Written on: 08/06/2009 by vumpsh (1 review written)
Extremely solid construction, very sturdy and hence feels good in the hand. Excellent student camera- good camera for the price, with a fantastic lens for the price. Plastic knobs on top of body, especially the shutter speed knob which doesn't rotate when released and doesn't need to be lifted to be set, are an improvement (in my opinion) over the older Zenit knobs. TTL meter a huge improvement over the external, uncoupled meters of older zenits (although still not perfect, see "Bad Points.") I recommend it.
Batteries for light meter could be difficult to find. Occasionally, some specific cameras may have a light meter that is hard to operate and/or not very well calibrated; the light meter's range of ISO's is very small, smaller than the range that could effectively be shot. Low range of shutter speeds.
I love this camera. I am an amateur, and my first ever SLR was an older zenit-E. Since then, I have used many newer, much more high end pieces, but when I got a Zenit-12XP recently as a present, I fell in love with the Russian SLR again. Some people criticize Zenits for being clunky, but I love how solidly it feels in the hand. Controls are significantly improved over older models by the same brand, and I could consider this to be the best Zenit. Why? It has many technical improvements (ergonomics, TTL metering, auto aperture, etc) over the early models, but still dates to an era before the quality control at KMZ fell to an abysmal low in the 1990s. The shutter speeds on this camera are 500-30, plus B. This is, of course, limited, but in the conditions of off-the-hands, amateur shooting (for which this intro level SLR was intended), it is enough. Shutter speeds slower than thirty usually require something like a tripod to stabilize your shot anyway (this camera is not professional, this wasn't part of the plan). 500 is a bit low for max. speed, but it falls well into the general scheme of this student piece- the shutter speed dial for the light meter will show one that usage of film faster than 400 was never intended. On a sunny day, at noon, at f-16, your shutter speed should equal your ISO. Thus, on the brightest of days, on the narrowest of apertures of the standard HELIOS lens, you can shoot four hundred film at 500 shutter speed. Thus, the camera is obviously pushed to the limit. It is a LIMITED camera. It is, however, a joy to use and really, really fun. As a student camera, it is excellent. I know that personally I am extremely happy to have learned on an even older, completely manual Zenit, because the simplicity of these workhorse cameras is beneficial in building a true understanding of photography's basics, and forces the student to avoid pointing and shooting. Finally, it is forgiving in its durability. An acquaintance did a test by throwing his 12 into water for ONE HOUR! Upon getting it out and letting it dry a bit, it worked fine. If it does break, it is ridiculously easy to fix and extremely cheap and easy to replace.