Tag Archives: 120

Walking City Mummies

4 Jul



camera Semflex and expired HP5+ film

For exotic and cheap 35mm film try lowcostfilm.com 



A pumpkin parade

30 Jun
A pumpkin parade

A pumpkin parade

A parade of pumpkins

Camera Pentacon Six
Film: expired Kodak Ektacolor 160
Photographed near Wildendürnbach, Weinviertel, Lower Austria, Austria, which is less than 10 km away from Mikulov or old Nikolsburg. 


Retinette 1b and Porst Happy

20 Mar

Two more articles added to the Photo Encyclopedia

Kodak Retinette 1b


a piece on Porst Happy, a wonderful Diana clone

Porst Happy is a genuine early Diana camera, distributed by Porst, a German distributor of camera equipment and photographic suppliers, a mail order house and a retailer that operated from 1919 to 1996.

A guilt-free sort of photographic experience albeit somewhat expensive for most people due to outrageous costs of new 120 format film (in most places). I put it up for sale on Ebay, but if it won’t sell then that won’t be a big deal: I’ll just keep the toy for occasional (and intentional) wastage of film.



Porst Happy is a conventional early model Diana camera, branded Porst for distribution in Germany. The camera allegedly dates from the year 1953, but I believe that to be an error, and the camera dates from 1963, it has synchro contact and a flash hotshoe.

Porst_Happy_04 Porst_Happy_03

1/50 seconds – all plastic Film used 120 Focusing with a distance scale 1.2 meters to infinity Focusing scale is in meters and feet Three apertures (symbol settings of sunny, cloudy, very cloudy, I assume the equivalents of 16, 12, and 8) The camera is suitable for taking multiple exposures.


Porst_Happy_01 Peter_118_Porst_60001 Peter_118_Porst_20002_small

Camera test: an early Komsomolec (Komsomolets)

1 Sep

Komsmolets (Komsomolets, Комсомолец)

The Long Story of the Komsomolets

Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is a Russian camera made by LOMO / Gomz inLeningrad,St. Petersburg, from 1946 to 1951. I own 2 specimens and both are of the 1947 vintage. One camera works pretty much like if it were new and the second one has a problem with the shutter. The release lever is loose in its socket, doesn’t fire when it is supposed to but thank Lord it looks fairly repairable, like if someone attempted to disassemble the contraption but then got interrupted by a call from the kitchen and had to put things back hastily together.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Komsolets is a first postwar consumer camera that was designed and made in a in a bombed out and burnt factory complex located in city that just lost over half of its population to the brutal three year long  Nazi siege,  one of the most horrific events in the World War. It was sold in a market that was hungry for any photography equipment and would consume anything.  Its history and its appeal has its roots in the siege ofLeningrad, the defining experience for all who survived it (the before and after thing, like the atomic bombing ofHiroshimaandNagasakibecame the before and after moment for its survivors); the survivors of the siege at the Lomo made this little camera after the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

As the Nazi hordes approachedLeningrad, in the  Fall of 1941 the Soviet authorities outlawed photographic cameras. Yes they did.  Every inhabitant of the city had to turn in his or her camera. The reasoning of that was fairly simple, there should be no record of what was about to transpire save for the official one.  By Nazi hordes I don’t mean the Germans because the invasion of the Soviet Union was an international affair let by a NATO-style coalition which at its utmost geographical stretch may be even exceeded current NATO – fromFinlandtoSpain.  WhenLeningradwas besieged the Northern approaches were encircled by the Finns asFinlandwas an enthusiastic Hitler’s ally and a leading Nazi power (more politically correct way of saying this is an Axis power). WithoutFinlandthe encirclement ofLeningradand murder of over one million civilians that ensued would not have been possible. BecauseFinlandbecame Soviet Union’s “friend” after the war all references to Finnish war crimes (which by far exceeded anything Germans did in the territory), political and popular racism or toFinland’s role in the siege ofLeningradwere suppressed by Soviet authorities. The encirclement was complete when southern approaches to the city were seized by the Wehrmacht units supplemented by a motley force that resembled the recent  Coalition of the Willing – from Estonian SS murders to Franko’s Spaniards, and from Romanian units to Norwegian SS volunteers.  Leningradremained besieged and encircled for almost three years until the siege was broken and remaining the Nazis later themselves encircled and killed off. When the Soviet authorities realized that the city is encircled, shut tight in fact,  they decided they need to do something about population control. The city had two or two and a half million inhabitants though perhaps almost half of the population had wisely fled by then. My grandmother didn’t. She spent the entire siege in the city from the first to the last day. She had to become medical doctor in 1942 but by 1942 the medical school was shut down because there were no professors and no students and the buildings were locked, frozen solid or burned out. She became a doctor of medicine in 1945, the first year the school opened.  When I browsed through her photo graduation album, I realized that out of entire group of perhaps 30 fresh doctors of medicine, there was only one, just one male graduate.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

With the city encircled in the late 1941 the authorities passed emergency decrees confiscating all photographic cameras and all radios. The punishment for disobeying the ordinance was espionage charge and death. Only one person was convicted of possessing and using a camera illegally, a fellow named Alexander Nikitin, who was turned to the authorities by his own neighbors, as usual, but got a milder five year sentence in imprisonment, possibly of starvation, in a couple of years  In 2002 three negatives he took which were kept in KGB archives all these  years were professionally enlarged and exhibited as part of a larger Unknown Siege or Unknown Blockade (Неизвестная Блокада) photo exhibition  together with photographs taken by reporters whose works likewise were classified and stored in secret archives.  Professional photographers employed by Soviet news agencies and newspapers could photograph almost freely but the pictures they took were subjected to military and political censorship with expectant results. Over 90% of all images were classified.  Nikitin’s photos (the condemned amateur photographer who escaped execution but instead died from in a camp) show that the authorities were not exceedingly paranoid in their fears of what subjects would amateur photographers pick when they permitted to.  Nikitin photographed bomb damage. There were way worse things to photograph.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

In late 1941 theLeningradauthorities turned all private phones off for fear that phones could be used to spread panic among large numbers of people.  Phones remained turned off until 1944.  I became distracted from the topic of Komsomolets camera, which is unique in the way that this was the first postwar camera made in ravished burned out and to a great extent an extinct ghost-like city, and sold to public that was deprived of opportunity to take pictures with own cameras for almost four years.  If you did not turn your camera in, there was another problem – film and photographic supplies were unavailable throughout the war.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

Soviet film manufacturing facilities were located in the territory overrun by the Nazis, were used for the Reich’s benefit and were destroyed at the end.  This explains that although there are literally countless tons or tonnes (if those are metric) of war images taken by ordinary Wehrmacht personnel photos from the opposing side are non-existent.  All just major German film manufacturers like Agfa and Perrutz operated throughout the war and even provided mail-in processing services for the troops in the field, but like with weapons industries and automotive manufacturing, the entireEuropemade stuff for Hitler and contributed to the Nazi cause.   Czech Foma , Belgian Gevaert, Italian Ferrania and Lumiere inFrancemade film stock and supplies until at least the middle of the war when pursuing hobby of photography and cinema became a somewhat lesser priority for the Nazis.  The other side left little amateur photographic evidence: Soviet soldiers were not allowed to have own cameras until later in the war but even if they were they was no film except what they could get from the dead Nazis.  The 1945 Victory Parade inMoscowwas filmed on captured German Agfacolor stock which then was flown in to defeatedBerlinfor processing.


Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951

The Soviet experience of confiscating cameras and radios from the citizens inLeningradwas by no means unique.  Nominally “democratic” Czechoslovakia confiscated all private radios from its German speaking citizens right before Hitler’s march into Sudenland and in 1945 the “democratic” Czechoslovak state requisitioned cameras and watches along with other valuables from 2.3 million individuals, who were also stripped of their citizenship, all rights to property and then expelled (perhaps as many as 240 000 were murdered because they were alleged to be German). I have no idea what didCzechoslovakiado with all those cameras but apparently they still provide inexhaustible supply of merchandise for Czech antique shops.

RevLomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -Soviet built Viru hotel in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Komsomolets was a special camera because in the minds of people who made it and who bought it, the Komsomolets signified a return to normal life or to a semblance of normal life.  From what I understand the film production was not restored for a few years, so the situation must had somewhat resembled the digital age, getting a film camera was easier than finding film.

Komsomolets is supposedly a knock-off from German Voigtländer Brillant. Or rather from an earlier version of Brillant because it is not a true TLR but a fake, a camera that appears like a TLR but is in fact just a box camera with no focusing arrangement, the user has to guesstimate the distance and the top part of the structure with the faux focusing lens acting purely as a decoration..

Why it is supposedly based on Brillant? Well, a number of fake TLRs were produced, most notably in theUS(a number of Argus cameras or Spartus Super R-I) though Komsomolets does remind one of a Brillant in styling perhaps more than other contemporary imitations.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a (hopefully) Italian made Vespa scooter in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Komsolets, a relatively rare camera, is often advertised as a copy of Brillant. Ebay sellers form the former Soviet Union have a tendency to say this less than half truth in their description of the merchandise they put up for sale. Brillant (and I own one or two of those apparatuses) is a better camera. It produces square images that are reasonably sharp without much vignetting while Komsomolets, at least the earlier models that I’ve got, is equipped with the simplest T-21 anastigmatic lens (there was a prewar Czech tank, Skoda T-21, though it was hopefully not related to this pathetic lens). The lens produces horrific vignetting and is quite blurry, perhaps blurrier than late plastic lenses of Holga and Holga-like toy cameras.  Though technically not classified as such, for all known purposes Komsomolets is a toy camera that has somewhat complicated controls.  Brillant is not a toy – it is a better built piece of equipment that is also more useful than Komsomolec (Komosomolets).


Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a Russian (1913) empire built theater, now an opera theater in Reval (Tallin or Tallinn), expired Kodacolor film, summer 2011

The main difference between the two is of course that most later, post 1937, versions of Brillant were   true TLRs even equipped with an exposure frame counter (like the Brillant I have) while Komsomolets is a pseudo-TLR, the upper lens really serves no purpose,  in fact it could as well be a box camera.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a harbor view Reval (Tallin, Talinn), Ilford PAN F film

In an inexact translation Komsomolec (Komsomolets) is normally rendered as a Young Communist. That product name alone would be shocking to Nazis and Americans (especially of the 1950s variety, when the USA assumed the role of the global anti-Communism crusader and accepted Third Reich’s heritage it preserves so diligently and the role it so dutifully carries forward until this day) but at the same time the name was of course totally innocent sounding to most Russians of the era. Now  it does strike one, even a Russian speaker, as both grotesque and dated.  Komsomol is syllabic  abbreviation that meansUnionof the Communist Youth and Komsomolets is a masculine noun produced from that abbreviation. Komsomol had members as young as 14 and membership in Komsomol could have lasted until early 20s (officially and much later the age was extended to 28 to keep older functionaries in place). Since a Komsomolets was someone in his or her teens, it is obvious that the camera was targeted at the group of very young users.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in   Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - uncle Sven in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Why did Lomo or Gomz decide to develop a fake TLR is beyond comprehension . In capitalist economies of the day where matter of market prestige was important, the advent of fake TLR or pseudo TLR was understandable or can at least be explained rationally. A person who could not afford an exorbitantly expensive Rolleiflex or even Rolleicord, or other great twin lens reflex cameras made in other countries like Semflex in France or Microflex in Britain, could always buy a fake TLR and look like the rich fellow in a Horch (Citroen, Rolls Royce) who had the real thing: a fake TLR from the 30s and 40s as a progenitor of fake mobile phones from the early 1990s. Prestige pressure was probably not that great in the Stalinist Soviet Union, especially in respect to a product made for kids and young adults, and the manufacturers could have just saved some raw materials and labor and produced a very good box camera instead but for some reason the designers at Lomo – and the party apparatchiks who had to approve every decision at the planning authority – went along with a fake TLR. Perhaps even they thought it would be cool to give survivingLeningradkids a visual resemblance of something that at least looks like a Rolleiflex.


Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  some street flowers in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - some street flowers in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Nonetheless, the body of the Komsomolets (that sounds quite macabre) was later used for producing the first generation of the Lubitel cameras.  A Lubitel  means an amateur in Russian which, like in the original French sense of the word amateur, signifies someone who loves the thing he does, like photography, but not necessarily does it poorly or inferiorly to a pro, who in turn can be quite inferior to a good amateur in all respects, the difference between the two is that a professional who does the work for money, a photographic mercenary,  while an amateur is someone who does it out of sheer pleasure or love (for the occupation and art of photography in this case). Obviously in modern American English the meaning of the word has somewhat mutated from the value of its original French importation and the amateur now is just somebody who is a dilettante.

Unlike Komsomolec the Lubitel that followed it was a true TLR and quite remarkable photographic instrument considering its very low retail price.

The Summary:

Komsomolets is a twin lens reflex camera that uses 120 format film and produces 12 images in the so called 6×6 format.

From 1946 until 1950 the first two versions of Komsomolets cameras were equipped with simplest T-21 (Triplet) lenses. The lens was 6.3/80 and had centrally built shutter (had to be cocked manually before  each exposure) , and a modest exposure range of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and Bulb.

The last, 1951 model, came with a much better T-22 lens, the same lens was used in the early Lubitel cameras.

The very first models of Komsomolets were supposedly equipped with a mechanical frame counter, I never saw a specimen of those mythical species. These are proto-Komsomolets.

The second version of Komsomolets, known as the Model I or Issue I (Выпуск I) – and  from 1946 to 1948 had the inscription Ленинград (Leningrad) underneath the lower lens, I’ve got two of those and had one tested with film.

The third one, named Model – Ia or Issue – Ia (Выпуск Ia) was identical to the previous model but had no wordLeningradunderneath the lens.

The last one or the Model II or the Issue II ((Выпуск II) had a different T-22 lens and was replaced by the Lubitel in the year 1951 (Lubitels were made from the year 1950 onward so for one year at least Lomo made both Komsomolets, a pseudo-TLR and Lubitel, a real TLR in the same body, concurrently).

In total almost 400 000 Komsmomolets cameras (some 370 000 to be precise on official count) were made.

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 -  a tram (street car) stop in  Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

Lomo / GOMZ Komsomolets - 1946-1951 - a tram (street car) stop in Reval (Tallin, Talinn), expired Kodak Ektacolor, summer 2011

The conclusion:

Komsomolets (Komsomolec) cameras, at least the first models with T-21, are a photographic curiosity. A collector of Soviet cameras might buy one for his or her collection but as far as photographic capabilities of the cameras are concerned, they are quite limited.

If one is to shop for Komsomolets with practical photography in mind, I would suggest getting the last year model with a T-22 lens but better still go for a cheaper and more  capable Lubitel.

With shipping on Ebay Komsomolents would cost an international buyer anything from 50 to 100 euros. The price inRussiaor formerSoviet Unionstates would range from 30 to 50 euros, therefore this piece is more expensive than far more capable Lubitel.

Komsomolets like early Lubitel uses 27mm (supposedly) push-on filters but Rolleiflex 28.5 filter fits as well. A way to reduce vignetting somewhat would be getting a lens hood (27, 28 mm lens hoods are readily available).

I ran my test with two rolls of film – a black and white Ilford PAN F (was sorry to waste the film on a Komsomolets) and a roll of expired Ektacolor 160