Зени́т  (Zenith 11)

Filming in Norway, years ago with a 16mm Krasnogorsk

The picture above is me filming years ago in Norway. What’s that got to do with the Zenith 11? I hear you ask! Well the camera was a 16mm Krasnogorsk, never thought about the name, why would I? I doubt there is a town in Japan called Canon or Yashica, perhaps there is! Well….

Zenith 11

The Zenith 11 was my first SLR. It must have been purchased for me by my parents when I was about 12 or 13 years old I guess.  I remember a previous boss of mine referring to the Russian built “gear” of the time as being “agricultural but functional” and that’s about right I guess. I loved mine! It came on family holidays with me, often loaded with Kodak Ektachrome. I remember the joy of loading a fresh roll, and the sadness of un-loading one – knowing it was finished. The great thing is that unlike my previous point and shoot cameras that left me with a love of photography, the Zenith 11 taught me aperture, shutter speed, depth of focus, or more often the lack of it! I had a set of close up lenses and could often be found half in a country hedge somewhere feet poking out.

One had to learn the basics, there was no choice- there is no automation here. Looking at the front view, we can see there is a timer lever, and above the lens a light meter. It was the selenium cell type, so never needed a battery. It did need a bit of understanding about light, and exposure – so I learned, most often through trial and error.  

Zenith 11 Top View

The top view shows, from left to right, the winder/counter, the stutter release, around it is the T-V, T is for timed exposure, in other words locks open the shutter on “B” until you unlock it. The V I think is just to lock the release so you don’t accidentally make an exposure of the floor! Next is the shutter speed selector “B” 30th – up to 500th. Under the plastic cap is a hot shoe syncing at 30th! Then on the right is the exposure meter – setting in the ISO, calibrates the meter, then its simple act of putting the “eye” over the needle – then one reads off whatever combination of settings one wants! All mechanical!

Inside the cloth shutter and metal film advance cogs – wind on slowly at the end of a roll!

The Zenith 11 is usually referred to as the Zenith in the UK, with the H on the end. This is mainly due to the UK distributor (T.O.E. – Technical and Optical) printing the English instructions as Zenith! Out of interest they also used to import microscopes, radios and I seem to remember a fridge! I wonder how many scientists started as children/students with a “Zenith Microscope” in the same way that a number of photographers started with the camera?

They were manufactured in the Russian (formerly Soviet) town of Krasnogorsk,  near Moscow, since 1952. Now the naming of my 16mm film camera makes sense! The “11” is really the end of the E range, and apparently produced from 1981 to 1990 but my recollection is that they disappeared long before that. The range started with the ET then E, EM, 10, 11 then the 12XP which I remember as being in a “Photosniper Kit” that had a 300mm lens, set up to look like a small missile launcher! There followed a 122, but as I recall this was more plastic, had TTL metering and possibly using the Pentax K mount. Later models were manufactured in Belarus at Belomo, I assume that’s where the “Lomo” comes from.

I brought this one recently as a “trip down memory lane”,  something I seem to be doing a lot of these days –  for  just  £7! Now that Kodak have re-introduced Ektachrome, circumstances have aligned, I must put a roll through just for old times sake!

2 thoughts on “Зени́т  (Zenith 11)

  1. The Zenit camera E or B and if one could afford it, a Praktica, must have started many photographers on their photographic journey in the 60′ & 70’s.
    Very basic but surprisingly good lenses. A trip down memory lane after reading your post. 🙏☺️


    1. Hi David, yes I agree! There are plenty of Zenith bodies about as people are buying up the 55mm 44M lens and of course the Praktica with its Zeiss lens, albeit an East German one – still good though. I made many transparencies with my Zenith, that were often projected 5 foot wide, and they held up fine! Glad you enjoyed, the trip down memory lane with me!!

      Liked by 1 person

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