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Russian TLRs

Russian camera design postwar owed a huge amount to their capture in 1945 of the designs, moulds and machinery of the many German optics and photographical companies based in what became the GDR until 1989. Along with German technicians taken to Russia, this material enabled major advances in lens and shutter manufacture and quality. The GOMZ/LOMO series of TLRs derives directly from the prewar Voigtlander Brillant models, of which they were direct copies.

The cameras here are generally well known, although the earliest, the Komsomolets, is relatively uncommon. The really rare one is the Nyeva (often mis-transliterated as "Neva").

Around 1960, a number of prototypes of another, even rarer, the Rassvyet (PACCBET in Cyrillic script) were built, but it seems that full production never started. People who've seen it say it looks fairly good, rather like a Ricoh or Yashica. Perhaps 10 or 20 prototypes were made. If anyone comes across it, has one to sell, or merely has access to a digital photo I could use here, PLEASE LET ME KNOW.

The bible for collectors of Russian cameras is Jean-Loup Princelle's "Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras", which was published in a new edition in 2005. Much information on this page is owed to M Princelle.

See also the note on shutters at the bottom of this page.


GOMZ Nyeva

The Nyeva (HEBA in cyrillic script) dates from around 1956-8 and was made by GOMZ (later LOMO - "Leningradskoye Optiko-Mekanicheskoye Obyedineniye") in Leningrad, like all the other cameras here. Named after the river which flows through Leningrad (now once again St Petersburg), it had a metal body, ground glass focusing centre spot in a brilliant finder, and sprung crank winding.

Unlike the other GOMZ products, the Nyeva was genuinely innovative and could have been an exciting export opportunity, but for some reason was never mass produced. Perhaps a few hundred were made, and I suspect they went to the upper Party apparatchiks. This one turned up in Poland, and it's the only one I've ever seen. It is fitted with an Industar-6 f3.5 75mm lens and a ZT-11 shutter with speeds from 1/8 to 1/250s.


GOMZ Komsomolets

A good rip-off. The USSR took much German technology in 1945 as reparation; the Voigtlander Brillant (q.v.) was one such. The Komsomolets (c1946) is derived directly from the later (1938) bakelite Brillant body and focus only on the taking lens as for basic Brillants. Production only reached 25,000 before the Lubitel replaced it in 1949-50.
Taking lens is T-22 75mm f6.3
Shutter unnamed 1/25 to 1/100

GOMZ/Leningrad Lubitel

The Lubitel succeeded the Komsomolets in 1948, and is a copy of the later geared-lens Voigtlander Brillant. It was a significant improvement, although still pretty basic. It was turned out in huge quantities - over a million units in total to 1956 - and was copied by the Chinese as the rare "Changle" from 1961.
Taking lens is T-22 75mm f4.5.
Shutter ZT-5 1/10 to 1/200

GOMZ/Leningrad Lubitel 2

The Lubitel 2 came out in 1955 and was current until 1980, over two million being produced up to 1980. I have one still sealed in its original delivery box and never opened! The shutter is now synchronised, but otherwise only the nameplate gives it away as different from the Lubitel.

Taking lenses are T-22 75mm f4.5
Shutter ZT-5 1/15 to 1/125

Lomo Lubitel 166B

The factory changed its name again to Lomo by the time the 166 arrived in 1976. Bakelite went in favour of thermoplastic in very seventies style. Otherwise it's just a restyled 2. This is a 1980 166B with self-timer - the largest production variant (900,000). The basic 166 sold only 70,000 units and there's also a 166U with 6x4.5 ability (400,000 produced).
Taking lenses are T-22 75mm f4.5
Shutters unnamed 1/15 to 1/125

GOMZ Global 676

This item is a rebadged Lubitel-2, probably made for a distributor, although there is no mention of it in any of the reference works - including Princelle - and only a couple on the web. I must assume that very few were produced - this one is serial no. 513, and one other identified on the web is no. 281. There is a Kalimar-badged version which is more common, although I have yet to obtain one.
Taking lenses are (T-22?) 75mm f4.5
Shutter ZT-8 1/15 to 1/250

GOMZ/Leningrad Sputnik

This (c1955) turned the bakelite TLR into a cheap stereo camera using mostly Lubitel 2 bits. Crude but effective, using 120 film for six twinned shots - the lenses and shutters are linked by simple rod/lever arrangements. TLR can also mean "THREE-lens reflex" if you want...

Taking lenses are T-22 75mm f4.5
Shutters unnamed 1/15 to 1/125

A few words about Russian shutters

This note is extracted from a Russian website (translated)

The Iskra FXCh-18 shutter, nearly silent and born in 1960, was a great achievement and the outcome of nearly two decades of endeavours and Russian designs, evolved out of top-notch original German concepts, both mechanical and optical. Before the appearance of the Iskra, the Russians had already a developed a reputation in the making of superb shutters for medium format cameras. Along with the Iskra, the Moment-5D shutter of the Moskva-3(1950-1951), the Moment-23S of the Moskva-4(1956-1958), the 24S of the Moskva-5 1956-1960, the ZT 13 central shutter of the Estafeta-Gomz(1957-1958), the ZT 14 of the Vympel "Ensign"(1958-59), the ZT-5 of the Lubitels 1 and 2, the ZT-11 of the Neva (1956-58), and so forth.