Kiev 88, Foma Retropan 320, Foma Special Retro Developer.

Street Ready

The Kiev 88 is medium sized, I have it always lens down in my camera bag for the Nikon F100. Compared to bigger ones like the Mamiya RB67 it's light weighted and handy for street usage. It is very durable with it's full metal curtain. Learn to deal with it's princessness and you get a great medium format system ranging at the entry to amateur level.

Kiev
88

Kiev 88 Medium Format Film Camera Review

Kiev 88 Medium Format SLR Soviet Film Camera

Kiev 88 - a Soviet medium format SLR

We had our fights, we made our compromises. It’s about the dream style pictures the Volna lens presents. It’s about the handling. It’s about that very special “click” – though it’s not a click. It’s a full featured sound effect taken from a Kraftwerk song: click-zack-rrushkh-mmm. I love that little beast. Period.

The Panda Rating

The Panda LOVES IT!

Pro Level Features
25%
Budget
40%
Street Handling
65%
Reliability
70%

The »Hasselbladsky«

The Kiev 88 is a well known medium format SLR film camera. Despite some lack of constant quality level it was and is the intriguing low price which made it to be one of the most common entry level medium format film cameras.

When talking about the Kiev 88, we need to start the story with the Salyut and it’s successor, the Salyut-S. Made by the Ukrainian Arsenal factory as a copy of the Hasselblad 1600F. It is also labeled as “Kiev 80”.

The Salyut was produced from 1957-1974 with a quantity of 50.000. Amongst it’s several types sub-types there are also export versions with other names, branded as “Zenit 80” and “Revue 6×6”.

The only difference between the Salyut-S and the Kiev 88 is the 88’s hotshoe.

From Russian winter to Israelian Negev

The Kiev 88 is a solid full mechanical medium format SLR film camera on a budget. It might have it’s deficites, sure. But honestly, it’s a film camera with a character. Mine is a loyal companion from -40°C in Russian winter to +50°C in the Israelian Negev desert.

The Kiev 88 is medium sized, I have it always lens down in my camera bag for the Nikon F100. Compared to bigger ones like the Mamiya RB67 it’s light weighted and handy for street usage. It is very durable with it’s full metal curtain. Learn to deal with it’s princessness and you get a great medium format system ranging at the entry to amateur level.

We had our fights, we made our compromises. It’s about the dream style pictures the Volna lens presents. It’s about the handling. It’s about that very special “click” – though it’s not a click. It’s a full featured sound effect taken from a Kraftwerk song: click-zack-rrushkh-mmm. I love that little beast. Period.

A quality system on a budget

If you found a Kiev 88 without any of the famous handicaps like mentioned down in this review, you’re on your way to a real quality medium format film photography system on a budget.

There are high-quality low price lenses like the Arsat 30mm f/3.5 fisheye. You will find one for about 200€. Comparable lenses for other systems sell for 20x more.

If you found a Kiev 88 without any of the famous handicaps like mentioned down in this review, you're on your way to a real quality medium format film photography system on a budget.
The Analog Panda - Zep Wernbacher. Analog Film Photography - Some do Yoga, I do Film.
The Analog Panda
Film Photography

Specifications

Film Type120 roll, 6×6 frame
Standard LensVolna-3 80mm f 2.8
FocusingFresnel ground glass screen
ViewfinderWaist level finder (with loupe). Also TTL metering prism available as addon, standard setup with the Kiev 88 CM.
ShutterHorizontal focal plane metallic curtain.
Shutter speeds30 – 1/1000, Bulb
Film magazineinterchangegable

Tips & Lifehacks

Some tips and tricks which might help you.

Double Exposure Film Photography with the Kiev 88

While the Kiev 88 CM film backs sold by Arax already offer double exposure functionality, the original Kiev 88 lacks this creative feature. But it’s easy to trick the camera’s system:

Do your first shot as intended. Before cocking, put the light plate in again to protect the film. Take the film back off. Cock. Put the film magazine back. Do your second shoot.

Clockwise!

The shutter is combined with the cocking knob. If you want to change the shutter speed, make sure that the shutter is cocked first. Otherwise the shutter system could be damaged. Then pull the knob out and turn it clockwise.

Never mind the Noises

I mean it. You’ll hear really odd noises when turning the cocking knob. That’s ok. It’s the 88.

Hilarious Engineering Tolerance

A negative characteristics of the Kiev 88 along with most other Soviet cameras is the extremely wide engineering tolerance in the production process. If you buy one, you can hold a real gem in your hands. Or experience hell on earth. A very common issue are overlapping frames.

That’s why you should never buy online “as it is”. Always agree to shoot a test roll before buying.

Finding Light Leaks in a Kiev 88

Another common issue are light leaks. When you need to find one, the size of the camera helps a lot. Simply remove the lens and the light plate of the film back. Set the shutter speed to Bulb. Press the shutter and fix it. Now the mirror is up and the curtain stays open. Take the camera to an absolutely dark room. With a torchlight carefully(!) point inside the camera body. Move it a little bit around, always careful with the mirror. This way you will find the place where light is shining from inside.

A small hint: It’s the film back.

Where to buy a Kiev 88 film camera?

In short words: NOE. Not on eBay! No matter if new or used: Only buy from trusted vendors who grant money back policies. Avoid eBay. ARAX from Ukraine are a good place to buy Kiev 88 (and other) film cameras. Their cameras are hand selected new Kiev 88 CM cameras that undergo an extensive mechanical upgrade. More costly, but there you’re sure to get a great camera with guarantee on functionality and some extended features.

Photos made with my Kiev 88