The Zorki from Jena​

Juli, 1945. The US Army handed the small German town Jena over to the Soviet Army. At this time Americans already recruited some of the engineering staff, collected all documents and patents of the Carl Zeiss Werke.

In the following monthes, Soviets started the dismanteling of the whole production facility. Together with another big part of engineers and workers from »Carl Zeiss Jena«, the factory was brought to Soviet Union.

KMZ (Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod) and Kiev Arsenal now produced lenses labelled »Carl Zeiss Jena«. And – the Zorki.

It's not a Leica: It's a Zorki.​

Zorki cameras are based on the pre-war FED line of Leica copies. During WW2 the FED factory had to be evacuated from Kharkov in Ukraine from the advancing German troops. After the war FED had problems to go back into production for some time, so KMZ assisted with it’s production facility and ressources. When FED got back in operation, KMZ continued to produce the rangefinder cameras under the Zorki trademark. The Zorki 1 was the first Zorki branded body produced at the KMZ factory.

And while Leica in the western hemisphere already abandoned it’s model Leica II, the Zorki was still a success model in the Soviet Union. Different sources estimate about 800.000 produced Zorki 1. And with the Zorki 1 coming to age, the common path of Zorki and Leica came to an end. The Zorki 2 already marked an independend way of thinking. The Zorki from Jena became a symbol of Soviet photographical history. And due to it’s interesting and intriguing history, an indispensible “must have” in every collection of Soviet cameras.

It makes no sense of buying a Zorki because it’s a copy of a Leica. If you want a Leica, go for one. There’s a great and vivid community around this brand. Being part of this community is one of the many reasons owing a Leica. A Zorki is it’s own brand with it’s own community of collectors and enthusiasts. I have no real clue why there’s such a strange animosity. No sense in that.

The Zorki from Jena​

Produced with the machinery, engineers and workers of »Carl Zeiss Jena«, the early Zorki 1 is not a Leica II but a Zorki, produced on the original machinery of »Carl Zeiss Jena« with the engineers and staff from »Carl Zeiss Jena«. But do me a favour, call it a ZORKI.

Ok, got it. But why still shoot it?​

Leaving aside the nostalgia factor I love it’s reliability. I have many different cameras from all times and epoches in my 35mm collection, from Zorki 1 to the Nikon F100. But it was the oldest one, the Zorki, which never let me down.

But there are many other reasons which make the Zorki 1 still be an interesting camera to shoot with.

It teaches you the Essence of Photography​

In this decent yet beautiful rangefinder there’s nothing inside what could distract you from your main goal: Take great photos. No light metering, no auto-zoom (no zoom at all with standard lenses).

You need to set apertue. Determine light situation and choose the right shutter speed. Set the focus in the second rangefinder window. Press the shutter. More basic and essential photography can’t be (besides pinhole photography, to be fair).

While a camera like the Nikon F100 is an excellent film photography camera for beginners who just want to have an easy start, a camera like the Zorki 1 has the potential to teach you everything you need to know about photography. Simply because you have to know what you’re doing, otherwise you won’t get any photo done (right).

And as there are no playful functions available, you can focus yourself on the photo itself. Motif, story, light and shadow – nothing distracts you from the concept which you have on mind.

M39 Screw Mount interchangable Lenses​

The 39mm screw mount — also called Leica Thread Mount (LTM ), Leica Screw Mount (LSM), or M39 — was introduced by Leica with the model I (C), and used on all the Leica models until the bayonet mount M3. The mount was adopted on many Leica copies and other 35mm rangefinder cameras.

That means the Zorki can operate a full list of interesting lenses in all price segments. You migth want to have a look at this list of 39mm screw mount lenses.

The only limitation is the set distance between lense and film. With some lenses it’s not possible to focus close range objects.

The Sympathy Factor​

Leave aside that it is simply a beautiful camera. The Zorki 1 is actually all you need for doing great street shots. It's small and handy, absolutely reliable, fits into any pocket and on the street it makes the crowd smiling. The chances that you get the allowence to take someone's picture with it are excellent. It's the sympathy factor!

100% Street Ready​

The Zorki 1 is small and handy. It slips into any bag or even pocket. That makes it a great companion for street photography or simply as a backup camera.

The Sympathy Factor​

If you’re on the street with a Zorki 1, you will see the crowd smile. It’s interesting. Neat. Special. You’re not the bad guy who wants to secretly steal their pictures without permission like those other greedy guys with their fat cameras.

If you’re approaching people with a Zorki, asking if they would mind to be on your picture, they will hardly say “no”. You’re immediately in a small talk about your fine small camera. That’s the perfect setting for relaxed and great street photography, walking the way of friendly consensus.


Lenses: Zorki-1 offered with various lenses:

Industar-22 (50mm f/3.5) (ИНДУСТАР) [5]
Industar-50 (50mm f/3.5)
Jupiter-3 (50mm f/1.5)
Jupiter-8 (50mm f/2) (ЮПИТЕР)


Horizontal-travel, cloth focal plane shutter, speeds: 1/20 (25) – 1/500, + ‘Z'[6] (‘Z’ is ‘B’ shutter, and is marked B on cameras after 1955: ‘Z’ perhaps refers to ‘Zeit’ – ‘time’ in German).


has a separate window, on the back left side of the top plate, yellow rangefinder images, very small


Simple reverse telescope finder, window on the right of the rangefinder window

Frame counter

Decreasing type, manual reset, beneath the cocking knob

Bottom film loading

like old Leicas, bottom plate opens by a pop-up lever on it. Take up spool is a special removable type


Cold-shoe; Tripod socket: 3/8 inch
Body: Metal; Weight: around 520g

A Zorki is it's own brand with it's own community of collectors and enthusiasts.​

The Panda says: YES!​

The Zorki 1 is film photography camera with charme and character. If you are into film photography, I guess that the process of taking a picture is as important to you as the final picture itself. And the Zorki 1 supports exactly that: It’s a special feeling to take pictures with this handy rangefinder.

And not to forget: The slapping “click” of the curtain, when you press the shutter. But that’s already a topic for those celebrating the shutter fetish.

So if you have the chance to get one for a budget, don’t hesitate. Just never forget that your new little friend will need some inspection and hands on before going to use it. It’s an old camera.

Photos made with my Zorki 1