Zorki S

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The Zorki S (C in Cyrillic) [1] was a redesign of the Zorki 1 that added flash sync.

The internal flash contact is placed on the control shaft of the shutter, which leads from the mechanism to the shutter speed selector. This necessitates a drastic redesign of the upper structure of the camera. The rangefinder housing is taller, and the shutter speed selector is no longer on a "step" down from this housing. There is no longer molding around the front viewfinder window and the housing now extends all the way to the right hand end of the camera, with the shutter release and winding knob sitting on a "step" that is one piece with the rangefinder housing, as this is where the PC socket is housed.

The Zorki S and 2S are considered less attractive because of the redesign which makes the camera look less sleek and compact than the Zorki 1 and 2. No longer is the Zorki a near twin to the Leica II, though in most regards they are still very similar cameras with in many regards equal capabilities. The lower demand for these cameras, and hence lower cost, compared to the Zorki I, can make them a very appealing camera to someone who wants the Leica experience without the expense.

The S and 2S were the last Zorkis to be bottom-loading and have separated viewfinders and rangefinders. Concurrently, the early Zorki 3 models were being made, with large combined viewfinders and Contax-style removable backs, as well as Leica III style slow speed timers.

(The Zorki 2S was a Zorki S with a self-timer added, or conversely, a Zorki 2 with the Zorki S top deck and flash synch.)


Being a modfied copy of the Leica II, the Zorki S hearkens back to a 1930's school of camera design, but with modifications to stay competitive in the world of the 1950's. It is small camera, oblong in vertical profile, with most of the controls built into the top deck. It has, like the Barnack Leicas, a small fixed reverse-telescopic viewfinder with a 50mm-equivalent field of view, a circular superimposed-image rangefinder (separate from the viewfinder), and a 39mm screwmount for standard LTM lenses.

Like many cameras derived from the Leica, it must be loaded from the bottom. A 20-perforation tongue must be cut from the exposed film leader in order to wrap the film securely around the takeup spool before engaging the upper sprocket wheel. Failure to do so can cause chips of film to break off and enter the mechanism, where they can cause severe (but temporary) problems.

The film should not be manipulated through the open shutter gate. This is not necessary and it can damage the shutter if the shutter tries to close while the photographer's fingers are inside. The long leader method is the result of much experimentation in Germany in the 1930's, and no better solution has been found.


The shutter is a simple model, virtually identical to the original Leica I shutter in most regards, though in this case modified so that the shutter speed can be changed while the shutter is uncocked--early Leicas and most Russian cameras cannot be changed while uncocked, but cameras with the shutter speed indicator on the central axle of the dial usually have a redesigned shutter without this weakness. The shutter mechanism works by varying the width of the curtain opening only--no delay timer is included for slow speeds, and the curtains always move at the same speed. In order to change the width of the opening, a dial on top of the camera is lifted and turned, so as to raise a pin out of a hole in an internal coupling disk and put it in another. The speeds are 1/500 through 1/25th and "B." Long exposures without a cable release are available on "B" by pressing and turning the shutter release so as to lock it down.

Unlike the Leica IIs it was based on, it has variable flash sync, with a standard PC port and cold shoe to mount a flash. The flash sync is adjustable, with a lever mounted coaxially with the shutter speed dial. This lever adjusts the delay from 0 miliseconds to 25 miliseconds, depending on the type of flashbulb (or electronic flash) being used. This arrangement is common to several KMZ cameras and a few other cameras from the 1950's, including the penultimate screwmount Leica, the Leica IIIF. Soon standardized flashbulbs and electronic strobes would make this complexity unnecessary, but at this time it was a high-end feature aimed at the professional market. At any rate, it makes the camera perfectly able to synchronize with almost any flash. Sync speed is 1/25th.


The rangefinder is operated by a cam inside the lens mount, which presses on the rear-facing coupling ring of most Leica Thread Mount lenses. It is unclear how precisely the mechanical tolerances and registration of the lens mount and cam match those of screwmount Leicas, but it is generally accepted that Leica lenses (et al.) function acceptably well on Russian cameras and vice versa. Most often, this camera was issued with a collapsible Industar 22 or Industar 50 50mm f/3.5, both Tessar copies designed with a similar body to the Leitz Elmar-- i.e., a collapsible tube with an internal bayonet to lock it in the extended position. Other lenses offered with the camera were rigid Industars (all Tessar designs) and the Jupiter 8 50/2, one of the more lauded Soviet lenses, being a Zeiss Sonnar copy produced in numbers that the Sonnar could never match.

Period literature, and the experience of many users, indicates that most Soviet rangefinders are not linear, and cannot be calibrated to be totally accurate at all ranges--either they will end up "nearsighted" and give more accurate focusing within, say, 10 meters, or "farsighted" and give accurate focusing from 10 meters out. Either way, medium-to-small apertures readily correct for any deficiency in the rangefinder.

Like most of the Leicas, many lenses are visible in the viewfinder, blocking some of the field of view. For example, the Industar 26m variant with the scalloped focusing ring (or most Industar 61's, which are very similar in shape) will have a large amount of the focusing ring visible in the lower right of the viewfinder. This phenomenon is known as viewfinder blackout, and it was considered one of the bugbears of the original Leica II's design. The collapsing Elmar-style lenses notably avoid appearing in the finder, while the focusing-lever variant of the Industar 26m is less noticeable than the scalloped version. Notably, one can just make out the aperture being set on the focusing-lever 26m, such that with practice, the aperture can be set without lowering the camera from the eye. While not intended, this quirk can be rewarding to the action photographer--it would be another twenty years before it would be truly common for cameras to display the aperture inside the viewfinder.



  1. "S" stands for "sinkhronizirovannyy," "synchronized," referring to the shutter's being synchronised for flash.


Zorki cameras
FED-Zorki | 1 | S | 2 | 2-C (S) | 3 | 3M | 3S | 4 | 4K | Mir | 5 | 6 | 10/11 | 12 | 35M