The Photosniper SLR-"gun" was made first by GOI and later by KMZ, originally for military use. Probably its original purpose was to use the quiet hands of good soldiers to shoot reconnaissance photos out of their emplacements. Later models were freely available as cameras for amateurs, nature photographers, spies and paparazzi.
The Photosniper FS-2 was made in 1943-5, and was for military use by the Soviet forces. The first cameras of this model were made by GOI in Leningrad, and later ones by KMZ. The FS-2 comprises a modified FED 1 on a wooden rifle stock incorporating a reflex viewfinder housing. The lens is a Tair-2 300 mm f/4.5, also made first by GOI and later by KMZ, in a special version (since the camera body plus the added reflex viewfinder has a unique film-to-flange depth). The FS-2 was based on a similar camera (the FS-1) made shortly before the War by GOI. McKeown estimates that less than 300 of the KMZ FS-2 cameras were made.
The FS-3 is a redesign of the Photosniper idea for civilian sales and export, now based on a true SLR camera and with a metal stock. Produced in 1965-69, the FS-3 was supplied as a complete kit, including both telephoto and standard lenses, housed in a steel carrying case. Individual components are fastened to the case by screws, bolts and clips. In later versions the steel container was replaced by a canvas bag.
The kit comprises:
- The camera body: a Zenit ES (a Zenit E with an extra shutter release in the base)
- Helios-44 58mm f/2 lens
- Tair-3AS 300mm f/4.5 lens, a modified version of the Tair-3, with a focus control added on the underside
- Two yellow filters, 2× and 1.4×
- UV filter
|image by Siim Vahur (Image rights)|
- Orange filter
- Green filter
- Two film cassette cases
- Two screwdrivers
- Lens hood
- Trigger assembly and strap
- Shoulder stock
The FS-12 is a very similar kit to the FS-3, with updated components. The camera body is a Zenit 12S; this photosniper therefore has the marked advantage over the FS-3 of through-the-lens metering. It was again supplied in an enamelled steel suitcase, with the the updated Helios 44 - a Helios-44M4 (or 44M5 or 44M6) 58 mm f/2 - and Tair-3AS 300 mm f/4.5 tele lens.
|images by Tony Kemplen (Image rights)|
|image by Ben Yurchenko (Image rights)|
A number of other Photosniper models were made as prototypes. The KMZ Archive website (now closed) shows photographs or sketches of some of these.
- FS-Zorki (late 1970s); the reflex housing incorporates a direct viewfinder with a wider view than the lens; the same eyepiece switches between through-the-lens reflex finding and the direct finder.
- FS-4, (early 1980s) an update of the FS-3 based on a Zenit-16
- FS-4M, very similar to the FS-4 but based on a Zenit-19.
- FS-5; a Photosniper using a planned modular 35 mm camera (a copy of the Rolleiflex SL2000F)
- FS-Zenit; a vertically-oriented 35 mm camera, shaped rather like a cine camera, and with only a pistol grip, not a stock.
- FS-5 (confusingly, reusing the designation of the modular camera project above); another updated version of the familiar stock-mounted 35 mm SLR Photosniper.
- FS-122 Souvenirny (850th Moscow Anniversary)
- 1943 GOI FS-2, serial no. 1364, based on FED NKVD body no. 169400, presented by GOI to A.E. Dobrovolsky, director of the Kiev optical plant, who oversaw the transfer of the captured Contax plant to Kiev. The camera outfit, including an instruction book dated 1943, was sold at the 22nd Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 24 November 2012.
- 1945 KMZ FS-2, serial no. 1369, based on FED NKVD body no. 170511, also sold at the November 2012 Westlicht auction.
- McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown's Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 12th Edition, 2005-2006. USA, Centennial Photo Service, 2004. ISBN 0-931838-40-1 (hardcover). ISBN 0-931838-41-X (softcover). p552.
- Notes on the KMZ Photosniper models at the KMZ Archive website (http://www.zenitcamera.com).
- Notes on the FS-2 (in Russian) with pictures of FS-2 serial no. 1054, dated to 1944 (interestingly inconsistent with the two examples at Westlicht cited above, both 13xx); at Georgi Abramov's Photohistory
- Photosniper FS-2 based on a FED 1d serial no. 159500, sold (for €9600) at the 20th Westlicht Photographica Auction, on 1 November 2011.
- Photosniper series at Communist Cameras
- Photosniper FS-12 at Kurt Tauber's Kamera Museum
- FS-12 user's manual, in Russian, at the KMZ Archive website (http://www.zenitcamera.com).