After the disappointment of the 122 I wasn't sure what to expect from this camera, I won it on ebay and waited, not expecting a lot of it, for it to arrive.
The parcel was delivered, opened and the camera inspected.
Build quality is a massive improvement from the 122, the plastic body panels feeling much sturdier and an overall workman like feel radiates from the body. Zenit went back to a metal rear door and front plate, which helps this impression, the only plastic on this body is the top and base plates and battery compartment door, as far as I can tell..
The first problem I had was powering the camera, unlike the earlier models this one needs 6 volts to power all the electrics. I managed to install (and pack with a wad of silver paper) 4 LR44 batteries in the battery compartment. The camera uses 1 PX28 battery and I'm waiting for one delivering. Once powered the shutter fired, this is the first Zenit that had an electric shutter release, and the meter proved that it worked.
The shutter is still the horizontal cloth model developed from the Leica prototype, but this one is controlled through electronics, which means no worries about shutter speed changing when not cocked.
The electrics on this camera seem much more robust than the 122, even though they (apparently) share the same meter and read out LEDs. The dial on top of the body has 4 positions, L, locked is the top one, B seems to be battery check, I assume X is the flash sync(although I could be wrong) and the final position is A for Auto exposure.
In the last dial position the camera feels almost Japanese, infact very similar to the Pentax ME, all you have to do is focus and shoot. Nice.
The final change with this camera is the lens mount. This is a Pentax 'K' mount body. Fitted with the original 'K' mount the body also sports a stop down leaver under the lens release button, something not always available, but always usefull for checking exposure before the shot.
I feel I must mention that by the time this camera was on the market Pentax had moved on to the 'Ka' and 'Kaf' mounts , meaning that Zenit were falling well behind in the development race, still...
The fitted Helios 44K-4 lens is typically sharp and, at f2 reasonably fast. Shots taken on one of my DSLRs show the quality of this lens, sharp wide open and good colour rendition are the things you notice, making it a very pleasing manual lens to use.
All in a very pleasant surprise and a solid camera, I look forward to trying it out.