- Produced 1972-1980 (1975) Arsenal, Kiev, Ukraine
- Film type 120
- Picture size 6cm x 6cm
- Lens Bela/Vega-12B 90mm 1:2.8-22 (Kiev 88 screw mount)
- Focal range .6m to infinity
- Filter size 58mm
- Shutter foil focal plane
- Shutter speeds B, 1/2-1/1000 (sync at 1/30)
- Viewfinder SLR: waist level finder or optional prism
- Exposure meter none (TTL CdS in some prisms)
- Battery none
- PC sync connection, no shoe
There are cameras and there are Cameras. This is a Camera, a heavy hand-finished cube of a classic that first earns your respect and then slowly lets you fall in love. A few years ago, before I knew much about anything related to this style of Russian classic, I thought I wanted a Kiev 88 and that the Kiev 60 would make a nice stepping stone. Build up a little kit and go for it. In the meantime, while I was working my way in that direction, my good friend Ken Smith was smitten by a Salyut and eventually convinced me that it was the way to go. Lucky for me!
The Salyut-C (C = cyrillic S, for Sync) is the last of the Salyut line before it evolved into the overproduced and oft-maligned Kiev 88, with a short transition as Kiev 80 around 1980. The Kiev 80+88 added a hotshoe where the Salyut has no shoe, just a PC port with X or M sync (at 1/30; won’t fire at faster speeds). The 88 also has some brass gears in place of the strong steel gears in the Salyut, probably the source of some of the 88’s common complaints.
The complete kit is a nice one, mine came in the original velvet-lined leather carrying case that holds its filters, extra back, strap, and body with one lens. Woof! Heavy kit, no question. I don’t think the purple webbed strap is standard issue but I like it 🙂 Has the standard single-coated but sharp close focusing Vega 90mm 2.8 lens. Slightly long for a normal lens, something like 55-60mm in 35mm format. Lenses for this camera are “B” mount, same as Hasselblad screw mount, as opposed to the P6 or C mount, the bayonet mount found on Praktisix and Kiev 60. Earlier Salyuts and their lenses had a different aperture coupling than the Salyut-C and the lenses are not interchangable unless this coupling is removed from those lenses. For more info see some of the links below.
The camera is a fairly simple design with no meter, no shoe, no aperture preview (later lenses have a built in preview lever); but it does sport interchangable backs, lenses, and finders (the finder slides out when the back is removed). As far as the intricacies of film loading et al, I know I couldn’t possibly explain it better than it is already done here at Kievaholic. Even the manual doesn’t put it as well as Kevin has done.
The meaning of “Salyut” is ‘salutation’, i.e. greeting with respect, as in a salute. It also means firework, something that rises, but I’m not sure which connotation lends its name to this fine camera. Legend has it that the Salyut (or Salut) is derived from a German prototype camera from WWII, the idea being that the Swedes somehow got the camera, which was copied by a watchmaker to become the Hasselblad, and the Russians got the tools and dies with the rest of the Zeiss Ikon machinery that allowed them to make the Kievs from Contax parts and tools. This may just be confusion with the story about Hasselblad copying a aerial camera from a German spyplane shot down over Sweden. Much more likely is that the Salyut is simply a Russki copy of the Hasselblad 1000F or 1600F, notably it was introduced years after the Hasselblad, and I don’t think there’s any real evidence that Z-I was ever working on a camera of this type.
At any rate a good working sample is a fine camera, and the Vega lens is a treat. Plus I love the way the Salyut smells, it’s got that grease-and-old-leather aroma that made me fall in love with my first Kiev…
Some peeling and some partially missing leather, especially on the back that appears to have gotten the most use. I tried gluing down the corners with Pliobond, but one area was peeling badly enough that I searched for a replacement covering and settled on Micro-tools #4040, a very close match. Self-adhesive too, a bonus! I also partially flocked the interior with self-adhesive flocking material from scopestuff.com, we’ll see if it makes any difference. (I’ll bet a lens hood helps more though.) Clearly a well-loved and often used camera, sometimes that’s a good sign.
Tips & Tricks
Some important notes to get the most out of your Salyut experience: the shutter must be tripped before the lens is removed, or you risk bending the auto-aperture pin. The darkslide must be removed for the shutter to trip, and must be in place to remove the film back. It’s essentially a built-in safeguard against accidental exposure on cameras like this. I often forget 🙂 Also, the mirror is NOT instant-return; it flips up and stays up till you cock the shutter. This reduces vibration from mirror slap. The shutter kind of goes click-CHUNK-buzz so don’t think it’s broken if it sounds like that. And winding kind of goes crank crank CLICK chunk crank. Normal noises, nothing to be alarmed about… And most importantly, like on just about every Russian/Ukranian camera I’ve used, the shutter must be cocked before you change speeds. You have been warned! Film loading can be a little tricky till you get the hang of it, practice with a scrap roll till you’ve got it down. For me the hardest part is getting the leader under the little tabs. If you have trouble getting the film holder to go in the back, try slowly turning the winder so the teeth line up and it will drop in.
I may have mentioned this already, but do NOT change speeds without first cocking the shutter. To wit: always cock the shutter before changing speeds. To put another way, should you change speeds, and the shutter has not yet been cocked, you will possibly ruin the shutter and require an expensive repair.
Should you need a repair, I highly recommend Arax Photo, where I got my Kiev-60 fixed, Ken got his Salyut overhauled and upgraded, and also where I got my Kiev-88 adapter.
Speaking of adapters, the tripod mount is 3/8 not 1/4 so you’ll need an adapter. The small bushing kind is best for this huge camera so the bottom of the camera can fully rest on the pressure plate. Also, no shoe for flash so you might consider getting a sturdy handle grip for this bad boy.
- ESSENTIAL – Kevin Kalsbeek’s Salyut/Kiev back film loading instructions courtesy of kievaholic.com
- Salyut page at Medium Format Home
- A page on fixing light leaks in removable backs
- commiecameras.com has scans of the Kiev 88 manual and others, very helpful
- Arax-photo has nice finders and other accessories for sale on their website