Film SLR Camera Kiev-19 Review

04/15/2016 - 15:26
Film SLR Camera Kiev-19 Review

Kiev-19 is a soviet SLR camera with TTL light metering. It had been produced on Kyiv factory Arsenal, Ukraine. Starting from 1985. Went in a kit with Helios-81Н 2/50 lens and their modification. This review is for body together with Helios-81М.

The camera has mount, in USSR named as "Н"(N), which is identical to the Nikon F mount. Because of this, you can use lenses from Kiev-19 together with Nikon and vise versa.

Kiev-19 mount is identical to the Nikon F mount

The cost of the camera in the distant 1980 was 150 soviet rubles. In those days, it was quite a solid amount of money. For me, as a student at the time to have such a device was a dream. Nowadays you can buy a used camera together with the lens for very little money of  $20-30. This option is suitable for those who want to start studying photography but is not ready to part with huge sums for modern DSLR cameras, with minimum prices that start with $ 400.

Compared with today's digital cameras, even the entry-level, 19-Kiev has minimum settings, no automatic modes, preset shooting programs, etc. But it has the needed minimum that will allow you to understand the basic principles of photography.



The Design of the Kiev-19 Camera

The first impression from the camera starts from the case. Kiev-19 has a very nice carrying case, which, even after 30 years, looks quite decent. The part that closes the lens is plastic, but it does not look cheap—the main part that covers the body is thick, high-quality leather. The top of the case closes the metal insert. The inside case is covered with red suede. Carry case protects the camera damage even if it falls to the ground.


First of all, the top plane of the camera drew my attention with a small number of controls. On the left side, the ring of film sensitivity is located. And it is protected against accidental displacement - for changing a position; you have first to click on the little shiny button. The ring is marked already on the new standard of sensitivity (ISO); marked values ​​are 25, 50, 100, 200, 400. You can also select and intermediate values marked by dots.

At the center of the camera situated a hot flash shoe and the Sync slot. On the right side, placed the shutter button and the shutter cocking lever next to the frame counter's window.

Kiev-19 top view

The ring of shutter speed is not located on the top plane of the camera like in many Soviet SLR and rangefinder cameras but the front plane at the left side. Using such a regulator is very convenient - change the shutter speed; you can move quickly in one motion.

At the top of the lens, the aperture scale is placed from f/16 to f/2; it is possible to select the intermediate value. There is also the scale of distances with the focus ring. The camera focuses using the focusing screen, with a matte Fresnel lens ring, a micro prism, and a split-image rangefinder. The viewfinder is large and comfortable.

Kiev-19 rare view

To the right of the lens on the front plane of the camera is placed lever for the closing diaphragm, which also performs the function of metering.

The shutter of Kiev-19 is a mechanical lamel with vertical movement of the two pairs of metal slats. The range of shutter speeds from 1/2 to 1/500 seconds, and «B.» Flash sync speed on 1/60 sec.

The camera disadvantage is the lack of self-timer, which in those days were even equipped with other similar cameras such as the rangefinder FED and SLR Zenits.

Kiev-19 back view


Preparation for Shooting

Before you start shooting you, need to check the elements of the exposure meter. The camera's specifications listen to two elements SC-32, MC-0,105, or modern replacement is SR-43, AG-12. They are loaded into the compartment at the bottom of the chamber; you can unscrew the cover with a coin.

The batteries for the camera Kiev 19

For loading film, you need to open the back cover of the camera. To do this, lift the film rewind knob upwards. The lock will realize the cover.

Kiev-19 with his rewinding knob in the upper position and open lid
Kiev-19 with his rewinding knob in the upper position and open lid

Loading film into the left slot. The end of the film should be put into the slot of receiving spool at the right end. Let's put down the film rewind knob and close the camera lid. Now allot shutter cocking lever to the right until it stops. This rewind knob should roll. We make two control shutters to enter the non-illuminated part of the film. Тhe camera is ready for use.

Loading film
Loading camera with film


Exposure in Kiev-19

Exposure metering is performed by pressing the skipping aperture lever; then, the aperture closes to the value from the ring. While holding the lever at the left part of the viewfinder, you can see the red LED signs "+" and "-"; this is the exposure meter measurement.

Working of exposure meter in Kiev 19

Minus at the bottom (Figure A) is lacks light, plus the top (Fig B) - over-lighting. By changing the aperture and shutter speed, you can change the value of exposure. If the minus lights, it is necessary to increase the shutter speed or open aperture and vice versa. When there is correct exposure light, two characters shine at the same time (Figure C).



After loading the camera with the color film Kodak ColorPlus ISO 200, I went out to take pictures. There was snowing at night, and in the morning was bright sunshine. Immediately I faced the camera limitations, at bright light exposure meter showed + even at the 1/500s and f/16. The camera has not short shutter speed of 1/1000. Although, at that time, in the 80s in USSR, the popular films had sensitivity much less ISO 200 (the most popular film had GOST(ISO) 65), and probably it wasn't easy to face such limits.

Film SLR Camera Kiev-19 sample photos on Kodak ColorPlus
f/16 1/500 ISO 200

The film is more afraid of underexposure than overexposure. From captured 36 frames, there ware been no overexposed, only underexposed. So do not be afraid to raise the exposure value. The film likes light and forgives the flaws of overexposure.

Photos captured on film have their own unique pattern. There is the depth of space.

Kiev-19 example photos, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/16 1/250 ISO 200

Certain inconvenience occurs after the transition from the digital to the film camera. You can not see the picture immediately after it is taken. You can easily shoot the same subject in a digital camera with different settings, later selecting the best. With the film, the result can be seen much later, making a much more thoughtful approach to each shot. Also in the film has typically much fewer exposures than a digital camera. The film makes you think and not simply aim and press the shutter button. It is one more plus for beginners.

Kiev-19 example photos, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/11 1/500 ISO 200

Another surprise is a much smaller viewing angle compared to simple digital cameras.

Kiev-19 example photos, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/16 1/500 ISO 200

Compare to Nikon L25
The same frame was taken by simple digital camera Nikon Coolpix L25

The apparent lack of images made in the film is a large grain. But this largely depends on the quality of the film itself. I shot on the cheapest film. I think that this film is made with the expectation of acceptable quality when printing photos 10x15cm. Using films of higher quality with less sensitivity is much less graininess.

Kiev-19 exemples, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/8 1/250 ISO 200

The sensitivity of 200 ISO and the big aperture of the camera lens enables you to shoot indoors with natural lighting without a flash. However, when using a slow shutter speed to 1/30 second, you have to consider the big risk of blurring. The depth of field at full aperture is minimal, so there is a good chance to get blurred because of unfocused. It is necessary to fix the camera on a tripod to avoid a camera shake in his hands.

Exemples of Kiev-19 shots
f/2 1/30 ISO 200

Helios-81М is afraid of direct light.
Kiev-19 examples, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/16 1/500 ISO 200


Rewinding the film in Kiev-19

The signal for the end of the film is the difficulty cocking the shutter. If it suddenly starts to go tight, and the frame counter passed the mark of 36, it is a signal to the end of the film. No need to make an effort to plant the trigger - you risk tearing the film.

To rewind the exposed film into the supply spool, press and hold the button in the bottom plane of the camera. Rewind is clockwise using the recline lever on the head rewind. The end of rewinding can be seen when the entire film is wrapped around the feed cassette, and it begins rotating more easily. Then open the back cover and pull out the film cartridge.

Kiev-19 back view
The film rewind button, thread for a tripod, and battery compartment based on the camera.



Kiev-19 is a good film camera. It has good ergonomics comfortably lays in hand. My copy is clearly working out all the exposure and rewinding. I had no complaints about the mechanical part of the camera. It is made soundly.
The camera has good initial options for those wishing to join the world of photography for a very symbolic price. Shared with Nikon mount allows it to use lenses from Kiev-19 on the digital SLR of this system.

More examples. All shots without editing and a little cropping.

Kiev-19 examples, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/11 1/500 ISO 200

Kiev-19 examples, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/11 1/500 ISO 200

Kiev-19 examples, film Kodak ColorPlus
f/2 1/60 ISO 200

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