The Russian KMZ turret viewfinder

I have often found the Russian photographic equipment to be a benchmark in engineering, to what is possible on a budget and how reliable you can manufacture a product. The KMZ Turret is holding up that legacy. In fact, I would probably go so far as to say, that this viewfinder is one of the nicest pieces of engineering to have left Soviet Russia.

Russian equipment always had a bad reputation for loose, sloppy and badly finished products. Unfortunately, this is not true. Sort of… Yes, Russian equipment did not have the best quality control in the world. However, most of the equipment was being produced in a time when Russia needed quantity, not quality. In many cases this showed. The speed of manufacture was at its peak. They were pumping out cameras to the masses, at prices the working class could afford. The modern term used is ‘building on the shoulders of greats.’

It is certainly no secret that Russia (may) have replicated other manufacturers of their time. They very much saw the practical view of ‘why re-invent the wheel’. This led to such cameras as the Kiev88 and the Fed rangefinder.

Many of these units left the factory in an un-polished state as the need for speed eventually became the priority. Some camera owners got left with a unit that would lock up, have slow shutter speeds or just plain outright would not work. This does not mean it was bad engineering. Realistically all these units needed was a good service after coming from the factory.

When being imported into Britain, some of the key importers took it upon themselves to service and test the units that they sold. Allow the public to buy working products that would work for many, many, years to come.

The Review

This turret has got to be the exception in the rule of the generic Russian fast-manufacturing processes. The quality of the finish and the size of the components is some of the finest I have seen. It looks like the using was produced by Swiss jewellers. Every part has been perfectly formed.

The unit itself, looks to be made from brass stock and turned and finished. With electro plating for the silver satin finish to stop corrosion and/or tarnishing. The same for the hot-shoe mount, only milled. The screws in much of the Russian equipment is usually made from a slug metal of lower quality, but it doesn’t seem that way in this product. Again, it seems a reasonable quality of material was used, then polished, cleaned and plated.

The viewfinder frame seems to be printed onto a glass lens rather than the typical plastic film of cheaper cameras. Improving the overall image quality and light transmission.

The viewfinder lenses are all primes, producing a much more accurate, sharper and brighter view compared to even Leica’s zoom viewfinders. The turret also allows internal shifting of all the lenses to allow for parallax error. All of this does however come at a cost. It is larger and heavier than the other manufacturers more expensive alternatives. I have not used to viewfinder long enough to tell whether there are many issues from the optical design, but I do not think there will be problems such as flare. The insides all look well matted reducing internal reflections and improving contrast.

All I can really say is, if you’re willing to put up with a slightly larger viewfinder on your camera, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!


    Lenses: 28mm, 35mm 50mm 85mm 135mm
    Approximate Dimentions: 38,44,58mm

With Thanks

A massive thanks to Exposure Cameras for the donation of the Turret Viewfinder.