Kiev History

The Kiev rangefinder cameras are derivatives or perhaps you could say a continuation of the Contax rangefinder bodies from the 30ies. These cameras were made after the war by the Zavod Arsenal factory in Kiev. The Kiev rangefinders were produced from 1947 until 1986. They were 50 years longer in production then the original famous Contax rangefinders. Over 1 million copies of the Kiev rangefinders were sold. 

In 1945 the red army had occupied the east of Germany and as reparation payment for the damage Nazi Germany had done to the Soviet Union confiscated the Zeiss Ikon factory in Dresden and transported both the personnel involved in and important for the production of the cameras and all the special equipment to Kiev.

The early models, under the name of Kiev 2, are said to have been made with the help of German technicians and from the original Zeiss Ikon stock taken by the Soviets. There would even be copies where the original Contax nameplate is hidden behind the new Kiev plate. These copies are of course not only very rare to find but also very expensive.

One of the main advantages of the Contax over the pre-war Leicas was that the viewfinder and rangefinder were combined in one large viewfinder so that you could focus and composit at the same time through the same viewfinder. This along with the very long rangefinder base made accurate focusing much easier especially at very fast apertures.

However, there was also an important disadvantage compared to the pre-war leicas and therefore also compared to the post-war Zorkis and Feds. The shutter of the Contax/Kiev was rather complicated and not as durable as th shutter of the Leicas, Zorkis and Feds. If you want to know more about the problems with these Contax shutters and therefore with the Kiev shutters you can find a lot on the following site:

Despite the shutter issues, the Kiev was seen as a better quality camera than the Zorki or the Fed. The quality of the cameras saw a drop in the 1970s due to simplification and lack of quality control in parts and assembly.