One more Soviet Leica by S. Svidel
Soviet Photo magazine #6 (1934)
Material provided by Alexey Nikitin
Translation by Vladislav Kern
We were looking at the shots for a great while with most attention. In the beginning we were going in order but then the shots were passed around for viewing and something confusing happened - all of the shots got mixed up. Two absolutely identical shots made with different cameras could not be told apart even using a magnifying glass.
The trials of a new Soviet camera, using a cinematic film had gone without a hitch. A Leica-type compact miniaturized camera made by Geodezia factory - because of its superior quality - had been approved for mass production.
A first prototype of this camera had been created in the April of the current year. During a reception evening dedicated to a Soviet Leica, organized for the union of Moscow photo reporters at the Municipal Publishing House, the reporters had pointed out the practical superiority of the camera made by Geodezia over two other “competitors” – the “FED” in Kharkov and “VOOMP” in Leningrad.
There are already fifty cameras assembled and provided for testing to the group of photo reporters.
The camera of Geodezia factory is made based on Leica II model. It has an automatic[sic] rangefinder-based focusing which is built-in to the top cover of the body, a curtain shutter with speeds from 1/20 to 1/500 of the second and a high quality lens made by the experimental factory “VOOMP” with focusing distance of 50mm with 1:3,5 apperture.
In the first samples of the camera, the top and the bottom cover are nickel-plated but later they will be made from chromed steel. The cassettes are manufactured based on Leica-I model with an additional bush added (invention of the factory master T. Alekseev) for the convenience of rolling on the film during loading and unloading the cassette from the body of the camera.
I was assigned to be the tester of one of the experimental prototypes of this camera. First stages of the trials had exceeded all expectations. The curtain shutter works perfectly by correctly regulating the speeds; viewfinder is showing the correct framing of the shot and produces minimum parallax only during the close frame-ups, but the main thing is that the lens is perfect at emulating the “Elmar” depth of field.
Based on the initiative of the factory, a group had been formed to facilitate the quality control and design improvements for the manufacture of the camera. A portion of the group’s suggestions had been already implemented: yellow glass in the rangefinder had been replaced with grey glass, the lens mount had been standardized for interchangeable optics, a focusing scale had been moved to the ring of the lens housing, and the indicating focusing arrow placed onto the lens mount assembly on the body itself.
The proposal for the upcoming production model includes such features as Contax-type removable back panel and the extension of the shutter speeds to the range of 1s to 1/500s. The Soviet camera has to be the best in the world. Our inventors are considering the consolidation of viewfinder and rangefinder into the same window which will allow for much faster focusing and operation of the camera.
A special attention need to be paid to the manufacture of the accessories. The range of these items would include extra cassettes, lens hoods, tripod heads and the developing tanks of type “Korreaks” for slow vertical development.
What are the deficiencies of the camera? There is a depth of field indicator ring missing on the lens housing. To design this ring and calculate a depth of field at certain focusing distances is not a complicated task but unfortunately the experimental factory [VOOMP] is producing non-standard lenses which pose a serious problem in calculating a correct depth. There are also a few annoying small things such as stiff shutter release button, the absence of an infinity stopper rod, lock for the lens and so on. In the coming production models these things will be fixed and the camera will have all the best qualities of small film cameras.
Towards the end of 1934 the factory Geodezia will finish assembly of the first 300 cameras and will start production of the next batch of 1500. Approximate cost of the camera from the first batch will be an estimated 700 rubles. In the future the cost of the camera will drop as mass production of it is adapted.
With the labors of the workers and management of the factory Geodezia and with the support of Soviet photo-enthusiast society, a new camera is made purely from Soviet materials, necessary for the needs of photo-journalists, laborers, tourists, scientists, officers and teachers. Camera possesses good picture quality but has no name. Here’s the task: the readers of our magazine need to give this new Soviet camera a dashing Soviet name.