The Kiev B.i.G.
Postscript written in 2005
by TRA

Other versions of the Kiev 88


Producing a modular-style camera that could take lenses with the Pentacon Six mount obviously met a demand, and soon other versions of the Kiev 88 started to appear modified to accept these lenses.  There have been two different approaches to this modification.

Twist and Lock Mount

The twist and lock mount is described earlier in this review and involves inserting the lens with the index screw at approximately “10.00 o’clock” position and then twisting it to vertical, where it locks in place.

In the late 1990s a company in Kiev by the name of Hartblei started offering a range of modified versions of the Kiev 88.  These offered various combinations of:

The company claimed that the re-machined mount would accept all Joseph Schneider lenses, even with the extra aperture pin that most of these lenses have.

For a while they offered to upgrade clients’ cameras, although I believe that this service is no longer available.  A kind Russian friend discussed my Kiev-B.i.G.-Six camera from Brenner with his contacts at Hartblei in Kiev, and they offered to modify my camera to take

This was an offer I couldn’t resist, so I took my camera and backs to my Russian friend, who arranged for them to be taken to Kiev by a friend.  With transport by hand in both directions, not surprisingly it was many months before my camera came back to me.
 
[C372-30A: The Kiev B.i.G. modified 
to Hartblei specifications]
The camera now had 
  • a re-machined twist-and-lock bayonet lens mount
  • modified film magazine catches (and gears??) to take Hasselblad magazines
  • a strengthened base plate
  • the smart new Hartblei film advance crank
  • new labels announcing it was a “Hartblei 1006c”

It looked brand new.  In fact, I had to check the serial number to make sure that it was the same camera that I had sent to Kiev! 

At my request, it was returned with two Hasselblad-compatible 4.5 × 6 New Technology film backs.  (These backs enable multiple exposures to be made easily.)

Testing revealed that

 – one lens didn’t!  This was the 75-150mm Variogon.  As this is one of my favourite lenses, with an extremely useful range of focal lengths, I was very disappointed, and discussed the problem with my Russian friend, who in turn talked with his contact in Kiev.  They, too, were surprised and disappointed by this.  It turned out that they had just one Schneider Exakta 66 lens: the 60mm f/3.5 Curtagon, and my Curtagon fitted just fine, too.  However, the location of the extra pin varies, depending on the maximum aperture value that it has to convey to the Exakta 66 TTL prism, and the 75-150mm Variogon is not an f/3.5 lens; its maximum aperture is f/4.5, so the pin is in a different position.  The people in Kiev said that they would re-machine the camera mount if I returned the camera, along with the Variogon lens.  Sending this expensive and rare lens by bus to Kiev in the hands of well-meaning strangers did not strike me as a good idea, so I got my Pentacon Six specialist repairer, Tom Page of London, to remove the lens mount from the rear of the Variogon lens, and off went the camera again to Kiev, along with the zoom lens mount.
 
[386-13A:  The Hartblei wind crank]
This body is also fitted with a Hasselblad- 
compatible NT style film back. 
The knob labelled “A” is the multiple- 
exposure control.
The Hartblei 1006C wind crank is a great improvement on the original knob or even other wind cranks.
[C386-14A The strengthened body base plate]
The reinforced base plate is claimed to improve the rigidity of the body – although I had not noticed any problems with the original body. 

However, the metal coupling-plate (the bright metal part held in place by 6 tiny screws) fits no known camera bracket!  It is too wide and needs filing down before a flash bracket or tripod release mount can be fitted to it!

Of course, the Variogon was not usable on any camera without its custom mount, so several anxious months ensued, until the camera came back again.  When I opened the box, the Variogon mount was not there!  I contacted my Russian friend, who contacted Kiev.  It turned out that they had realised that the mount was more important to me than the camera, so they had sent it to Germany in the hands of Richard Wiese of Hamburg, who happened to be in Kiev at the time.  Richard posted it to me a few days later.  Thank you Richard!!
 

Richard Wiese is behind the publication in 2005 of a book by Lothar Braas on the Kiev Medium Format cameras: “Das KIEV Mittelformathandbuch”, planned as the first of a series of three books.  This book, which is written in German, is a high quality production that is richly illustrated.  It is available from Baier Fototechnik in Germany, and possibly other sources.  ISBN 3-00-014755-1

 
Now I had to head for London again, to get Tom Page to put the lens mount back on the Variogon lens.  This he did in a matter of minutes, and soon the lens was mounted on the Kiev “Hartblei” camera!  Success! 

[C392-21] 
The upgraded camera with the 75-150mm Schneider Variogon mounted on it.
But there must be a better and less nerve-wracking way of achieving this ...

Breech Lock Mount

There is!
The breech lock mount on the original Praktisix and Pentacon Six cameras and copied on the Kiev 60 involves inserting the lens with the index screw in the “12.00 o’clock” position, and then rotating a ring on the front of camera body to lock the lens in place.  Unlike the Brenner and Hartblei models, the lens itself is not rotated.  This should make machining a mount that takes all the Schneider Exakta 66 lenses easier.
But as the lens-to-film-plane distance on the Kiev 88 is greater than on the Pentacon Six (82.1mm, compared with 74.1mm), there is just not space on the Kiev 88 to add such a breech lock ring on the front of the body.  However, ingenious engineers in Kiev have overcome this problem by recessing the locking ring within the front on the camera.
 
 

Image courtesy of Mike Fourman 
at Kiev Camera
Problem: there is no way to get one’s fingers in there to rotate the ring! 
Solution: attach a slim lever to the ring, terminating above the mount, just behind the lens.  Swing the lever, and you can operate the breech lock ring.  Brilliant! 
The lever for the locking ring is just visible at “1.00 o’clock” on this image from the Kiev Camera website. 

This camera is marketed under the name Kiev 88CM, and was until recently available from Michael Fourman at Kiev Camera in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.  It also includes as standard the new-style wind crank.  Michael´s website is unfortunately no longer operative (March 2007).

As alternative sources, I suggest:

I have had very positive experiences buying from Gevorg Vartanyan of Arax Foto and from Zhanna, and although I have not yet bought from DVD Technik, other buyers give very positive feedback on them.

Outstanding compatibility problems

All lenses that I have from Schneider, Arsenal, Hartblei and Carl Zeiss do now mount on this camera.  But there is one outstanding compatibility problem, and the same problem has been reported to me by the owner of a Kiev Hartblei 688M.  I also seem to recall that some Kiev 88CM owners have had a similar problem.  Of all things, it concerns two Carl Zeiss Jena lenses: the 50mm and 65mm Flektogon lenses.  Both these lenses have a depth-of-field lever that is located right at the back of the lens, behind the aperture ring.  When these lenses are mounted on my Hartblei 1006c or on at least some Kiev 88CM’s, this lever is virtually inaccessible, although with a fingernail or the tip of a cap from a Bic ball-point pen I can just move it.  It also rubs slightly on the mount and in consequence of this it doesn’t always return immediately to the open position.
 

Hyperfocal focussing
If it’s any consolation, observing the depth of field in the viewfinder with any wide angle lens is always difficult.  However, the lens does have a depth of field scale printed on the lens mount.  I have always found this very reliable with the 50mm Flektogon, and imagine that it will also be with the 65mm lens.  So I can use hyperfocal focussing, which is very effective with wide-angle lenses. 

For instance, if I am able to use f/22, I set the aperture to f/22 and then turn the focus ring so that the oo infinity mark is against the right-hand “22” marked on the fixed ring of the lens.  Looking at the left-hand “22” on the same ring, I can see that the lens will yield an in-focus image from just under 1 meter to infinity. 

You can see an image shot with the 50mm Flektogon set at the hyperfocal distance here.  (“Autumn view in Stevenage”)  For this shot I only stopped down to f/6.3, but with this wide-angle lens everything from the foreground a few meters away to infinity was in sharp focus!

For more information on hyperfocal focussing, see here.

More radical solutions would include either removing the depth-of-field lever completely or  – better still, if possible – having a new DOF lever designed that would be longer and would bend forward at the exit point from the lens, providing access from just outside the aperture ring.  This could be a good project for someone with machine shop capabilities and a sympathetic lens repairer, but I have not found it necessary – but then the 65mm lens that I habitually use on this camera is the Mir 38-B, which incidentally doesn’t have a DOF lever.  For wider than that I usually use one of the 45mm Mir lenses.  The commonly-available Mir 26-B doesn’t have a DOF lever either.  The much rarer Mir-69B 45mm lens does have a depth-of-field lever, which is mounted on the other side of the lens (compared with the Flektogons), and significantly further forward, so that it is usable without any problem at all.

To read about other lens compatibility problems, click here.

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© TRA November 2005, June 2009