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FK-6 and lenses (Pic: Leitz Photographica)
The FK-6 was heavily modified to operate in an oxygen-rich environment on the spacecraft (Pic: Leitz Photographica)

A modified Soviet medium format camera built for the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission is being auctioned this summer.

The FK-6 is one of only four believed to have been built for the 1975 mission, which saw  Soviet and American space capsules dock in orbit for the first time.

The camera is based on the Kiev-6C medium format camera made by Arsenal in Kiev from 1971 to 1986.

The camera – along with its matching 80/2.8 and 45/3.5 lenses – is going under the hammer at the 38th Leitz Photographica Auction in Vienna on 12 June. It is expected to sell for between €40,000 and €50,000.

The FK-6 had to be re-engineered to get rid of any flammable parts because they were operated in such an oxygen-rich environment. Only four of these modified cameras are thought to have been made.

A preview for the auction says: “The Soyuz crew was Commander Alexei Leonov and Flight Engineer Valeri Kubasov. The cosmonauts received a specially designed FK-6 camera to document the flight. It was a single lens, medium format reflex camera with interchangeable lenses. The body and lenses have been engineered for use in an oxygen-rich environment by using only non-flammable materials and modified to withstand the harsh conditions during space flights.

“On the shown vintage photograph, we can see Valeri Kubasov with an FK-6 camera. This photograph has been taken by Alexei Leonov during the flight. The FK-6 camera is also mentioned in the US space centre documents: ‘Apollo Soyuz Test Project Design Characteristics’ and in the final Flight Plan for the mission.”

Kubarov with FK-6 camera (Pic: Alexei Leonov/US National Archives)
At least one FK-6 travelled into orbit with the two cosmonauts in 1975 (Pic: Alexei Leonov/US National Archives)

The camera and its matching lenses are reported to be in absolutely mint working condition.

“It is an amazing discovery from the history of photography and space exploration,” Leitz Photographica adds.

While this is probably not the camera used by Leonov and Kubasov on the historic mission, it is an exceptionally rare example of the cameras built for the Soviet space programme during the Cold War.

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Stephen Dowling
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