35mm rangefinder system • Discontinued


A 35mm rangefinder system created on the basis of pre-WW2 Zeiss Ikon CONTAX developments and produced by the Arsenal Plant (Kiev, USSR). The choice of these particular developments as a prototype was most likely due to the fact that CONTAX cameras were considered the most advanced 35mm cameras at that time. In addition, after the WW2, all German patents were invalidated as part of war reparations and became public domain, which made it possible to borrow any technical solutions freely. In the USSR, the German origin of cameras (and lenses) was not advertised for obvious reasons.

Over the four decades of production, the Kiev cameras underwent a number of design changes that were cosmetic in nature and did not concern the key technical solutions contained in the prototype.


  • Kiev-II and Kiev-III = CONTAX II and CONTAX III, respectively;
  • Kiev-IIA and Kiev-IIIA - as II and III, but with PC flash connector;
  • Kiev-4A and Kiev-4 - a cosmetic update of IIA and IIIA;
  • Kiev-5 - a deep restyling of the 4 with a number of ergonomic improvements, bright-line frames (with parallax correction) for 50 and 85mm lenses, top shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second, shutter cocking lever, and without the internal lens mount;
  • Kiev-4AM and Kiev-4M - as 4A and 4, but with a top shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second, hot shoe, and a number of minor improvements.

It should be noted that the model names were never indicated on the bodies themselves: they could only be found in the instruction manuals. On the bodies there was only the inscription "Киев" - sometimes only in Russian, sometimes additionally in English. There were bodies without any inscription at all, apparently for those countries where CONTAX cameras were well known.

The wear and tear of equipment imported from Germany, as well as the general decline in production culture, led to the fact that the Kiev cameras lost their main advantage - high reliability, and their production was discontinued in the mid-1980s.


A meager line of lenses was released, which, however, made it possible to shoot a fairly wide range of subjects: from landscapes and architecture with a 28mm F/6 wide-angle lens to portraits and distant objects with a 135mm F/4 telephoto lens. Optically, all these lenses were Carl Zeiss Jena designs. Initially they were produced from stocks of German optical glass, but in 1954 these stocks were exhausted, so there was nothing left to do but recalculate these lenses for Soviet grades of optical glasses. In addition to the CONTAX bayonet mount, all these lenses (except for the Helios-103) were available in versions for Zorki 35mm rangefinder cameras with the LEICA screw mount.

Camera list

Model Shutter Metering Modes Year
35mm film rangefinder cameras with the Contax mount (7)
Kiev-II[A] M, 1/1250 -- M 1947
Kiev-III[A] M, 1/1250 Window M 1952
Kiev-4 M, 1/1250 Window M 1957
Kiev-4A M, 1/1250 -- M 1958
Kiev-5 M, 1/1000 Window M 1968
Kiev-4M M, 1/1000 Window M 1976
Kiev-4AM M, 1/1000 -- M 1980

Contax mount lens list

Table of contents
Completeness of lens lineup
    Enthusiast photography
    Professional photography

    No dedicated lenses for architectural photography with perspective correction, professional macrophotography.

Similar systems

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