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Zenith 80, Kiev

Before you start


1. These cameras are EXTREMELY complex.

2. You undertake ANY work in this document AT YOUR OWN RISK.

3. I STRONGLY recommend that, if you have a good camera which has developed a fault, you send it to a competant repairer such as ARAX.

4. This guide is designed for people who have bought a camera with the intention of repairing it themselves.

5. Please note that many of the pictures are high resolution so you can zoom in to see close detail.

The cameras Introduction

Zenith 80, Salyut and Kiev 80/88 cameras have gained a justifiable reputation for unreliability. It is my own opinion that this is caused by a mix of:

Poor engineering of the original components,

Low quality control during assembly resulting in incorrect tolerances,

Poor test/inspection before sale.

Add to that unsympathetic use and no regular maintenance (these cameras do need servicing every few years) and that bargain buy can turn into a disaster.

The secret of rewarding Zenith/Salyut/Kiev photography is to get a reliable, well assembled, well looked after camera. The only real way to do this is to try before you buy.

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make a good camera from a bad one.

Using and caring for the camera.

These cameras should be used with great care.

Do not force anything - take your time changing lenses and backs.

NEVER change the shutter speeds before winding the shutter, damage WILL occur if you try.

Wind the shutter slowly and progressively, in one go if you can. Twisting the camera in the left hand whilst turning the advance with the right will achieve this.

A personal opinion here but do NOT use a fast action crank. I think it puts a huge strain on the gearing inside the camera.

Invest in a rear cover to fit when the back is off. It is very easy to damage the stainless steel blinds.

The design of the backs makes them vulnerable to dust getting into the gears via the exposed gear. Keep them clean and away from dusty environments when off the camera.

The open design of the camera makes them equally susceptible to dust and damp. Similar precautions apply.

Every so often wipe the camera lens mount, and the lens thread itself, with a lint-free cloth moistened with a small amount of WD 40. Then wipe this off with a dry part of the cloth. This will keep the components free of dust and dirt.


Depending on the amount of use I believe it is important that these cameras are occasionally serviced. Some basic lubrication to the stacked gears can be done by the user but a full service needs some stripping down.

My suggestion is that a regularly used camera should perhaps be serviced every 5 years. Heavily used cameras will need more regular attention (say every three years). There are companies such as ARAX that can do this at a very reasonable price which may save a major failure later on.

However it is quite feasible to service your own camera if you have proved yourself competent at doing some of the repairs suggested in this manual. I am assuming that the camera has been cleaned at some stage; it should not be necessary to repeatedly flood clean a camera if it has been done thoroughly once.

To fully lube the camera it is necessary to remove:

1. The focussing screen,

2. The lens mount,

3. The mirror,

4. The internal baffles.

You will need a diabetic syringe to hold the oil - mentioned further on in the manual.

Please look at the following illustration to see some of the points which need a drop of high quality light watch oil:

Essentially these points are:

1. The stacked gears assembly pivot, right through the central disks to the base. It may help to progressively wind the camera as you lube. Also include the silver bracket-like structure which goes from the top of the stacked gears to the shaft in the side of the camera; include the shaft as well.

2. The geared shutter tensioning spring pivots (lower arrows in the picture).

3. The paddle wheel on the slow speeds mechanism and EXTREMELY sparing lubrication of the gear shafts, please use a cocktail stick and avoid the large central gear which contains a one-way clutch.

4. The pivot points for the axle shutter curtain axle shafts on both side of the camera - with extreme care these can be reached with a diabetic syringe. This is an important area as steel is running under load in brass and needs some lubrication.

5. The shutter release and lens lock mechanism.

6. The mirror pivot points.

7. Lastly remove the winding knob as instructed further on, after following the precise procedure of setting to B etc. and without disturbing anything apply a spot of oil to each gear pivot in the winding/speed change mechanism.

Now re-assemble the camera and wind the shutter through all speeds to distribute the oil.

How the camera works

It is good to have a basic understanding of how these cameras work. The following description applies specifically to the Kiev 88.

Tensioning of the blinds.

The tensioning mechanism consists of two gears with coil springs inside. These are tensioned by adjusting screws on the front of the assembly.

As the camera is wound, the unfurling blinds apply more tension to the springs. When the shutter is released, the gears pull the blinds back to the resting position.

Speed selection/winding mechanism.

This assembly is extremely complex. Any slight mis-adjustment of one of its several gears will render the camera useless. The simultaneous events occurring are:

1. The inner and outer disk in the diagram below rotate together as the wind knob is rotated.

2. The train of gears linked to the gear that winds the film back starts to rotate. The large gear with the cutout, visible when the back is off the camera, winds a tensioned gear in the film back to advance the film. This gear also sets the tell-tale in the back to WHITE. When the cutout aligns again with the gear in the film back, a pin visible above the cutout gear is pushed into the camera back to release the gear, which springs back round to its starting position again.

3. The cutout gear also operates the camera tell-tale to show WHITE.

4. At the same time, the shutter blinds are being wound on, and the pair of stacked gears in the shutter speed mechanism advanced to the start position. These elements are locked together by the straight and bevelled gears in the speed selector/winding assembly, on the curtain rollers and in the body itself.

5. A lever on the stacked speed gears tensions the slow speeds air brake.

6. The lens diaphragm lever is moved forwards to open the lens diaphragm.

7. The camera body tell-tale is lifted and latched to show WHITE.

There is a ratchet which catches in the gear teeth of the wheel linking the winding mechanism with the large cutout gear to prevent the whole tensioned operation from springing back if one stops half way through the wind.

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