Zenit M42

35mm SLR system • Discontinued


A 35mm SLR system created by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant (USSR). The cameras of this system were designed to satisfy the demand of Soviet amateur photographers, which was very high in the USSR. However, a significant part of the photographic equipment produced was exported, with up to 40% of exports going to capitalist countries. Therefore, even with annual production of hundreds of thousands of Zenits, the Soviet domestic demand was only satisfied by the mid-1980s.



  • Zenit-E - basic model with die-cast body made of aluminum alloy, horizontal travel focal plane shutter with rubberized fabric curtains and speeds ranging from 1/30 to 1/500 and B, instant-return mirror, fixed pentaprism with limited field of view of the viewfinder, displaying only two-thirds (20x28mm) of the frame, and a built-in uncoupled selenium window exposure meter;
  • Zenit-EM - as the E, but with automatic diaphragm mechanism (with "M" series lenses) and a focusing screen with a Fresnel lens and micro-prisms;
  • Zenit-V and Zenit-VM - as the E or EM, respectively, but without a built-in exposure meter;
  • Zenit-10 and Zenit-11 - a Zenit-12 body with the specifications of the E or EM, respectively;
  • Zenit-ET - essentially a relabeled 11 produced by BelOMO;


  • Zenit-16 - model with a new body design, new vertical travel shutter with flash sync speed of 1/125s (a record for the USSR at the time), hot shoe with a central contact (for the first time in the USSR), shutter release button located on the rear plate, TTL open-aperture CdS exposure metering with two indicator lamps in the viewfinder, and a back cover that hinges downward. The camera was supposed to be the first of a whole series, but was abandoned in favor of other designs.


  • Zenit-TTL - as the EM, but with a TTL stop-down CdS exposure meter with a match-needle system in the viewfinder and semi-automatic exposure control;
  • Zenit-12 - as the TTL, but with an improved build quality and a higher quality finish. Delivered on special orders and for export;
  • Zenit-12sd (Zenit-12xp) - as the TTL, but with 2 LEDs in the viewfinder instead of a match-needle system, and minor ergonomic improvements;
  • Zenit-15 and Zenit-15M - similar to the 12sd, but produced by BelOMO;
  • Zenit-122 - as the 12sd, but with a plastic body with a new design and ergonomics, a new self-timer mechanism, as well as wedges in the center of the matte screen for ease of focusing;
  • Zenit-122V - as the 122, but without a self-timer;
  • Zenit-312m - a further restyling of the 122 without any fundamental changes;
  • Zenit-412DX and Zenit-412LS - as the 312m, but with support for DX-coded films;


  • Zenit-19 - the first Soviet camera with a new electronically controlled vertical travel focal plane shutter. Compared to the TTL, the shutter speed range was expanded to 1 - 1/500 sec (electronic control) and 1/1000 (mechanical), and the viewfinder displayed 90% of the frame. The camera was considered by amateur photographers to be one of the best Zenits;
  • Zenit-18 - the first Zenit with aperture-priority auto exposure mode. Differs from the 19 in exposure metering at fully open aperture. This required lenses with electrical contacts to transmit the selected aperture value to the camera, but the only such lens was the Zenitar-ME1 (no other lenses were released).


Lenses produced for Zenit cameras with the M42 screw mount can be divided into three large families:

  • EARLY PRESET MODELS designed for the E and V;
  • SERIES "M" MODELS WITH AUTOMATIC DIAPHRAGM, designed for the EM, VM and subsequent cameras;

Camera list

Model Shutter Metering Modes Year
35mm film SLR cameras with the M42 mount (16)
Zenit-E M, 1/500 Window M 1965
Zenit-V M, 1/500 -- M 1968
Zenit-EM M, 1/500 Window M 1972
Zenit-16 M, 1/1000 TTL • OA M 1975
aka Zenit-12
M, 1/500 TTL • WA M 1978
Zenit-19 E, 1/1000 TTL • WA M 1979
Zenit-18 E, 1/1000 TTL • OA AM 1980
Zenit-ET M, 1/500 Window M 1981
Zenit-10 M, 1/500 Window M 1982
Zenit-11 M, 1/500 Window M 1982
aka Zenit-12xp
M, 1/500 TTL • WA M 1983
Zenit-122[V] M, 1/500 TTL • WA M 1990
Zenit-312m M, 1/500 TTL • WA M 1999
Zenit-412DX M, 1/500 TTL • WA M 2000
Zenit-412LS M, 1/500 TTL • WA M 2002
Zenit-15M M, 1/500 TTL • WA M

M42 mount lens list

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