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The five photographs shown with this text were taken with my
Start SLR camera in June at Woolpit Steam 2007. The film used was
an out of date colour Agfa 200 developed and scanned onto CD by ASDA
Supermarket. The post processing and conversion to black and white was
achieved in Mepis Linux using KDE ShowFoto editing software. I used in
most cases the green filter option, the brown tone option, also the
contrast was tweaked slightly. For more of my Start photographs
including some in colour, please click on the thumbnail images above.
I decided to pick the Start camera for a web page creation
project as there is very little information about it on the internet
and hardly any mention made in the mainstream English language
photography books and magazines. For those who do not know
me, I am apparently an avid yet skinflintish camera collector who
penchant for Eastern European cameras. My main interest is in
and using rangefinder cameras from the golden era of photography which
is roughly from the mid 1930's to the early 1960's.
Interestingly as an inspiration to other would be webpage creators, I
have used free software in this project. These include:
NVU HTML Digikam KDE ShowFoto Guide GIMP JAlbum & MEPIS LinuxThe
Gimp and DigiKam ShowFoto if used in combination are the equal to
anything you can get in MS Windows and Apple Mac. The black and
white tools in
ShowFoto are the best I have ever used. You will need to use Gimp
clone tool to remove any scratches or dust from scanned negatives
everything else should be possible in ShowFoto.
The Start SLR camera was manufactured in the early 1960's and was very
similar in design to the Exakta. It was manufactured between 1958
and 1964 at the KMZ factory, Krasnogorsk Moscow. This factory is better
known for the Zorki rangefinder and Zenit SLR cameras. As opposed to the more mundane Zenit SLR, the
Start was aimed at the Soviet professional market. It had a few features
not available at the time in any other Russian SLR:
Interchangeable eye level pentaprism viewfinder or waist
viewfinder. This was quite a common practice on cameras of
the period. The factory fitted pentaprism was easily
sliding out and replacing with a separately available waist-level
finder. On the back of the camera adjacent to the viewfinder is a
locking button device. The waist level finder is quite small, with a small
magnifying glass for critical focusing.
Split focusing using a fresnel ground glass screen with accessibility from
the top for cleaning. It looks as if it may also be interchangeable, although I'm not aware of any
replacements being available.
Shutter speeds from one second to a 1/1000
second. The shutter mechanism appears to originate from the FED
linage of cameras and not KMZ. This is a Leica type shutter consisting
of a rubberized cloth slit shutter. The slit is variable in size, set
via shutter dial on top of camera. WARNING - do not set the shutter
speed until the shutter is cocked.
Shutter Release is located on the front of the camera and not on the top. It is pressed with the right
forefinger and forms part of the lens assembly. This is quite similar
in layout to the Exakta, Praktina and Praktica cameras of the period.
lens diaphragm, closed down by an external plunger which also doubles
as the shutter release forming part of the lens assembly. This is
very much like those found on some Exakta lenses. Albeit in the case of the Start more intricate in design.
The lens mount is of breech lock type, where
the lens is pushed into place and secured by turning a ring on
the the front of the reflex cage which forms part of the camera body.
This breech lock is very similar to that found on
the Praktina. I am told by Jessops Classics, London that the Praktina type
lens will mount on the Start although they will jam onto the camera - so
do not try this at home!
If using two film cannisters, a sliding knife built into the bottom of the
camera can be used to slice the film so that the canister containing
the exposed film can be removed while preserving the unexposed film in
the main canister. This knife is operated by plunger type rod screwed into the camera top.
Removable back for easy film loading. This is very
similar to that found on the Contax Kiev designs with the slight
disadvantage that locating the film take up spool can be a bit hit and
miss when reattaching the back!
The lens supplied with the camera was a
Helios-44 58mm f2.0. This being a Zeiss Biotar copy. These lenses
had a bright blueish lens coating and are far better performers
than the later more mundane Helios lenses. This lens appears to
be the only option available in the Start breech lock
and therefore probably was a major reason for
the camera's demise. Albeit an adapter ring was available, allowing the
use of 39mm mount Zenit lenses. This was not an attractive option as
these lenses did not incorporate automatic aperture control. At the
Brussels 1958 trade fair, a Mir and Tair-11 lens in Start mount
awarded medals, however they were not mass produced. There was
Start lens turret allowing the attachment of three lenses and a
water tight box allowing use down to 50 metres water depth.
A total of about 76.5 thousand Start
cameras were made.
There were two major versions and three known variations. An earlier version
finder release button on the back and old shutter speed sequence
1/5, 1/10, 1/25 second etc. The early production also had a film winding
lever with a knurled disc. A later version lacked the locking
button and had the modern shutter speed sequence, including 1/4, 1/8,
1/15, 1/30 second etc. The film winding lever had a flat end.
More variations being: identical engravings in cyrillic, circa 1961
with new lever and shutter release, identical engraved in latin and English.
There was also a Start 2 version manufactured in very small
numbers equipped with shutter priority and interchangeable
TTL selenium exposure meter. The manufacturing plans were
shelved because the Zenit E was about to go into production and the
more advanced central shutter Zenit 4, 5 and 6 were just going
This is not an easy camera to use and time consuming to get
right due to poor ergonomic layout of the controls. However
it is a very high quality camera aimed at professional
photographers and looks stunning. To give you some idea of
the attention it attracts at a classic car rally a professional
photographer wanted a picture of me photographing the classic exhibits with the Start!
Brief Technical Specification
Of My Camera - Professional 35mm Single Lens Reflex With
Non Auto Return Mirror - Cloth Rubberized Leica Type Adjustable Slit
Shutter Mechanism - Interchangeable Waist Level Finder and Eye Level
Pentaprism Viewfinder - Split Screen Focusing - Body Serial Number
6115511 - Shutter Speeds 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/15 1/30 1/60 1/125 1/250
1/1000th Second plus B - Lever Operated Self Timer
Activated By Adjacent Button - Built In Film Cutting
Mechanism Operated By Rod In Top of Camera - Flash Both
Bulb And Electronic Sockets Front Mounted - Breech Lock Lens Mount -
Lens Helios-44 f2 58mm - Lens Serial Number 0068518 - Semi
Automatic Aperture Control.
Links - Antique Soviet Camera Photo Tidbits Alfred Camera Page
Further Reference Material - Required reading for those
interested in finding out
more about Soviet cameras I would suggest the following
book - The Authentic Guide To Russian and Soviet Cameras
Made in USSR by Jean Loup Princelle First Edition 1995 published by
Hove Photo Books - Also known as the Princelle Guide. Be warned after
reading this you could become a collector!
Links - NVU HTML DigiKam KDE ShowFoto Guide GIMP JAlbum & MEPIS Linux Links - GIMP Paintdotnet irfanview & Xnview