with a secondary ring - the version of the 58mm f2 Helios that was supplied as the other choice of standard lens works like this.
    Most M42 lenses you'll find are automatic stop-down; with the auto-manual switch, these are perhaps the easiest to use, as you set the aperture on the ring, then stop down or open up with the switch. However, not all auto lenses have the switch...
    When stopped down, the viewfinder goes dark. Or rather darker...
    Plus side to all this is you have compulsory depth of field preview. ;)

    Second, the viewfinder is small (covers 78% of the image!) and gloomy, with no focusing aids. When the lens is stopped down, it's very dark. Not the easiest to use at this time of year.

    Third, the meter. It's a built-in non-coupled selenium unit that may well not work at all these days. They are very prone to being over-influenced by the sky, so point the camera down a bit to take a reading if you are using it.

    Fourth, film ripping - as noted by Nigel in this week's editorial. To be honest, it was mostly an issue with Fuji films of the time, as noted in the manual. But be aware of it.

    Finally, the real weak point of the camera is the shutter. Firstly, speeds are from 1/30 to 1/500 plus B, which doesn't give you a huge amount of options at times. Flash sync is at 1/30. But the biggest issue is that the shutter is a pretty flimsy cloth affair known for wrinkling, pinholes, losing tapes, tapering and pretty much any fault that can arise in a shutter. If it's not been used for a long time, it could easily seize up, and is unlikely to run at anything like true speeds.

    However, HP5 is pretty forgiving, and you can always rate it at 800 or 1600 if you wish and develop accordingly.

    Best readily-available wideangle would be the 35mm f2.4 Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon, but they tend to be a bit dear these days. All the M42 CZJ lenses have the auto/manual switch. For really wide, the 20mm f2.8 is stunning, but expensive.
    A great alternative is the 30mm f3.5 Meyer Lydith/Pentacon lens - this has a preset aperture operation, and is way better than price (around £30 these days) might suggest.
  5. Beaconjon

    Beaconjon Well-Known Member

    Really appreciate the comments folks.

    I I used the camera with no real issues a couple of years ago and had a little play earlier. The shutter seems fine (in sound at least) as does the meter.

    The manual aperture operation is a pain to remember but I think I'll just have to slow myself down (the beauty of such cameras?).

    Im really hoping it'll give me a different take on my trip from a photographic point of view.

    I think I'll stick with some more HP5 for now and see how it goes.
  6. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Best camera ever made for learning on.
  7. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Or for giving up on slr photography for ever!
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    And that. ;)
  9. Beaconjon

    Beaconjon Well-Known Member

    Could force me to make a purchase at B&H whilst I'm there.
  10. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    If you've never been there, do go. It's amazing. :)
  11. Beaconjon

    Beaconjon Well-Known Member

    Yeh I did get the chance a couple of years ago. It was when I had a DSLR so I picked up a few bits.

    It truley is an amazing place, even if you're not buying!!!
  12. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Not buying at B&H is a difficult proposition, not that I have been for several years.
  13. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    Remember they're closed on Saturdays!

  14. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    They close at sunset on Friday and reopen on Sunday
  15. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    I would use lighter fluid or mouthwash on the camera exterior (depending on which smell you can live with) but the alcohol should be saved for a 1:1 mix with meths for cleaning the lens elements.

    400 ISO should be fine if you have the f2 standard lens.

    I would recommend the pre-set Pentacon Lydith 30mm f3.5 lens but the trouble is they are not plentiful s/h, are much sought after and can cost quite a bit. There should be equivalent 28mm & 35mm lenses available from Soligor and Photax at lower cost.
  16. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    If you hold the camera properly and practise, you will find that that you can be closing down the aperture ring to the right value immediately you have focused while at the same time starting to depress the shutter release. When you get it really slick you will be pretty much as good as an auto diaphragm lens. :)
  17. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    That's true enough. :)
  18. Beaconjon

    Beaconjon Well-Known Member

    Yeh that's going to take some practice but I'm looking forward to the challenge.
  19. willie45

    willie45 Well-Known Member

    I'm imagining you're not going to go to NYC very often so I'd bin the Zenit suggestion and take a reliable camera you understand with you. That way you will have your memories on record and be able to enjoy the moments without faffing around working out something you don't really know.

    Of course if you feel it will add a "Je ne sais quoi" to the trip then enjoy ;)
  20. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    WHS^ In 2008 there was something I really wanted to record using black and white film in a fairly vintage camera, in this case a Pentax SL. I ran a film through the camera before attempting this, it was just as well I did, it turned out to be suffering from shutter taper, and these are infinitely more reliable than a Zenit. I ended up using my then Nikon D200 instead, but it was rather a disappointment for me. Mind I certainly ended up with a technically better shot, but that was not really quite the point.

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