Start (SLR)

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The Start is a 35mm SLR film camera that manufactured by Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk (Krasnogorsky Mekhanichesky Zavod) (KMZ), near Moscov, former USSR, between 1958-64. Start Старт (=Старт logo stamped as Italics) means Start.

The Start camera has a unique lens mount, the Start breech-lock bayonet, and a cloth focal plane shutter with a wide range of speeds from 1 to 1/1000 second. The aperture release lever on the lens is pressed together with the shutter release, in a way similar to that of some old Exakta lenses on Exa and Exakta cameras. The viewfinder screen has a dual prism rangefinder in the central area. The camera's pentaprism finder is detachable, it slides off to the rear.

The Start is a very well made and interesting system SLR camera, and entirely mechanical. It was aimed at the professional market. At its era there is no other system camera in the Soviet Union.

It was often referred to as the "Russian Exakta". At that time Start was the only competition to the Exakta available within the Soviet Union and the Soviet-dominated part of Europe. It was at least in principle, the only other system camera, providing not only interchangeable lenses, but also finders and viewing screens. Helios-44 58 mm f/2 is similar to the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar; but unfortunately this is the only lens manufactured for the Start system. There is an adapter for M39 screw mount Zenith lenses, but this was not an attractive option, as such lenses do not have automatic aperture system. This adapter was supplied with the camera.

Start was produced with 5 types and 5 sub-types [1] [2] [3] [4]

The type 3 and type 5 were export types and named in Latin Start.


  • Lens: KMZ Helios-44 (ГЕЛИОС) 58mm f/2, automatic diaphragm (aluminium barrelled standard lens)
    • Mount: Start breech-lock bayonet
    • Aperture: f/2-f/16
    • DOF preview is possible by rotating the shutter release plunger on the lens
    • Focus range: 0.7- 20m +inf.
  • Focusing: by Fresnel matte glass screen with split-image rangefinder
  • Shutter: focal-plane shutter, horizontally run double rubberized silk curtain
    • Speeds: 1 - 1/1000 +B [5]
  • Shutter release: knob on the right front of the camera
    • Shutter can be released by a plunger on the standard lens also
  • Viewfinder: SLR pentaprism, matte glass with split-image rangefinder in the central focusing area, 100% frame coverage, finder and screen are interchangeable, there is a waist level finder
    • Viewfinder release: by a small knob on the back of the top plate
  • Mirror: note instant return
  • Flash PC sockets: two, for X and M, on the left front of the top plate, synch: 1/30s,
  • Back cover: detachable with the bottom plate, with a film pressure plate made of black glass,
  • Film loading: removable take-up spool
    • There are also Kiev receiving cartridges
  • Film-cutting knife: handle on the left of the top plate
  • Others: Memory dial; Self timer; Strap lugs; Tripod socket 3/8inch
  • Serial no. first two digits of the serial number indicate the production year

Comparing the Start to its contemporaries

The Start is an early 35mm SLR camera introduced by KMZ in 1958. Its design is remarkable and clever, being of such early Russian origin. The mechanical construction is quite ambitious. A few features may be traced back to Exakta Varex, while some similarity exists to several 35mm SLR cameras introduced at that time, and therefore not likely to have been of influence.

Although quite different, there is a general but striking similarity to the 1957 Topcon R and the 1958 Zunow. However, the 1952 Praktina and 1955 Miranda T could certainly have been studied closely at KMZ, as well as by the other camera designers in Japan. Seen are the slide-off finder prism and the front mounted shutter release. The breech-lock lens mount hails from the Praktina, but is narrower. The film cutting feature is surely from Exakta, while the back locks are of Zeiss design. The external Exakta lens aperture mechanism is identical.

The shutter and mirror design is presumably a continuation of the Zenit's, but the speed is extended to 1/1000 sec, flash synchronized at 1/30 sec. The surprisingly bright viewfinder has a central split-image rangefinder.


  1. According to Alexander Komarov Fotoua (archived). You can also find serial numbers for dating of the cameras in this site
  2. There is another classification by Aidas Pikiotas in SovietCams
  3. Pages from the the book of former USSR cameras by Suglob, Shaternik, Kochergin (archived page)
  4. Discussion about classifications in the books of Princelle and Suglob, Shaternik, Kochergin in USSR Photo Forum
  5. As with other Soviet-era rangefinders, the shutter speed selector rotates when the shutter is released, and should not be changed until after the shutter has been cocked. If you change the shutter speed without cocking the shutter first, the setting pin can be broken when you advance the film and cock the shutter.


In English

  • Princelle, Jean Loup (2004), The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras ('Made in USSR'), Le Reve Edition. ISBN 2952252106; or the earlier edition: Hove Foto Books, 2nd edition, 1995. 200 pages. ISBN 1874031630. Paperback.

In Russian


Examples at various collectors' sites: