By Conor Corkrum
The Kiev-60 medium format SLR camera isn’t the most well-known camera and if it is known, it doesn’t have the best reputation. The Kiev-60 is a copy of the Pentacon Six, which itself has a reputation as a bit of a quirky camera.
Most of the preconceived notions about these cameras boils down to the frame spacing problems during film advance from one shot to the next. In addition to the Kiev-60 is the Arax-60 MLU. The Arax Foto is a Ukrainian line of Kiev cameras (the Kiev-60 and 88 cameras) that have been modified and improved by a team of technicians.
The improvements Arax has made to the Kiev-60 run from subtle to substantial. There is a new external finish added to the camera along with better internal coatings to cut down any possibility of flaring. Improvements are also made to the shutter, viewfinder and film advance mechanisms; basically a total rebuild of the camera. One other important upgrade is a mirror lock-up (MLU) feature. This is especially useful because the mirror slap, as on all medium format SLRs, is substantial. With this mirror lock-up, slower shutter speeds are usable.
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Arax says they also improved the film advance to fix the frame-spacing issues that plague these cameras. In my experience, this is not entirely true but also it is better than the original Kiev-60. Thankfully this issue isn’t as terrible as made out to be. Reading different peoples experiences online the most common thing you will find is to make sure you fully wind on the film after each shot (it is a bit of a long throw); this certainly helps but is not what I found fully fixes the issue. The frame spacing issue manifests itself when the camera hasn’t been used in a while. The sure way to fix it is to fire off about 40-50 shots before loading film. Oddly, it appears the camera needs to warm up. Every time I have done this, it fixed the issue.
These cameras both share the Pentacon Six mount. This opens up the camera to great glass from the former East Germany and very good glass from the former Soviet Union. In terms of other medium format systems, the Pentacon Six mount is well served and there are many good choices that can be had at reasonable prices.
The camera has been referred to commonly as a “tank.” It is certainly hefty due to its significant metal construction but it is a very simple camera in both design and use of space. There is an option of waist level viewfinder or TTL viewfinder. For an SLR it is not anything heavier or more cumbersome than any other medium format SLR.
I personally prefer the waist-level viewfinder as I don’t have a TLR camera and this is my only camera with this option. First and foremost, using the waist level viewfinder cuts down the size of the camera. Changing the view level of a shot makes me more aware of framing and I appreciate the different perspective as well.
Framing a shot is important with any camera and any picture you take, and many things can go into this decisive moment. Frame size is a key component ,and with medium format there are four main options: 6×4.5, 6×6, 6×7 and 6×9. The 6×6, which the Kiev and Arax-60 both shoot, is a very fun and challenging frame size. By having a perfectly symmetrical frame, what you fill it with needs to take that symmetry in mind. I would not say I have mastered this by any means but I do enjoy the challenge, especially since I tend to shoot more landscapes and other medium format formats which are more similar to the 35mm ratio.
Both the Kiev-60 and Arax-60 MLU are great bang-for-the-buck cameras. There is not another medium format SLR system that you can get into for any cheaper. I have always enjoyed shooting with these cameras, though the Arax is the better option if you have the extra funds.
Read more Kiev-60/Arax-60 reviews:
- Kiev-60 review by Matt’s Classic Cameras
- Arax-60 review on Spillerphoto
- Kiev-60 review on Shutterbug