The rangefinder is of the split image type, combined in the viewfinder. In the viewfinder there are fixed black frames to indicate the fields of view for 50mm, 85mm and 135mm focal lengths, the whole finder covering the 35mm focal length.
The clockwork winding mechanism does not allow continuous shooting: the user must press the shutter release each time (12–15 exposures can be made before the camera needs to be wound again). The effective rate of exposures is about 3 FPS. The film take-up system is unique as it ignores sprocket holes on 35mm film. Instead it winds the film onto a fat take-up spool. No account is taken of the increasing diameter of this spool as film is wound onto it, resulting in increasingly wide gaps between the frames on a roll. Modern automated negative cutting will not adjust for the unique frame layout, and negatives and slides must be ordered from labs uncut. (Individual mounting of the slides must therefore be done by the user.) Users of the Leningrad consider this not a bug but a feature.
Leningrads were supplied with a standard Jupiter-8 lens and will accept most 39mm screw lenses. An over-hanging lip just above the lens mount makes it impossible to mount certain lenses.
Built very sturdily, and to a very high degree of precision (unlike most Soviet rangefinders), the Leningrad is said to be the most advanced (and expensive) Soviet rangefinder ever made. Many were given as presents to party members and visiting dignitaries. At the 1958 World Exposition in Brussels, the Leningrad was awarded the "Grand Prix de Bruxelles”. Modified Leningrads were used in the Soviet space program.
Just 70,000 units were made, a small number by Soviet standards. It is not known how many survive.
Some of the features of the Leningrad:
- 57mm base rangefinder
- Focal plane shutter; speeds 1- 1/1000 plus bulb sync. 1/25s
- Combined Galilean viewfinder/rangefinder (.68x) with frames for 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 135 mm lenses
- Adjustable synch delay 5 - 20 milliseconds
- Removable back
- Jean Loup Princelle, Made In USSR - The Authentic Guide To Russian And Soviet Cameras, Le Reve Edition, 2004