Photos Taken With A Soviet-Era Film Camera

Film Club

Link Galeza is a relatively new customer of PhotoLounge
and we were intrigued to hear about his camera, a Soviet era Kiev 60 TTL and the photos he captures with it.

Here is an interview with him and some photos he has taken with that camera.

Q: What got you interested in photography?
A: It started just before high school when my dad was taking a photography course at the local college. He involved me in his projects and let me tag along to the darkroom. I was hooked once I discovered this new way to express creativity! I started reading Popular Photography, and longed for every new 47th Street Photo catalog.  I just had to have the Pentax MX with the 50mm f1.7 lens. Doing odd jobs, I scrimped and saved enough to finally buy my dream camera. I loved that MX, and took it everywhere with me. Became the high school yearbook photographer, snuck the camera into concerts, did portraits for a modest fee and small weddings on the side, all at that early age! Fast-forward 25 years, I stupidly sold my beloved MX for next to nothing to fund an entry into digital. After 15 years of digital, I got the itch to return to film. This past year has been 100% analog and I’m hooked once again!

Q: Where did you find/purchase this camera?
A: A little background on the “why” before the “where”. My son-in-law gifted me a Holga 120N “toy camera”. I had no idea what a Holga was, but a quick web search revealed the vast following these cameras have. Embrace the anomalies and use them creatively! Plus, I found the square 6X6 format to be very appealing. This inspired me to find a high-quality medium format camera, to highlight colors, resolution, and detail. I set a strict budget for myself, but was unsuccessful trying to find a reasonable Pentax, Bronica, or Mamiya. Then I stumbled upon the Kiev in a discussion forum, with warnings that these Soviet-era Pentacon Six knock-offs had a reputation for spotty quality control. But if you find a good one, it is a remarkable bargain.  I went on the hunt, searching auction sites and enthusiast forums. I eventually found one “like new” from the motherland (now Russia). I took a chance, made the purchase from a gentleman named Vlad, and crossed my fingers for luck. Two weeks later a strangely labelled packaged arrived with customs stamps all over it. Inside was a beautiful condition, Kiev 60 TTL.

Q: What do you like most about this camera or what excites you when using it? 
A: You really know you’re holding something with this 6-pound beast. So old-school in appearance, and of course the name in Cyrillic along with the CCCP symbol on the body…it’s just plain cool. The controls are very manual.  The light meter within the viewfinder is completely independent from the camera controls. Take a light reading, read the settings off the “calculator”, then transpose those settings on to the camera body. Then there’s a satisfying CLUNK as you trip the shutter. But what really gets me excited is the clarity and richness of the pictures it takes. My 35mm cameras cannot touch it in that respect.

Q: Your photos are at a variety of angles and focal lengths. What inspires you to take the photos you do on this camera?
A: I’ve embraced the 6X6 square format and try take advantage of each corner. That “rule of thirds” is ever-present in my mind. In high school drafting class, we were taught how to create perspective views, and because of this I rarely shoot anything centered or head-on. Long angles, staying out of bounds, getting above or below the subject all seem to work for me. The investment into extension tubes and a 2X multiplier gets me in close when the subject call for it.

Q: Is there a certain subject that you like shooting most when using the Kiev 60 TTL? 
A: Regardless of the subject, I look for lines, textures, and contrasts. I look for these patterns in nature, architecture, and industrial environments. I love to play with reflections, and backlight to create a glow around the subject.  Another favorite is to shoot with an open aperture to emphasize the subject while creating a nice bokeh. Still working up the nerve to try my hand at street photography and photographing unsuspecting people.

Q: Do you have a favorite film that you mainly shoot with when using the Kiev 60 TTL? If so, which one?
A: I’ve really enjoyed how colors pop with Kodak Ektar 100. The Soviet 80mm f2.8 glass is remarkably sharp, and renders a nice color tone, ever-so-slightly to the red side (go figure!) I’m on my 5th roll since getting the Kiev, so all of these photos are shot with Ektar. I plan to try some of the more esoteric films such as Lomography LomoChrome Metropolis, CineStill Film 800Tungsten, and Rollei Retro 400S B&W (with a yellow filter). The fun/challenge will be to match subject and lighting with whatever film happens to be loaded.

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