A little bit of History…

Hello there;

I was going through some memories today and decide to share with you guys what I used during the glory days of film back in Cuba,

I want to start talking about the first years, snapping pictures just for fun, a German film ORWO Black & White cost like 2 Cuban Pesos (About 10 USD cents)聽 (I don鈥檛 remember exactly).

With a box of film (10) and my Camera, I was really happy. Every place, every time I was using my Smena Camera:

I was using this camera for vacations, trip to the Zoo and fun, then an upgrade came, a New Vilia:

The Vilia came pretty good, you got more “control” on the camera. I was using this baby until I started Middle School, for my birthday I remembered my mother bought me a Zenit EM, I was like 12 years old, this Zenit was Da’ Bomb:

This one came with a light meter on top of the lens, pretty sharp though, you can change lenses, and the best thing in my opinion, was built like a Tank!, Russian Style. Zenith EM last me until almost 11 grade, I was saving my money for another upgrade. During this time, I had my own darkroom, (in my room), I remember everybody was yelling at me about the developer and fixers, the smell was really OK, nothing to worry about. I remember I used a batch of developer and fixer, expired almost 15 years, a friend gave it to me, had to keep it in the refrigerator, a whole galon of each chemical, again I was聽 in pain with parent telling about this.

Speaking of darkroom, I have to say I had a blast, nobody was bugging me, pitch black when putting the film inside the tank, I mean really good times, the whole setup was mobile, once the work was finished, I have to clean everything and dry the pictures in the other room. Man this were good times.

The Zenit TTL:

Back in the聽 Zenit TTL this camera was the upgrade (160 Cuban Pesos, about 8 US Dollars), Now we are talkin’ ~ Through The Lens ~, the light meter work pretty good, three led inside (one Yellow and another Red) will indicate Over or Under Exposure, the Green one indicates Good to Shoot!. This happiness wasn’t all around, batteries for the camera were hard to find and after almost 6 months of use, no more TTL meter, and have to migrate to another tool: The Leningrad 7 Light Meter:

The Leningrad worked pretty good as well, no batteries needed, kindda plastic construction but, hey, It did the work, the Selenium in the front was covered by another plastic thing, I’m not even know why (ahhhhh, I remember, if you meter under low light conditions the selenium moved to the front to capture more light).

Well until now this was my arsenal front “Point and Shoot” Smenas and Vilias to the heavy duty Zenit, during this time I only used two lenses, the Helios 44M 58mm f/2 and the Pentacon 135mm f/2:

During this time of my life I did use another cameras: Leica M2 was my favorite, this one only used when taking photo classes over the children hospital in my town, and rarely used outside the place, I remember I can count the times I had this camera with my in my way back home, another was a Kiev camera:

This Kiev was an excellent rangefinder camera, I used it because the similarity to the Leica M2, belonged to my uncle when he went to Russia for some studies. I did use too a Lubitel 166B Medium format camera, I have to tell you, shooting 120 was a lot of fun, now you can buy this Lubitels for almost 300 USD, amazing:

Well, after all this time, I went to college! the Law School I never finished, this period of time was superb in photo time literally speaking, I had a great darkroom, (just for me), great cameras, including a Praktica TL1000:

This picture show exactly the setup with the Pentacon 50mm f1.8. with this camera I did a lot of concert photography for a local band in my town, this camera was German (the Communist Germany, back in the days), really light in weight and the lens was super sharp, really enjoy this machine.

…and the Pentacon medium Format:

The lens in this camera wasn’t the one I used (Pentacon 80mm f/2), but the camera is just the same. Used it at school and for classes, I remember I had a box full of this cameras (I was teaching First Year General Photography, and Third Year CSI Photography when in Law School).

After 1994 in Cuba, doing photography was really hard, you can’t find anything, including paper and film, so all the joy of capturing light was like a privilege that I can only access a few times a year, cause the government start the Color Processing business and every body migrate to that.

This is a picture of a friend, taken with the Zenit TTL and the Leningrad 7 light meter:

Hope you enjoyed this big illustration of Russian Technology, (laughing)…

Cesar Out


  1. Too much nostalgia in those pictures!
    Every one of those cameras occupied a place in its time (at least in Cuba and for sure in many other countries). I recognize that they made their work very well. When I was photo correspondent at the university owned a Zenith Sniper. I can swear this was one of the best cameras I had in my hands ever!.
    Thanks for sharing those memories and for the photos.

    BTW, check this out obout Canon S95.

  2. Great cameras, timeless! I have a Praktica always with me!

  3. Man, thanks for sharing your stories of photography from when you grew up in Cuba. It would be cool to see those photos!

  4. Great recap of your photography history!

  5. Being from Romania, a USSR satellite state, Vilia Avto, Zenit ET were my first cameras too!
    Now I use Olympus OM-4, Olympus XA and Zeiss Ikoflex IIa. My old zenit ET is now converted into a pinhole camera. I have also a Liubitel, Christmas gift – not yet tested. Hope the film photography will never die…

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