Tag Archives: Rangefinder

Kiev 4AM {Two Rolls In}

Everybody knows that I have a deep devotion to film photography. But there was something missing from my camera collection: an interchangeable lens rangefinder.

I know some people on Twitter who are well-versed in rangefinders, so I started asking around to see anyone had suggestions for me as I looked to buy one for myself. One of these Twitter folks, in particular, is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a several rangefinder varieties. He directed me to the Kiev 4AM, a Soviet-era Ukraine-made copy of a Contax rangefinder. And even better, he let me know about a reputable US-based seller of Former Soviet Union (FSU) cameras, so I didn’t have to buy internationally through eBay.  I chose my camera from Fedka, ordered it, and it was here two days later!

(Shout out to Tony for guidance when I wanted to add a rangefinder to my collection! His help greatly simplified the process for me. I think he’s made Kiev users out of a few of us in the Twitter film photography community!)

I cannot stop looking at this camera. I have dubbed it “my most handsome” camera. I swoon over it!

Shooting with the Kiev takes some getting used to, mostly because you actually need to master a a grip known as the “Contax hold.” I’m not going to attempt to photograph myself doing that, but scroll to the bottom of Matt Denton’s review of a different Kiev camera to see the Contax hold in action! One tricky thing about holding the Kiev properly is making sure you don’t block the rangefinder window (you can’t focus if you do that!) With your Contax hold, you also focus the lens via the little wheel atop the camera. It feels awkward at first, but it’s not so bad once you grow accustomed to it!

The top of the Kiev – you see the shutter speed selector wheel, which also contains the shutter button, and works as both the shutter cocking and film advancing mechanism. Next is the film frame counter, which you manually set at the beginning of each roll (that is automatically set by most cameras I have.) In front of the frame counter is the aforementioned lens focusing wheel. Then there’s the flash shoe (it’s a hot one!) and the film rewind  knob. 

That lovely, lovely Helios-103 53mm/1.8 lens that I got with my Kiev from Fedka

Right then. Being busy with photo gigs and other things, my Kiev test rolls were spaced out between June and July.

Roll # 1 was Kodak BW400CN

Tractor texture. First frame of film shot with the Kiev. The Helios lens is excellent!

I’d received the Kiev right before I shot Jennifer and Chris’s wedding rehearsal dinner downtown. That urban setting was a great place to shoot most of my first Kiev roll!

Rubber shoes

Leaves in rain water


The attendance board from my Papaw’s church, hanging in my mom’s house. He passed in 2005, so this means a lot o my mom and our family.



Roll #2 was Kodak Gold 200

Roll #2 was shot almost exclusively on various days I was at the auto auction where my family’s business caters meals a day or two a week. I didn’t photograph a wide variety of subjects with Roll #2, and I tend to burn through frames of film at an alarming rate when I set my eyes on some of the beautiful items I see parked in the auto auction’s sales floor!

CorvetteDecorations for the Fourth of July sale auction

My continued series photographing motorcycles on display/for sale at the auction. This Harley was GORGEOUS.

1964 Ford truck, in the auction bay and bathed in warm early morning light

Honda motorcycle


I am LOVING this camera, in a way that I wasn’t expecting to. I’m used to being an SLR kind of girl, where the viewfinder gives you a “what you see is what you get” experience and the lenses have closer focusing abilities. I didn’t think I would appreciate the fact that the Kiev has a knob that you turn to advance the film and cock the shutter instead of  lever, but it’s really not an issue. On paper, those characteristics I’ve listed would be a black mark against this camera. But it’s so beautiful and a joy to use – as I said, I’m surprised by how much I enjoy the experience of using my Kiev. Perhaps more important than how much I like the camera body itself, the Helios-103 lens is proving to be an excellent performer!

What is an issue is that my particular Kiev seems to be suffering from a problem where the shutter curtain hangs open when I change from a slow shutter speed (1/10 second or below) to a faster one. It’s sporadic, but you can see its presence on two frames of film I used to photograph the truck during Roll #2. Light fogs a portion of the film frame when the shutter sticks open. I’m currently trying to figure out if there’s something I’m doing incorrectly, or if there is a simple fix that would prevent the shutter from hanging open like that. I don’t foresee myself using those slow shutter speeds extremely often, but I still want to resolve the problem with the shutter. Other than that, I’m looking forward to integrating the Kiev into my arsenal of cameras.