Zenit-E (1978)

The most massive model of the Zenit camera produced by KMZ and Belomo (about 4.2 million copies were produced from 1965 to 1986).


Zenit-E are not automated single-lens reflex cameras. A family of mechanical indicator cameras and their simplified versions (without a built-in exposure meter).

Threaded lens connection – M42 × 1 / 45.5 (the first cameras of the line were produced with M39 × 1 thread for a working distance of 45.2 mm). Zenit-E cameras were supplied complete with the Industar-50 (50-2) and Helios-44 (44-2) lenses.

In 1967, Zenit-E was upgraded: the lens mount was changed from M39 × 1 / 45.2 to M42 × 1 / 45.5. During the time of release, other significant changes were made to the camera. Since 1975 (according to other sources – from 1973 to 1986) it has also been produced by the ZENIT plant (BelOMO, Vileika, Belarus).

Issued: 3334540 (the factory’s most massive camera), from 1965 to 1981
Cameras were supplied for export not only under their original name, but also under other brands (Revue).

Zenit-E replaced the Zenit-3M line.

Cameras similar to Zenit-E

  • Zenit-B
  • Zenit-E
  • Zenit-ET
  • Zenit-EM
  • Zenit-VM
  • Zenit-10
  • Zenit-11
  • Zenit-50

Cameras “Zenith” on the portal


Camera type 35mm horizontal travel focal-plane shutter camera
Print size 24 x 36 mm
Lens included Helios 44-2, Industar-50, Industar 50-2
Lens mount Unified threaded connection (M39 × 1 / 45.2 since 1967 – M42 × 1 / 45.5)
Exposure metering External, above the lens mount. An arrow indicator on the top cover is used with the shutter speed calculator dial. Manual calculation of exposure parameters according to the indications of the exposure meter arrow
Gate Dual-axis focal plane shutter with fabric shutters.
Main shutter speed dial contains MF, X, B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, and 1/500 sec.
Viewfinder Pentaprism, 65% coverage, matte focusing screen
Loading Film After opening the back cover, the film cassette is inserted inside.
Frame counter Manual input from 0 to 38 on the top cover of the camera, combined with the shutter cocking trigger and release button
Film rewind Rewind knob on the top cover, a reminder of the light sensitivity of the film installed in the camera
Dimensions and weight ?

Body, build quality

Zenit-E, manufactured at KMZ, have an aluminum upper body. Manufactured by Belomo, instead of aluminum, they have plastic covers on the upper part of the case. The control discs are nickel-plated, brass. On the front panel of Zenit-E there is a release delay lever, a lens connector, an output for connecting flash lamps.

Zenit-E produced by KMZ, regardless of the state, does not play, does not creak. Outside there is a decorative finish. It is not very convenient to operate without a wardrobe trunk due to the flat side surfaces. The most compact film SLR camera.

Zenit-E at work


Exposure control in the Zenit-E camera is presented:

  • A shutter speed calculator disc, coupled with a retractable film rewind knob and an indicator of the current parameters in the exposure meter window;
  • Exposure meter window and pointer;
  • An exposure meter located above the front panel lens mount;
  • Shutter speed setting dial

The Zenit-E camera is a classic, fully manual. The photographer’s only assistant is an exposure calculator and an exposure meter.

Aperture control

On Zenit-E, the aperture control is not set by the camera itself. You must manually set the values ​​on the lens.

Sighting through the viewfinder

Viewfinder – pentaprism, covering 65% of the frame area. This is very small. Often, after developing frames from Zenith, one could notice extra details in the frame on the prints. The viewfinder is dark, focusing is performed on frosted glass, on which there are no micro-raster or gussets. There is no indication inside.

Exposure control

The shutter at Zenita-E is focal, focal-plane. Rubberized fabric shutter curtains are not the most reliable, but a relatively simple option. The shutter is adjustable with a limited number of delays, there is no slowdown and the slowest shutter speed is 1/30 second. Exposures are set when the shutter is cocked; there is an additional switch for synchronizing with the flash for 1/30 second

The curtain shutter may burn out if the camera is left in the sun with the lens open.

Flash sync

The “shoe” in Zenit-E is cold and has no electrical contacts. The body has an FP-sync connector for external flash lamps.

Light meter and exposure metering in Zenit-E

External exposure meter, selenium, without additional power supply from batteries. It has a short service life, since the material of the exposure meter is aging.

The Zenit-E galvanometer is not paired with a shutter speed dial, there are only additional calculator labels. The values ​​were selected manually, based on the deviation of the galvanometer needle and the installed photosensitive material.

"White", unpainted housings of "Helios" lenses gave extra illumination to the Zenit-E exposure meter.
Subsequently, the lens bodies began to be painted black.

Convenience of work

Of course, the convenience of working with a camera from the 60s is so simple. Nowadays, with ergonomics and electronics, everything is much better, it is more accessible to the layman. Taking as many frames as necessary, applying filters and posting Instagram without delving into the settings is now a common phenomenon. How was it filmed then? In those days when your instagram were albums printed by order in Soyuzpechat?

Thoughtful composition, shooting parameters, development of photographic film in the red room … 30 clothespins for development. No, for sure, and not only so.

Zenit-E without a wardrobe trunk, according to my personal impressions, is inconvenient. It’s thin, heavy. A device for leisurely shooting and thoughtful positioning of objects in the frame. A dark viewfinder, the coverage of which is not enough to cover 99% of the frame area, in which the focusing screen, as such, is only matted – will please only masochists.

The shutter cocking is coupled with film advance and occurs with a certain effort. The descent is hard. The mirror takes off from its place, then also falls back sharply.

Working with film

The film is rewound of a roulette type, the rewind knob is retracted into the camera body. Frame counter – manual, no reset. Full immersion in the warm lampiness of analog technology. The film is loaded under the rear opening cover.

The cover lock is located in such a way that it is necessary to 
block additionally, as there is a high risk of opening the lid during carrying.


The device can hardly be called quiet. The FED and Zorkiy of the first models have the quietest shutter. Zenit-E, in comparison with them – works very loudly. Very strong vibration on the body, both from the actuation of the shutter and from the jumping mirror.


In terms of reliability, I will give this device a solid four. Of the many Zenith model “E” that I came across, 40% had problems with the shutters, 2% – with the mechanics of lifting the mirror, 30% – problems with the controls (broken plastic stop of the shutter trigger, loose lens mounts, and others relatively not critical little things). about 5% – with problem light meters. 3% – devices in perfect condition, of which – 30% with problems in the shutters. The rest of the devices are made by Belomo with a plastic cover on the upper part of the device. The most problematic.

We make a discount on time, and time, as you know, spares nothing.


At one time it was a popular camera. Due to the price and a set of qualities, it is successfully presented to the market. Who knows, maybe if I saw a cheap Zenith SLR on the shelves in the 60s and 70s, I would have been led by the price. Some ten years will pass – the USSR and the GDR will begin to lose to the high-speed shutters and programmable machines of Japanese competitors. Now all this is deep archaic. Now – click, apply a filter and post to the network.

Cameras are common enough to find them on sale. Belomovski variants have a plastic upper part, are painted completely black, and despite the general similarity of the design, they break more often, and the body is more flimsy.


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