Kiev IIa

  • Type: IIa
  • Serial No: 5703793
  • Manufactured: 1957
  • Manufacturer: Arsenal Factory, Kiev, Ukraine, SSSR
  • Shutter: vertically travelling metal "curtain" shutter
  • Shutter speeds: B, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1250
  • Lens: Jupiter-M8 1:2 F=5 cm
  • Aperture: 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22
  • Lens No: 6516489
  • Lens mount: Contax bayonet
  • Last CLA: 10/2010

Kiev IIa

I have always wanted a Contax II. This camera is a copy of it. I was really excited when I finally got it to my hands after the CLA.

Contax meant to be the camera system to rule the 35mm market and push Leica off its trone. Contaxes were technically more advanced with their larger rangefinder base, rangefinder integrated into the viewfinder, removable back for easy film loading, sharper and faster lenses, bayonett lens mount, faster and sun-resistant vertically traveling metal curtain shutter, built in self timer and later the integrated selenium light meter.

Kiev IIa

Kiev IIa

Kiev IIa

The first Kiev rangefinders were relabeled Contaxes produced by the Karl Zeiss Dresden factory at the end of WWII. After the War the Soviet army transferred the machinery, parts and engineers from Dresden to Kiev to establish the production of the Russian Kiev rangefinders in the Arsenal factory. They even produced Contax labeled cameras in the beginnings. The Russians took some engineers from the Zeiss Jena factory as well where the legendary Sonnar lenses were made to copy them under the Jupiter name. (The same engineers who, after going back to Germany, designed the legendary Werra cameras.) The Russians modified the plans to reduce the precision needed and make the manufacturing more simple.

But let's come back to the Kiev IIa. Let me explain how this camera gradually transformed my opinion.

Kiev IIa

Kiev IIa

1. Before The First Roll
Before the first roll I was amazed by its look. The square design suits it well. The lens is a masterpiece. I loved it and hardly waited to start shooting with it.

2. Shooting the First Roll
Well, it's a strange camera. You cannot set the aperture unless you lock the focus to infinity because otherwise the aperture ring twists the whole lens setting the focus. And the rangefinder. The famous Contax rangefinder. It's almost impossible to set the focus with it because the left and the right side of the rangefinder frame matches at different distances. It's somehow too precise to be useful. Very difficult to handle. The other thing is the shutter. Setting the speed is quite problematic with that inconvenient knob which you have to pull out and twist while you are reading the speed marks engraved under the knob. The metal curtain shutter sounds great but, in reality, it's heavy like hell. It has a momentum which makes the camera "nod" after the exposition. Really. It feels strange. No, this camera will never take a single usable photo that's sure. The designers had to do something in lower shutter speeds to make it somehow nearly useable so they slowed down the speed of the curtain. Very much. Looks ridiculous. Summarizing: it's an uncomfortable, difficult, impractical thing which is basically incapable of taking sharp photos.

3. Shooting the Second Roll
I don't know, everybody likes Contaxes and Kievs so there must be something in them. I'll give it a second try. Still uncomfortable but gets better when you get used to it. First set the aperture. Part of the composition. Then match the speed. Finally set the focus. Can be used this way. The large rangefinder base definitely needs some practice but it's precise like nothing else.

4. Getting the Rolls Back from the Lab
Wow! How the hell... These photos look great! Did they really come out of that camera? Sharp, crisp and beautifully rendered. No, you cannot hate something which takes this kind of pictures. It simply must be loved. Let's put another roll of fim in it.

5. Third Roll
I love it. A great camera. It takes fantastic photos and that is what matters at the end of the day. Doesn't it?

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This is how I ended loving this camera so much. It renders almost in 3D. I haven't seen anything like this before.

Always cock the shutter before setting the speed. Never set the speed first or you will damage the shutter permanently. (Some later types are not vulnerable to this but you’d better not count on it.)


  1. excellent stuff
    love your models as well ........
    The Werra Matic you have is incredible looks great and looks tactile ..!
    fantastic commentary
    many thanks from an Englishman living abroad
    Best regards
    Brian Livno BiH

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