Tonight I wanted to talk about something different. I want to talk about the Ukraine. For the last three weeks I have listened and watched the absolute tragedy unfolding there and I have felt rage at the events and impotence to do anything about it. For the first time I can recall international events in Europe are causing me personal pain.
I think this is more so because of the heroic resistance of the people and the leadership skill of Volodymyr Zelensky. One must be amazed at how the Ukrainian people were able to chose this man for this moment. It is almost a miracle.
But what to do about it? My government is sending aid and all of us Canadians are contributing to that through our taxes. Any support I can give will be small and insignificant, but still, I have to do something more. And so I will tell you about my small gesture.
I want to send money but directly to a Ukranian who can spend it and so doing support his family and his economy. No middlemen. And to do that I decided to buy a camera. But this isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Hear me out.
This is the Contax II which was a fine German 35mm camera that became a favorite of professional photographers the world over.
First we need a little history. Around 1930 Zeiss Ikon wanted a camera to go head to head with the very popular Leitz Leica. In 1932 they introduced the Contax 35mm camera which showed great potential but had several serious technical issues.
Zeiss continued to work on their camera and in 1936 came out with the Contax II which solved most of the technical problems in the original camera and which went on to become the choice of professionals for many years.
The factory where the Contax was made was located in Germany in the town of Jena. Production continued thru WWII.
As the war came to an end, in 1945, the Soviet Army over ran this area of Germany and it eventually became part of East Germany.
In keeping with Soviet policy the Jena factory, or at least some major parts of it, were crated up and sent to Kiev where they were used to set up the Arsenal factory to manufacture cameras. This new plant used the same equipment that Zeiss had used for the Contax so it is not surprising that they started turning out Contax II clones in Kiev.
This is the Kiev 4AM that I have purchased. The photograph and the others images of it, are from the vendors posting on E-bay.
The lens mount on the Kiev 4 AM is the standard Contax bayonet mount. The lens is the Helios-103 53mm f/1.8.
This is a manual camera as can be seen from the very plain top deck. The rewind crank is on the left, the hot shoe in the middle, and on the right the frame counter window and the combination film advance and shutter speed dial.
I don’t know this history well, but, apparently, there was a Kiev 3 which was simply a Contax II with a selenium meter built on the top of it.
Then came the Kiev 4 which was produced in great numbers from the 1950’s thru to the 1980’s. The 4 has an integral selenium meter on the top of it ad the 4A has no light meter.
Finally, around 1980 the Arsenal factory introduced the Kiev 4AM, the camera I am buying. It was in production from 1980 thru 1987. It featured a redesigned shutter speed dial, the addition of a hot shoe, a rewind crank, and several internal modifications that are not really visible on the outside. The camera came with either the Jupiter-8M 50mm f/2.0 lens or the Helios-103 53mm f/1.8. My purchase has the latter.
So, with that history, back to my story. Having decided to buy a Kiev camera as a reminder of this terrible tragedy unfolding in Ukraine I went on E-bay looking for a good copy of one from a seller living in Ukraine. I was looking for a camera in working condition that I could use as a shooter.
That is when I found seller “ussr_photoworld” who had a decent looking Kiev 4AM available for a decent price. His ad said he was in western Ukraine but that did not guarantee that that his shop was not destroyed by Russian missels. However, my purpose was to get money into the hands of someone in the country. Receiving the camera would be wonderful but that would be an added bonus.
This is the package I ordered: camera case, camera, and the Instuction Manual which appears to be in Russian. I am looking forward to getting my hands on it.
I ordered the camera and then sent a message of support to “ussr_photoworld”. The order seemed to go through as normal and then I received a notice that my camera was shipping and I received a tracking number. Then “ussr_photoworld” sent me a message thanking me for the order and saying that the money from the sale would buy his family food and essentials as things had become very expensive in Ukraine.
When the camera arrives I intend to take it out shooting immediately and then I will write it up here in a short review. And of course, I will include lots of pictures.
It is not much. But I wanted to reach out to someone in Ukraine to express my horror at what is happening. And how better to do it than to reach out to the community I know: the Ukrainian camera community.
You probably need another camera, or maybe not. But why don’t you buy a new camera. Buy a Kiev 4 from a dealer in the Ukraine. You will have a camera made in Kiev, named after that city, as symbol of your support. And you will put cash directly into the hands of a Ukranian who probably needs some extra cash right now. But remember, you are placing an order into a war zone. Shipment will probably be delayed. Or perhaps the camera store is already destroyed. But don’t let that stop you. The goal is to support Ukraine. If you recive your camera that is a bonus; possibly even a miracle.
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