Mass produced for the common people
Zenit-E became available in 1965 following the footsteps of previous Zenit models that left the KMZ defense plant in Krasnogorsk in early 1950s. There is no official explanation for the type name "E", though some say it derived from the initials of KMZ's director at the time, H. M. Egorov.
Many versions of the Zenit-E were produced over the years. Until 1968, KMZ produced about Zenit-E's without a flash mirror and they were also sold under a different name.
To commemorate Moscow Olympics Games, all camera manufacturers issued special edition models with a date stamp and the official logo of the games. Zenit -E was one of them. Just before in 1982 after releasing three million plus E's to the market, KMZ eventually stopped its production. It is a symbol of Soviet engineering that applied modifications of available technologies to develop cheaper and reliable cameras.
Zenit-E is quite heavy. It weights about 1kg and approximately 135mm long, 90mm high and 50mm across. It is instinctively easy to handle. Loading 35mm film is easy. There's the self-timer lever on the front, which will work properly, if the shutter is cocked beforehand. Above the lens is the selenium light meter which may have expired by now. On the top there is a calculator dial, that doubles as a film memo dial. The light meter's read-out window. The shutter speed button has a flash synchronisation button underneath. The large circular element that is a wind lever, exposure counter and sunken shutter release, all in one.
There are no batteries. The hot shoe is missing but this problem was solved by retailing a loose hot shoe, that could be slid into the rails surrounding the ocular. At least, it allowed to mount a flash directly onto the camera. The manufacturer advised against using the flash in "B" mode, because of the danger that stray light might enter the body. It is also advisable to cover the lens when rewinding the film.
The viewfinder is very old fashioned. When looking through it, you have the impression you are looking into the past. The tint, round edges and distortion...look, you have just travelled in time into the soviet era.
The camera makes distinctive sounds which manufacturers of digital software are trying to imitate, but it is quite possible that there is that nothing sounds more analog, more real than this.
Zenit-E does not give you an option of multiple exposures, but otherwise it is fully manual and it does require some thought before taking a picture. This is great because you have the control of your creative process. But thinking of the amateurs who weren’t too technical, a light meter was incorporated. After all, being unsophisticated both from the design and technical point of view Zenit-E was just doing its job: it was taking pictures by common people.
If you enjoy this review, you will probably like others. Check out Camera Reviews.
Here is a sample of photographs taken by Aliff Saifuddin with Zenit-E.