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KMZ Kristall (Pic: Stephen Dowling)
KMZ’s Kristall was one of the cameras profiled on the blog this year (Pic: Stephen Dowling)

This year, like so many others, I found myself with a lot more time on my hands.

The lockdowns in England throughout the year to combat the coronavirus pandemic meant no long commutes into work and a lot more time spent finding and editing stories for Kosmo Foto. I found it a healthy distraction.

This has been the busiest year for the blog so far, with more than 230 stories published. Here, in no particular order, are some of my favourites from this year.

Pentax MX: Pick of the Pentax bodies? (January)
The Pentax MX won Kosmo Foto’s poll for the best Pentax film camera to help mark the 100th anniversary of the camera brand. This Kosmopedia post looks at why this camera has so many fans.

A secret stash of Soviet cameras found in a Kazakh warehouse (January)
Regular contributor Andrey Khludeyev told Kosmo Foto about a friend who had found a stash of hundreds of Soviet Smena camera in a warehouse in Kazakhstan, still in their unopened boxes.

This is what the Olympus OM-1 could have looked like (January)
Some research into the Olympus OM series revealed this incredible modular prototype, devised by Olympus’s genius designer, Yoshihisa Maitani. It never went into production, but offered a glimpse into what one of photography’s most famous marques could have looked like.

The 20-year project to shoot 21st-Century Native Americans on wet plate (February)
Shane Balkowitsch received much publicity in 2019 for taking a wet plate image of climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg during a visit to Montana. Kosmo Foto looked at his long-term project taking portraits of local Native American tribal members in this atmospheric medium.

The WW2 Leica buried by a German soldier’s widow (February)
Kosmo Foto discovered this incredible story via a mutual friend – Gunther’s grandfather was a keen photographer and a German soldier, killed on the Eastern Front in World War II. His grandmother buried the camera to prevent it being stolen as war booty, and he is now trying to restore it back to working condition.

Hotshoe-sized lightmeter launches on Kickstarter (February)
There have been a number of accessory lightmeters launched this year, and Reveni’s tiny model is one of the most impressive – kudos to its inventor Matt for taking this from blueprint to production during a pandemic year.

Lomo LC-A (Pic: Pexels)

The all-mechanical Lomo LC-A built to fool a Soviet general (March)
Thanks to Aidas Pikiotas, who runs the excellent Soviet Cameras website, I was able to tell the fascinating story of this one-off mechanical Lomo LC-A. It’s like something out of a spy story.

The Zenit-16: The Russian revolution that never quite happened (March)
Oleg Khalyavin is one of the best Soviet camera repairers in the world, and he put the spotlight on one of the most esoteric models – the Zenit-16 – and why it’s so difficult to repair.

The most-produced 35mm cameras of all time (March)
What would you say are the most-produced 35mm cameras in photographic history? The answer – two humble compacts hailing from Leningrad, built in truly mind-boggling numbers.

The Indian Himalayas on medium format (Part Two) (March)
Nandakumar Narasimhan wrote this piece, originally for my old blog World on Film, and I was thrilled to publish the follow-up. This is fantastic photography from the frozen roof of the world…

Ghetaldus Regula IIA (Pic: Ziga Cetrtic)

Ghetaldus King Regula IIIa review (April)
A West German camera, produced in what’s now modern-day Croatia. Who knew Yugoslavia made film cameras? Not me, until Ziga Cetrtic wrote this fantastic review.

Here’s how to make 16mm film from a roll of 35mm (April)
Andrey Khludeyev digs deep into the back issues of USSR-era photography magazine Soviet Foto to create this how-to if you want to make 16mm film from a roll of 35mm film. Caution – includes razor blades with the lights off

Bhutan on a Voigtlander Bessa R (April)
Lester Ledesma is another photographer who started contributing to the blog this year, and this World on Film post is a fantastic glimpse into a hidden mountain kingdom.

KMZ Narciss (Pic: Andrey Khludeyev)

KMZ Narciss: The world’s smallest SLR (April)
It may be tiny, but the 1960s-era, 16mm-format KMZ Narciss is a proper SLR. Andrey Khludeyev shoots on this Cold War curio.

Transnistria on a Lomo LC-A (April)
I visited Transnistria in 2018. It’s one of the few unrecognised states in Europe, and feels like a throwback to the USSR. I took my Soviet-era Lomo LC-A along for the ride.

‘Raising a Flag Over the Reichstag’: How an iconic photo was taken (April)
2020 was the 75th anniversary of one of the most iconic war photos ever taken, the image of the Soviet flag raised over the symbol of Nazi power in a shattered Berlin. Kosmo Foto investigated the story of Yevgeny Khaldei’s most famous image.

David Collyer’s photos inside one hospital’s battle against coronavirus (May)
Kosmo Foto was the first website to feature these extraordinary images from David Collyer, later featured on the front page of UK newspaper The Guardian. Taken during breaks from his hospital work on an Olympus XA3, these are fantastic pictures.

Nikon F100 review (May)
I bought a Nikon F100 in 2006, using it for concert photography. It’s since become one of my favourite cameras and a regular camera bag companion on trips away. This review was some 15 years in the making, after shooting hundreds of rolls.

You can grow seedlings in an empty film cassette (May)
More how-to, this time using empty film cassettes from Marian Llopis, aka @ifwefilm.

‘I bought a storage locker full of 1,500 film cameras’ (June)
Paul Rybold told Kosmo Foto about the deal he couldn’t refuse – a storage locker full of a collector’s hundreds of film cameras, all for the price of a digital Leica.

The Soviet spy camera disguised as another camera (June)
Soviet cameras are fascinating in their own right, but this Zenit-E, auctioned in the UK in 2018, is even more intriguing…

Olympus film cameras (Pic: Stephen Dowling)

Ten classic Olympus film cameras (June)
With the news Olympus sold their camera-making department as it celebrated its 100th birthday, Kosmo Foto looked at 10 of its most iconic film camera designs, including the superlative XA compact and the little-known FTL.

Are premium compacts a waste of money? (July)
A Contax T2 is now likely to cost you some $2,000, and if it breaks there’s no guarantee it can be coaxed back to life. Is it time the premium compact bubble burst?

The Lubitel 166B: My grandfather’s camera (July)
Andrey Khludeyev looks at the camera which started his love affair of photography – his grandfather’s Lubitel medium-format camera.

The Nikon embassy built in the heart of Soviet Russia (August)
Thanks to the help of Russian photo historian Vladimir Zverev, Kosmo Foto was able to mark the 40th anniversary of the Moscow Olympics with this tale of a Nikon embassy located in the heart of soviet Moscow.

Kazakh medical staff (Pic: Andrey Khludeyev)
Andrey Khludeyev’s photo essay from his time in a Covid-19 ward is one of the year’s most fascinating stories (Pic: Andrey Khludeyev)

Life as Covid patient in Kazakhstan, shot on film (August)
Andrey Khludeyev received the worrying news he may have Covid-19 in the summer, and had to spend two weeks in an isolation ward in Kazakhstan. He took in his tiny Chaika half-frame camera to document his time there. It’s a haunting photo essay.

How Chernobyl’s radiation destroyed a factory full of X-ray film (September)
Joerg Kowalski, the author of the book ‘The History of the European Film Manufacturers’ told Kosmo Foto this tale about a former Kodak factory in east Berlin whose entire output of X-ray film was destroyed in April 1986 – a huge clue to a nuclear disaster 1,000 miles away.

Younger than Facebook: The last Zenit SLR (September)
Zenit SLRs are so synonymous with the Soviet camera industry that it may surprise you the last of them was only unveiled in 2004. What’s it like?

The creepy 1970s adverts for the ‘girlwatcher’ lens (September)
It’s not just the Miranda camera adverts that look out of place today. These 1970s adverts for a telephoto lens couldn’t be printed today…

Filmstagram: How Instagram brought a new audience to film photography (October)
Instagram celebrated its 10th anniversary in October, and this long red looks at one of its unintentional consequences – helping bring a new audience to film.

Soviet-Chinese camera collaboration (November)
Vladimir Zverev looks at the hidden history of Soviet involvement in China’s fledgling camera industry in the first of a three-part series for Kosmo Foto.

This is what 35mm looks like shot on a 180-year-old camera (November)
One of my highlights of the year – Flint’s Auctioneers had for sale in November what is believed to be the oldest camera not to be found in a museum. They put a roll of Kosmo Foto Mono in it to see if they could create any images.

Soviet climbers on Everest (Pic: Technointorg)

The humble Soviet camera which made it to the top of Mt Everest (December)
Thanks to Aidias Pikiotas and the help of Lomography’s museum in St Petersburg, I was able to tell the story of a Soviet expedition to Everest which took along some very surprising photographic kit.

RIP, the film SLR (December)
The end of production of Nikon’s F6 camera means there are no 35mm SLRs in production. Is the era of film SLR production gone for good?

Pentax ME Super (December)
Another of my favourite reviews on the blog this year, this time by Aaron Gold.

To finish, a few stats: this year has been the best-ever for Kosmo Foto, with more than 650,000 page views from around the world. I’ve got some big plans for the blog next year – as well as a few other things which will be unveiled in the coming weeks – and it’s my hope the blog can notch up one million view in 20231, just in time to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Thanks so much for reading and supporting the blog this year, it’s hugely appreciated.

Here’s to 2021, and a happier, healthier year for all.

PS: Kosmo Foto launched its YouTube channel this year, with a deep-dive into Soviet film cameras. Please subscribe – there are a bunch of videos taking shape now for publication early in 2021.

  • Want to write for Kosmo Foto? You get two free rolls of film for every story published. Drop me a line at foto.dowling@gmail.com.

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Stephen Dowling
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