Zenit 12XP Reviews

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Latest Reviews

★★★☆☆

“Zenit 12xp”

Written on: 09/02/2014 by waitew (1 review written)

In the 1980's-mid 1990's the Soviet/Russia Zenit slrs were by far the least expensive entry into interchangeable lens,through the lens metering,35mm photography. They could be found advertised in the back of photo magazines being sold with lens,case & sometimes flash/lens cleaning kit for 2/3 the price of the body ALONE of their cheapest competitor (Pentax k1000). That was a very attractive deal to someone on a tight budget who desperately wanted a "professional" camera which to most people,in those days,meant a 35mm SLR. Back then the philosophy was the camera itself was just a light tight box with a film advance mechanism & a shutter. The real work was done by the lens (interchangeable in this case & in a common mount for which many high quality lenses were available)and the film (also interchangeable). That meant the smart thing to do was spent the big money on the glass & scrimp on the camera body. Be that as it may,the body still needs to have a certain level of features to be in the running. By comparison to it's competition the Zenit was low on features but NOT where it really mattered for ever day common photography. For example,the Zenit shutter speed range is only 1/30-1/500th a sec plus B. A pretty narrow range,but really how often does the average photographer use the other speeds? Unless you're shooting sports you're really not going to miss speeds above 1/500th a sec & speeds below 1/30th a sec. (require a tripod anyway)and things like astro photography & night time exposures require the B setting which the Zenit has anyway. The biggest draw back was the 1/30th a sec. flash sync speed,but even that is only 1 stop slower than it's competitors of the day (1/60th Pentax K1000,Canon AE1,AE1P etc.) All in all,back in the day,it looked like a decent deal. Now for the review. The body is clunky. The meter is fickle. The viewfinder only shows 60 something percent of the picture area. The flash syn speed is only 1/30th a sec which means either no fill flash in daylight or an ND filter & a real steady hand. But the lens is of high quality (far better than the camera) & can easily hold its own against western competitors of the day (in fact the lens alone is worth the price of the camera & is the ONLY reason Zenits review as well as they do). All in all,taking into consideration it's limitations (know to me at the time) it was a good purchase & delivered what it promised even if I did hate it & wished for a better Japanese camera,but the pictures I have from the Zenit ,from those days,are just as good as the later ones from when I did finally get a 'better' Japanese made camera. I guess that's all that really matters.

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★★★★★

“THE BEST Analogue Camera”

Written on: 16/12/2013

THE BEST Analogue Camera

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★☆☆☆☆

“The Zenit is probably one of the worst SLRs ever made....”

Written on: 14/03/2011

The Zenit is probably one of the worst SLRs ever made. Some people seem to like this camera because it is simple and mechanical and i makes you learn to shoot photos. The same can be said about Nikon F, F2, Nikkormat, Pentax Spotmatic, Olympus OM1 etc. I've used all of them. And they have much better quality and useability, Zenit wasn't even the best russian mechanical SLR the Kiev 19 was much better.

Problems:
The main problem with Zenit, is the hard shutter button, the 60% finder coverage (nikon had 100%), the bad mechanical machining (I had three of them all stopped working). If you want a classical mechanical camera to actually use then it's no need to buy a Zenit, you can get a used Pentax, Nikon, Olympus or Canon for a cheap price on the web these days. You will learn more about photography espescially composing with the better finder, and feel the lovely mechanical smoothness that only Japaneese and German cameras had.

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Jjbink's Comment

Written on: 02/01/2012

Quite agree Zeniths are a clunky dated (even at the time ) novelty.
They are quaint in a USSR type of way, I own various Feds, Zorki, Zenith etc also Practica and Olympus, Pentax etc.The Zenith is so far behind the Practica in weight, build reliability feel etc. I got out my Practica after 10 years and it works like new, The Zenith needed its shutter retensioning.
They are popular beyond their capability, but at least they kept Technical and Optical in business.

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★★★★★

“I just love this camera! I have a Pentax MZ-M and a...”

Written on: 19/01/2011

I just love this camera! I have a Pentax MZ-M and a digital Pentax A30 but the Zenit is a school of fotography in itself!

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Cpartha's Comment

Written on: 07/09/2012

school of fotography in itself ... LOL! I agree!!

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★★★★★

“The Zenit 12XP was my first SLR camera, practically I...”

Written on: 06/01/2011

The Zenit 12XP was my first SLR camera, practically I learned photography with this amazing camera. I bought it here in Colombia in 1990 a real bargain by the time compare with the japanese models, very robust, reliable and excellent Helios lens. I used it extensively in all kinds of conditions and always worked great, the LEDs system indicators very accurate.

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★★★★★

“I may have gone digital now and never looked back,...”

Written on: 23/10/2010

I may have gone digital now and never looked back, except when i think of my old Zenith 12xp my old friend never once let me down was serviced regularly I even bought a second one and a second hand Zenith E (bit trickier that) This was the camera all my early photography was done with - accepted Agfa HDC with high ISO ratings of 400 and those pictures were as good as any digital shots today!!!

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★★★★★

“Shame on you condemning the 12xp as rubbish. No one...”

Written on: 03/06/2010 by paulbuzz (2 reviews written)

Shame on you condemning the 12xp as rubbish. No one can dispute the fact it was a great picture taker and you need to understand the technical side of taking a photo with this camera. I started on this camera and today I understand pretty well what it takes to take a decent shot. Carl Zeiss lenses are not to be shunned I may add. The great part about it was the light meter in the form of flashing LEDs inside the view finder.

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★★★★☆

“The Zenit 12 XP is a brick of a camera which will...”

Written on: 23/01/2010

The Zenit 12 XP is a brick of a camera which will simply keep working. And the Helios 50mm F/2 lens is one of the most underated pieces of optics ever. I now own a Zenit E amongst other cameras, made in 1974 and still working quite happily. Compared to modern plastic junk, it feels like a Rolls Royce in your hands.

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★★★★☆

“this is not about the perfect exposure, contrast, or...”

Written on: 04/01/2010

this is not about the perfect exposure, contrast, or sharpness. Nor about ease of use or practicality. My old photography teacher taught me one thing: "the only thing that really matters [in photography] is what you point your lens to."
The Zenit 12xp, with its limited features, tight restrictions and relative user unfriendliness, is the perfect tool developing visual intuition.
http://www.alexzakkas.me

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★★★★☆

“I think everyone realises that the Zenit cameras are...”

Written on: 05/10/2009

I think everyone realises that the Zenit cameras are bargain basement, old school heavy chunks of metal, but what has that to do with basic photographic potential? The metering, with two LEDs in the viewfinder, is very accurate. The shutter speed, albeit limited, are accurate.

I used mine for many years, it beat the hell out of my other Praktica cameras in terms of reliabilty and quality of images with the Helios 28m, 58mm and 135mm lenses. I went over to Minolta when sold my Praktica set, and the Zenit still beat these AF,AE, digital era 35mm SLRs in su zero temperatures, when their lithium batteries froze. Still unsure whether the Sigma lenses I have with the Minoltas can match the old Helios lenses for definition and depth!

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★★★☆☆

“I find it extraordinary that the Zenit 12XP has...”

Written on: 21/07/2009

I find it extraordinary that the Zenit 12XP has attracted so many favourable reviews. I can only conclude that it is the only 35mm SLR which its reviewers have ever owned and therefore have nothing else with which to compare it - I would venture to suggest that even the similarly mechanical Olympus OM1, say, is rather ahead of the game. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a camera snob; indeed, I will readily concede that the Olympus OM1 was substantially more expensive than the humble Zenit and remains so on the second hand market!

Either that or certain of the reviewers have subsquently gone down the digital route - in which case even the Zenit 12XP seems like distinctly attractive proposition ...

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★★★★☆

“I had a Zenit 12XP from May 1985 to August 1987 and it...”

Written on: 13/07/2009

I had a Zenit 12XP from May 1985 to August 1987 and it was very much of a curate's egg - good in parts. To be fair, I only used the standard Helios lens and so I can only really speak for the camera itself, not its supplementary M42 screw thread lenses (although I would avoid the Helios teleconverters as the resultant lens flare just has to be seen to be believed). OK, it's not particularly reliable, but the fact that it is so very slow to operate certainly makes for a more considered, thoughtful approach to SLR photography. It also demands that you take the initiative as a photographer - it won't do the work for you. Very good for those who want to learn how to use a real 35mm SLR. Leather case supplied. Standard lens OK, but no more than that. Tough as old boots, though - I accidentally dropped mine on the platform at Sheffield station once and it actually bounced, leaving a dent in the platform! Interchangeable lenses - it is a real SLR, after all - and accepts good quality (if now rather elderly) Praktica or Pentax M42 lenses. Mine failed on me no less than four times in the two years I persevered with the camera. In fact, I had to return the first one to the store after just a few days as the viewfinder LEDs were inoperative; the remaining three breakdowns were all because of the same fault, i.e. the mirror locked itself in the up position and thereby blacked out the viewfinder. On two of these occasions, the failures occurred when I was actually on location in Scotland and that was particularly irksome I have to say. It was slow, unnecessarily heavy (construction was of brass to keep costs down), with a very limiting flash sync of 1/30 and a very modest shutter speed range of just 1/30-1/500 sec. The standard Helios 44M-4 58mm f2 lens was reasonable in terms of sharpness and just about acceptable as regards image contrast, although it tended towards the soft side and was very prone to flare. My friend's Helios actually had an air bubble in it, such was the quality control at the Zenit factory! Lens changes slow and cumbersome on account of the old M42 screw thread mount.

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★★★★★

“I love this camera. I am an amateur, and my first ever...”

Written on: 08/06/2009 by vumpsh (1 review written)

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.

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★★★★★

“Overall a fun manual camera to take snapshots with. ”

Written on: 07/05/2009 by gpower (1 review written)

Overall a fun manual camera to take snapshots with.

For the price it cannot be beaten as it can be had online for as low as £5, I paid just over £10 for mine in near mint condition. And the standard lens, the Helios 44M, is a very nice bit of kit, with a fairly large aperture and silky smooth bokeh.

There are a few things to watch out for though, Zenit quality control is legendarily iffy, so it is probably best to buy the camera from a fair where you can check all shutter speeds, the light meter, and make sure there shutter has no holes. Don ' t forget that some of these cameras came out in 1983, 26 years is a long time for a mechanical bit of kit which has probably never seen a service in its life. The good news though is that they are solid machines, my Zenit 12XP is from 1983 and it is in perfect working order. Sticky shutters are common, but sometimes they fix themselves with use, mine did.

In terms of ergonomics, I find it honestly nice. It doesn ' t sit in my hands as nicely as my modern DSLR, but there are no mayor drawbacks in terms of usability. Do keep in mind though that it is very limited in terms of shutter speeds, so it works best with ISO 100 film during a sunny day, and 200 when it is overcast.

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★★★★★

“I love photography.... I use this camera since I was...”

Written on: 10/12/2008

I love photography.... I use this camera since I was young... I know it just like the back of my hand... it is perfect... Recently I bought on ebay a soligor 25-55mm.... and it just rocks... I love it! It is a masterpiece for learning photography!

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★★★★★

“A few months before I noticed that I have an old...”

Written on: 11/09/2008 by Augy (1 review written)

A few months before I noticed that I have an old camera in my shelf. It was the current zenit. And now I've done a few shots, but haven't looked at them yet, so I can't tell anything about the quality, but I heard it's very good. I really like it. Also, a zoom lens would have been fine also, but unfortunately it didn't even exist at that time....

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★★★★★

“Great collection camera, i bought one which is still...”

Written on: 27/07/2008

Great collection camera, i bought one which is still working and looks new! Rock Solid, beautiful U.S.S.R. camera!

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★★★★★

“SOLID! Dependable, satisfying, and the helios lens is...”

Written on: 14/04/2008

SOLID! Dependable, satisfying, and the helios lens is sharp and contrasty. What a juggernaut.

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★★☆☆☆

“I purchased my Zenit 12XP 35mm SLR Camera, or perhaps...”

Written on: 08/05/2004 by harlee112833 (1 review written)

I purchased my Zenit 12XP 35mm SLR Camera, or perhaps it should be referred to as the 12HR, since the Russian cyrillic letters stand for XR, on Ebay for around $25.00. It was being sold under the Cambron label. Apparently the seller had no idea what it was, for he mentioned that there is some sort of battery holder on the back of the camera. The camera was in "like new" condition. I had a Zenit back in the 80's, with an external meter, and this one had the same heft and feel of of that older model, probably an "E" model. When I received the camera, I did notice there was a place for two button cells on the back of the camera, and started searching for a couple of batteries to fit. I did locate a couple, inserted them, but had no idea how the meter worked, or if it did work. When I depressed the shutter button, a very long distance I might add, I noticed a red diode light in the viewfinder. As I started turning the aperature ring and the shutter speed dial, I noticed that the red diod shifted to another red diod. As I continued to mess with it, I saw that at one point both red diods lighted up and started flickering. As I pointed the camera toward an outdoor light source, the exposure looked as though it was just about correct when both red diods flickered. Getting on a Zenit web site, I found that indeed when both lights flicker, the correct exposure has been achieved. But I also noticed that sometimes the lights wouldn't flicker no matter how I changed exposures. More research! Taking off the rewind crank, and lifting off the ISO dial on the top left of the camera, I found that the meter can be adjusted to a given light source. Using another reliable camera as a guide, I clearned off the variable resister located underneath the ISO indicator, set the correct shutter speed and aperature setting, and the slowly turned the variable resistor until both red diods stared to flicker, and then tightedned the set screws. Right now, my Zenit 12XP [12HR] works like a finely tuned watch. recently took it to Siberia with me and came back with some excellent pictures of Russian city life. I now have four Zenits, and like them all. These Russian cameras are sort of like our old model "A" autos, they're built to be worked on by an average person with some knowledge of cameras and photography. And they're very rugged. I recently took my Zenit 212K on a cruise and shot slides with it and they came out great. These Zenits are really workhorse cameras. I also have two FED 5C [or 5S] rangerfinders, one chrome and one black, like new and I am really amazed with the quality of the pictures they produce.

All in all, the Zenit wouldn't be my first choice to shoot a special event, but they are fun cameras to play with, and can produce some really great results.

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★★★★★

“Ah Soviet engineering! Well, what Carl Zeiss was to...”

Written on: 05/03/2004 by redbaron (16 reviews written)

Ah Soviet engineering! Well, what Carl Zeiss was to the DDR, Zenit was to the USSR. I have a Zenit 12XP which has finally given up the ghost on me and I think I am actually going to have to replace it. That being said they go cheap on ebay so it is tempting to nab another. It was my first 'proper' 35mm camera and I got it with a few lenses to play with. The Zenit is good and chunky, it's a durable bit of kit and can take a knock or two without a problem which compares well with many of the carbon fibre SLRs these days. The Zenit is very easy to use with simple functions, the flashing red lights tell you when the settings should be correct and as such I found it an excellent start into hobby photography. In my opinion you'd be hard pressed to find a better camera for a 16 year old say who wants to go out and snap. The Zenit is manual which forces you to learn how to use it properly rather than letting all the auto functions do the work. You feel like you've acheived something when you get that really good picture right.
On the negative side you are restricted to screw fitting lenses rather than the more common bayonet ones, that being said you can usually pick these up quite cheaply when you find them. I found the batteries in mine were a little odd and took a long time to find, I think the camera shop fleeced me for them as well, probably knew that I couldn't be bothered to look any more!

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Bertie's Response to redbaron's Review

Written on: 30/08/2004

"you are restricted to screw fitting lenses"
<br>
<br>No restriction friend - there are thousands of such lenses out there and most of them for peanuts. They're 'old fashioned' you see.
<br>
<br>BTW, the 'screw fitting' was originally called 'Edixa thread' from the name of the camera that first used it. It subsequently became known as 'M42' being 42 millimetres in diameter.
<br>
<br>Just thought you'd like to know that.

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Redbaron's Response to redbaron's Review

Written on: 28/05/2006

I think you'll find there are many people who learnt on Zenit's. I know 2 people who started with 12XPs who now do freelance work and they said it was a great camera to learn with.
Sure, it's old now but because it was built out of tank metal it'll last longer than you or I will mate!

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Fivish's Response to redbaron's Review

Written on: 25/05/2006

Good god man, this camera is a dinosaur! <br>I had a Zenit E 35mm camera 40 years ago! It was rubbish!
My next camera was a Nikkormat FT2 - wow what a beaut!

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Redbaron's Response to redbaron's Review

Written on: 01/09/2004

Hi Bertie, thanks for your comment. For the serious enthusiast M42 is indeed little of a hindrance but many will be buying cameras such as this in car boot sales and the like and for children etc. and they may need to hunt a little harder for the M42, but your addition is correct.

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