The Zorki-10

Alfred's Camera Page

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What sets the Zorki-10 apart from the flood of 35mm rangefinder compacts that swept over the world in the 1970's, is undoubtedly its unorthodox styling and handling. Space-age, cosmic, Soviet, cool; but nevertheless a copy of a foreign original, even when in this case the original isn't German, but Japanese.


What seems like the ultimate Soviet cold war relic, is in fact a reasonably close copy of a camera that nobody would consider giving those epithetons: the Ricohmatic 35. That camera had a little sister, the Ricoh Auto 35 with an f/4 lens and without a coupled rangefinder, that was closely copied in the also RF-less Zorki-11. The similarities between the Ricohs and the Zorkis are quite striking. The Ricohs are pale grey where the Zorkis are black, and there are a number of small changes, but when placed aside there is no doubt who should get all the credit for the unconformity and the daringness.

Never mind though, because copying foreign products is in a way typical for the whole of the Zorki series. The older models were copied from pre-war Leicas, the later ones from Japanese originals, and who knows in a couple of year's time we'll see a Leica M7 clone emerging from the FIS. Or a clone of the Bessa-R, which the Russians were fairly close to anyway with the Zorki-4K. It 'll never happen given the state Russia is in now, but it's sort of nice to consider the options.


If you think away the fact that the Zorki-10 isn't as hammer-and-sickle as you'd like, it's still a great little camera for those interested in Soviet apparatus. Its design is simply excellent, and reminds me of the first manned space flights, socialist-realism and faith in technology. I wonder if it was meant more or less like a prestige object for export and the own population, to show the world what wonderful products came from the USSR, and to provide everybody in the land with their own tangible piece of Soviet marvelry. Trade fairs and goodwill expositions probably had a fair deal of Zorki-10's, Leningrads, Drugs and Voskhods stacked up in showcases, since they were the finest the Russian camera industry had to offer. Creating attractive and interesting cameras also meant more chances for raising foreign export dollars, which was something the Soviet Union could also use.


Apparently without a prelude, the Zorki-10 appeared on the market in 1964 as, I expect, a complete surprise. Until then the Zorki series of rangefinder cameras had consisted of close copies of pre-war Leicas (the Zorki, the -S, the 2S, etc) and of less close Leica copies (the Zorki-4, -5 and -6). The Zorki-10 was a break with the origins of the series, but not really with the philosophy behind it.

Like its predecessors, the Zorki-10 was a coupled rangefinder camera. Unlike its predecessors though, it didn't have interchangeable lenses, it wasn't a bottom-loader, it didn't have a leaf shutter, it didn't have conventional controls, and it didn't leave everything to the photographer. All it had in common – the rangefinder – was enough to name it a Zorki. Internally it was a whole different beast entirely.

The Zorki-10 was made by KMZ from 1964 to 1978. Princelle mentions a production figure of 332.144. This camera was made in quite large quantities, and exported to western Europe. From a mechanical point of view it's a simple camera, but like the Voskhod, it's the design you buy one for. The Zorki-10 is a very nice example of Soviet design just like the Voskhod: straight lines, space-age materials and styling. It stands out from all the countless other compact 35's that flooded the world in the 1970's through its cool and distinctly Soviet design.

The Zorki-10 is a simple rangefinder camera with a light meter readout in the viewfinder. The light meter cells are around the lens in the barrel, behind the diffusor plastic. They're selenium type cells, which means that they are battery independent, but also that they don't live forever. Selenium light meters usually die on you after about thirty years.

The Zorki-10 has a lever like that of the Voskhod.The difference being that on the Voskhod, the lever is used to advance the film and cock the shutter, but here it's used as the shutter release. Like the Voskhod, a sliding cursor over the lens is nice and looks attractive, but makes the camera difficult to handle. This particular cursor needs to be pushed downwards quite a way before the shutter is released, which isn't easy to do with your index finger. A tighter release or a normal knob would have perhaps been easier to use.

The Zorki-10 has an Industar-63 45mm f/2.8 lens, which is rangefinder coupled to the viewfinder. To focus the lens, the guys from KMZ came up with the idea of fitting the focusing ring with a little plastic 'finger rest' block that you could move around with your fingers. Because focusing was meant to occur through that plastic protrusion on the focusing ring only, they made the rest of the focusing ring very smooth and difficult to grip. Focusing by means of the finger grip is not very easy, because all the other levers and things on the Zorki-10's lens barrel are constantly in the way.

The Industar-63 lens is a Russian design, but I can't really say anything sensible about it since I've never taken pictures with this camera. The close focus is 1.5m, and its aperture scale ranges from f/2.8 to f/22 through the normal scale. Setting the aperture and choosing between the two shutter speeds is done by levers on the lens barrel. The Zorki-10 also has a self-timer, which is activated by pulling its lever (also on the barrel) up to the red 'V' and tphen tripping the shutter.

The Zorki-10's viewfinder has an exaggurated pink color, whilst the rangefinder spot is extraordinarily yellow. KMZ did this to improve the contrast between the two, and thus facilitating focusing. I think it's annoying, and distracting if you're taking color pictures. The viewfinder has parallax marks, and you can see the light meter's arrow by aid of a small mirror to the bottom of the viewfinder. The needle can sway between a blank area and a red area, the red area probably meaning 'too little light'. There is an arrow in the top right corner of the viewfinder, but I have no idea as to its purpose. As you can see on the picture to the right, the viewfinder is a small cut-out rectangle in the camera's back: there is no diopter adjustment switch and no eyepiece.

The Zorki-10's rangefinder base is short, and the focusing ring, with its 'finger rest' protrusion, inaccurate and clumsy. You might as well do without. KMZ thought so too, and introduced a sister model: the Zorki-11. It's exactly the same camera, but without the rangefinder, and with focusing symbols instead of digits. Only 60.000 of them were produced between '64 and '66.

The Zorki-10's design is special, because the Soviets apparently tried to keep the camera as tidy as possible. The front of the camera is kept clean and straight, the back of the camera is also kept free of any ornaments, and the top plate is also empty, except for the hot shoe. Where are all the controls then? Underneath the camera. The exposure counter is underneath, the wind lever is underneath, the rewind button is underneath, the sprocket release button is underneath, and the tripod mount is too.

I think that banishing things like the exposure counter and the rewind button is not such a bad idea, but KMZ should never have placed the wind lever there. It's simply in an unreachable place, making it very difficult to advance the film when the camera is to your eye. The wind lever swings open to the left, so you need to control it with your left hand. If your right is on the cursor and your left is on the wind lever, you had better have small hands, because I found the camera too small to hold pleasantly.

Something also worth noting, is that the Zorki-10 has, like the Voskhod, a backwards counting exposure counter. At first this seems very unusual, but it's a handy feature if you consider that the only thing you really need to know about the number of exposures, is how many you have left. If your 35mm SLR says '28 exp', you immediately count eight remaining exposures on your 36 exp film. The Zorki-10 facilitates this for you and shows only the number of remaining frames. However, there is one catch: unlike the Voskhod, you can't set the exposure counter to any starting value, but instead the counter immediately jumps to 36 when you open the back. If you load a 24 exp film, you are bound to get confused, because you'll reach the end of it when the counter says '12'.

Inside the Zorki-10, the film runs from right to left, just opposite from normal cameras. The interior is solid metal and seems finished OK, but looks bare. There is only one cogwheel to grasp the perforations.

Concluding, the Zorki-10 is not the most straightforward and thought-out camera I've ever seen, but sure is one of the prettier. A nice collection piece more than a good user.

The Zorki-10 is not extremely rare, and is often seen around. Mine cost me approximately $20 at a local store. Perhaps interesting to know, is that this camera won the Gold Medal in 1965 at the International Fair in Leipzig. Probably more on account of its good looks than its 'brains'...:)

(A Zorki-10 was priced at 100 Rubles in the USSR.)


This screw in the film chamber gives access to the rangefinder adjustment screw.

Below is the text of a test published in Amateur Photographer in 1966. Unfortunately I lost the name and e-mail of the person who donated this, so I can't tell you which exact issue this was in.

Zorki 10 & 11

by Neville Maude

Russian cameras continue to evolve and the latest introduction from the Zorki factory is the model 10, which was awarded the gold medal at the Leipzig World Fair. Unlike earlier models, this one has fully automatic exposure settings and other features, such as a bright-line finder, which brings it more into line with current German and Japanese designs. Model 10 has a coupled rangefinder, while the less expensive 11 has zone focussing with symbols in the finder. In other ways the two cameras are alike, and differentiation between the models will be made only where required.

The lens is a 45mm f/2.8 Industar 63, coated on all surfaces, and focussing helically from infinity to 1.5 metres (no scale in feet), by rotation through about 60°. Presumably the design is a four-element one; the results being typical of those achieved with a good Tessar-type construction. Because of the fully automatic exposure mechanism, formal tests at all apertures were not possible, but the usual ship pictures at f/5.6 show a high standard of sharpness even on a 20 inch print and it is notable how well the edge and centre match. Other tests at full aperture confirm that the Industar lens is a good one, with better edge performance than might be anticipated. It worked well with both colour and monochrome film.

The meter is a selenium one around the lens. Filters with a 52×0.75mm thread cover the cell as well as the lens, so that exposure correction is automatic. A lens-hood is provided, although the lens is recessed fairly deeply into its mount, and this hood is a splendidly sensible one, being made of a light and bendable plastic material with the interior ribbed and matt. The forward extension is about an inch, so there is good protection on those occasions when a hood is needed. It is unfortunate that the hood obtrudes somewhat into the field of the viewfinder and also cuts off some of the rangefinder image (on the 10), but this is no great drawback. Abother sensible feature is that when reversed, the hood will fit over the lens mount, and the leather camera case goes over this in turn. The hood is therefore carried in the case and needs no special container.

Film-speeds are set by a rotating ring on the lens mount, and cut-outs show ASA figures on top with DIN values below. The range is from 20 to 320 ASA or 14 to 26 DIN. It is a little surprising to find, for example, 18 DIN translated as 55 ASA instead of the familiar 50, but there is no need to worry about such small points. The exposures given proved correct over a wide range of lighting conditions and the mechanism appears dependable. Shutter speeds are changed, when on the automatic setting, between 1/30 and 1/500th second, with continuous gradation. Apertures are also altered, according to the usual kind of programme. For flash work, the apertures can be set manually and the shutter speed is then fixed at 1/30th. Brief-time exposures are also possible with chosen apertures, from f/2.8 to f/22. The delayed-action device should be set after the shutter is tensioned; it gives about 10 seconds delay and is self cancelling. Synchronisation is of X type, the standard coaxial socket is used, and the accessory shoe on the top plate has been cleverly placed so that the synchronising lead does not trail in front of the lens (a feature we suggested when examining the rough prototype at the factory).

The finder is placed well at the left of the camera (viewing from the back), and this position allows easy and shake-free holding, also the single-stroke lever wind can be operated eassily without moving the eye from the finder, whether the camera is held for upright or horizontal pictures. It is possible to see the whole of the suspended frame when spectacles are worn. An inner frame gives parallax allowances when close up. A needle protrudes into the field of view and the position gives a general indication of the shutter speed, reference triangles in the finder helping the user to make an estimate. If the needle is in a red portion of the frame then light is insufficient. The reflector zone associated with the needle blocks off a tiny area at the base of the finder; this does not matter but is perhaps a little apt to dissuade the potential customer when he or she takes the first look through the finder. The 10 has a coincident-image coupled rangefinder spot in the centre of the finder. The base is about 1.5 inches and coupling proved accurate. The 11 has symbols which appear in the finder, conventional indications for portraits, groups and landscapes also being on the focussing scale.

Other features are the self-resetting counter on the base plate and rewind by a retractable knob. (The first batch of Zorkis has a crank rewind and the film speeds were in Gost and DIN, but current models are as described.) The leather e.r. case is strongly made and gives good protection. In general the Zorki camera shows more sophisticated styling than previous Russian cameras and the whole approach is oriented towards the production of an article to please the customer. Improvements are still possible (for example, focussing below 5ft may be required by some photographers, while a focussing scale in feet would help in setting flash apertures) but on the whole the camera is a worthwhile achievement. The appearance is attractive, considerable thought has gone into the way it handles, moreover interior construction is good with better machining of gears and the like than was found with some earlier Russian cameras. The more one handles and uses the camera, the more one gets to like it, and the results are impressive.

Facts in brief

Zorki 10, with case and hood, £27 6s.
Zorki 11, with case and hood, £19 19s.
Size, overall, 4.97 × 2.95 × 2.85 inches.
Weight, about 1 lb. 8oz.
Made in U.S.S.R.
Distributed by Technical and Optical Equipment (London) Ltd., 15/17 Praed Street, London, W.2.

Graph of production data
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