GOMZ Leningrad

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Leica Mount Cameras:

Leica-mount Lenses:

GOMZ Leningrad

by Karen Nakamura


Overview and Personal Comments

The Leningrad is a coupled-rangefinder, spring-motor-driven, focal-plane, interchangeable lens camera made by the GOMZ factory between 1956 and 1968. An earlier prototype came out in 1953, and so some people use that date for the introduction of the camera. In 1958, the camera won the Grand Prix prize at the Brussels World Fair.

GOMZ stands for Gosularstvennyi Optiko-Mekhanicheskii Zavod (State Optical-Mechanical Factory). Founded in 1932 near Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), the GOMZ factory is one of the oldest of Soviet optical companies.

In 1965, the factory changed its name to LOMO or Leningradskoe Optiko Mekhanichesko Obedinenie (Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Union), and the LOMO cameras have enjoyed somewhat of a boom these days.

The Leningrad while nominally being a Leica screw mount camera, differs significantly from the FED and Zorki cameras, which can be more accurately called Leica-clones. Instead, the Leningrad is all-Soviet technology, right down to every bizarre quirk.

There are at least two production variations, which this page (in Japanese) details.

The camera came standard with either the Jupiter-3 50mm f/1.5 or Jupiter-8 50mm f/2 lens.


Interesting quirks



Comments on the Leningrad
by Jim Williams on the Rangefinder List


> Karen Nakamura wrote:
> I'm looking to get a FSU Leningrad camera. *THAT'S* a funky finder. :-)

" FSU"? I thought Leningrads were made by GOMZ. How did Florida State University get in the act?
But if anybody wants to talk Leningrads, I'll concur that the finder is definitely funky -- although pretty clever when you consider what else was available in 1956, when it first appeared. RF cameras with provision for multiple framelines were still fairly uncommon then, and there wasn't a strong design consensus about the best way to do it. Hard to imagine now, but I've read photo magazines from that era in which reviewers talked about the glowing projected framelines of the Leica M3 and Nikon SP being "distracting" or "confusing." And systems with reflected framelines, such as on the Nikon S3 and Canon VI and P series, were sometimes hard to see under unusual lighting conditions. In this environment, the Leningrad's clear, sharply etched and labeled lines for 5, 8.5, and 13.5 cm lenses (with the full-frame view covering 35mm), all in discreet, non-distracting black, might well have seemed to some people like the best answer. Add diopter compensation via a knurled, helically threaded eyepiece, and you've got a rather sophisticated viewing system by '50s standards. (Don't compensate that eyepiece too far, though, or it will unscrew all the way and come out in your hand!)

And did you notice how the viewfinder is "semi-compensated" for parallax by moving the entire image laterally as you focus? Yep, the rangefinder spot stays stationary while the outer field moves -- same as the fixed-lens Fuji RFs with thumbwheel focusing, but no others that I can think of. Unlike the Fuji, the Leningrad shifts its field via a very spiffy optical system involving a roof prism mounted on the end of a pivoting arm; these high-end optics give the Leni an unusually bright, sharp VF image by the standards of the era.

Takes some getting used to that rangefinder spot, though, since it is split-image ONLY -- unlike most combined RFs, the spot is NOT semi-transparent, so you focus by lining up vertical lines at the edges of the patch. It's very easy and accurate if there ARE any vertical lines in the subject -- but for less delineated subjects such as faces, textured surfaces, fields of grass etc., good luck! (I've read on this group that CZ Jena's Werra cameras use a similar system, and I wonder if they might have helped out the GOMZ crew with the design of the Leni's viewing system...)

A few other bits of Leningrad esoterica that I figure I might as well toss off (especially since some of the information in the widely used Princelle book is incorrect):

-- While Princelle says the Leni "will take all the range of 39mm screw," the fact is that many lenses WILL NOT fit. Yes, it has a lensmount with standard 39mm pitch and register, that in theory would accept any LSM lens (with due caution for the usual non-roller-tipped Russki RF coupling arm.) But in practice, any lens with a base more than exactly 2 inches in diameter won't fit -- the top cover overhangs the lensmount with a curved recess to make room for the lens, and fatter lenses won't fit into this recess and can't be screwed in all the way. The standard-equipment Jupiter-8 lens just barely clears it. Of other LSM lenses I have, a 50/1.8 Canon will fit, but a 50/1.4 won't; the 35/1.7 Voigtlander Ultron won't; and, not surprisingly, my 85/1.5 Canon and 100/2 Canon don't even come close. Given the Leni's neat multi-frame finder, it's kind of frustrating that more lenses won't fit!

-- The Leningrad's spring-powered film wind system advances one frame when you relax pressure on the shutter button; continuous sequence shooting is NOT possible, but you can still get off about 3 fps if you have an agile shutter finger. Rewinding, on the other hand, is unusually slow. There's a big, pull-up knob that couples to an internal geartrain, but it's geared down, not up -- the rewind spool actually turns more SLOWLY than you turn the knob! To curb impetuous rewinders further, the rewind 'button' is actually a flat knurled disc that you have to unscrew by pressing it with the ball of your thumb. Making film changing even more of an ordeal is the back-locking system, which requires you to release a Contax-style twist latch on one side, then painstakingly unscrew a knurled ring on the other side, concentric with the rewind disc. Leave it to GOMZ to design a camera that lets you rip through a roll of film in 12 seconds, then have to spend about two minutes changing it!

-- Two other film-advance peculiarities worth noting for wannabe Leninists: (1) There's absolutely NO way to advance film other than via the spring motor, so your shooting day is done if it packs up. (2) Since there is no sprocket shaft to measure film travel, and no differential gearing to compensate for the additional thickness as film builds up on the takeup spool, the spacing between frames gradually gets larger throughout each roll. It's not a problem for the b&w user, but makes life tough for the slide shooter since automatic cutting and mounting machinery will be flummoxed; you'll need to cut and mount your slides by hand.

-- This sprocketless film-advance system is also why the Leningrad has such a fat takeup spool. The mechanism turns the spool exactly 1/2 turn for each frame, so they simply made it big enough to pull the film the required distance at the start of the roll. Of course, as you shoot more film, the spool's effective diameter gets larger, which is why the spacing between frames increases. Incidentally, contrary to Princelle, the film-advance spring is NOT inside this spool -- it's actually within the big winding knob on the camera top. That's important to know, because otherwise you do-it-yourselfers might be tempted to remove the two exposed screws and just yank off this knob, which could be followed almost immediately by the spring embedding itself in your forehead! (You can remove the knob safely by completely winding down the mechanism -- keep shooting frames until it stops advancing, then shoot a few more by recocking the shutter via the speed dial to get the last residual tension out of the spring.)

-- While a lot of people feel older Russian cameras are better-made, I'd suggest looking for a later-production Leningrad (in the unlikely event you have a choice.) One important part of a Leni is a small, spring-loaded lever that you can see when the back is removed, 'way up next to the takeup spool. This flat, laterally-moving lever is part of the mechanism that makes the film advance wait until you've relaxed pressure on the shutter release -- and if there's too much tension on the film, it can overcome the lever's spring and keep the film from advancing. Early cameras have a wimpy little hairspring on this lever, and can be very balky about advancing film; later models have a bigger, heftier spring and advance more reliably. I only had one "early" and one "late" Leningrad, so I don't know when the change came in. If I recall correctly (I have to rely on memory since I gave away my late-model Leni after the curtain tapes let go) another way to tell is that the early, wimpy-spring lever has a hole at one end, while the late hefty-spring lever is solid. Incidentally, as with many Russian cameras and lenses, it's easy to tell when a Leni was made -- the first two digits of the serial number are the last two digits of its year of production -- and the Leni was in production from 1956 all the way to 1968, by which time it must have seemed a bit quaint.

-- If your Leningrad suddenly decides not to advance the film after you've taken a picture (which may mean that the spring is wound too tight... or the spring is too loose... or the film is too tight... or the film is too loose... or the humidity is too low... or it's too cold... or it's May Day... or the camera has decided you're a bourgeois exploiter of the proletariat) try turning the shutter speed dial slightly counterclockwise against spring tension, then letting it snap back. Often this will release the mechanism and let the film advance to the next frame. And since (as noted above) there's no alternate manual way to advance the film, you'd better hope this trick works!

I have to admit I don't take pictures with my Leningrad very often (I probably would if I could use more lenses) but it's definitely a fun camera to own!




Rangefinder Calibration

It's easy to knock rangefinder cameras out of horizontal or vertical RF calibration with small knocks or jars. This is fairly common on older (and even newer) rangefinders. Unfortunately, Kiev/Contax didn't provide for a way to adjust both horizontal and vertical RF calibration without opening the camera up, so some minor surgery is required.

Anya of Odessa (who runs a great e-shop specializing in FSU cameras) provided this explanation of how to adjust the Kiev horizontal rangefinder alignment (minor editing by moi):

The Kiev rangefinder is almost as easy to adjust as the Fed !

First you have to carefully remove the chrome front cover. Take off the lens. There are screws on each side at the top as well as two at the bottom of the front cover. Once you remove the top, then you can see all the working parts. You then have to remove a little of the covering to the left side of lens mount (there is one more screw under it).

Look at the left ( looking at front of camera) rangefinder window, under
it there are two small screw, set lens to infinity, then loosen the screws a little and you can move the glass part left or right, check in the viewfinder until a distant object is in alignment, then tighten the two screws, check again before replacing the front cover and it should be ok!

[a further e-mail clarifies some points]
Its the two inner screws you need to loosen, then you have to move the
glass by hand or small instrument , the movement is very small almost
nothing, but if you take time you will see it is very easy and after you
will be pleased to have done it :-))

Note: This operation has the possibility of fouling your camera if you have the wrong size screwdrivers or slip while the driver is inside the camera. Please use reasonable and appropriate caution when thinking about doing this. I don't have information on how to do the vertical calibration (if it is possible at all). Help and suggestions are appreciated!


Technical Details

Camera Name Leningrad
Manufacturer GOMZ
Place of Manufacture USSR
Date of Manufacture

(my serial # seems to indicate that it was made in xx)

Focusing System

Coupled rangefinder (57mm base length; split image)
0.68x magnification factor
Diopter adjustment feature

Multiple framelines: 35, 50, 85, 135mm

Lens Mount

Leica screwmount (M39) compatible
Standard lenses: 52mm f/2 Jupiter-8


Horizontal cloth focal plane shutter
Var #1: 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 250, 500, 1000 sec + B

Var #2: 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500, 1000 sec + B

3 frames/second spring motor drive

Metering System



External cold shoe
PC cable connector on left side
1/25 sec X flash sync
Flash synchronization delay of 5-20 msec for M bulbs

Film type

Type 135 film (35mm standard)

Battery type none
Dimensions and weight

Body: 152mm x 93mm x 46mm, 730g
Body+lens: xx x x x xx mm, xx g (w/ 50mm f/2)

Retail price



Comparison between the Leningrad and other Rangefinders of the 1960s

Camera Name Leningrad Canon P IIIg M3
Manufacturer GOMZ Canon, Inc. Leica Leica
Place of Manufacture USSR Japan Germany Germany/Canada
Date of Manufacture 1956-68 1958.12-1961.5  1957~1960 (~1966) 1954~1968
Production 70,000 87,875
Focusing System Coupled rangefinder (57mm base length)
0.68 x magnification factor. 38.8mm effective baselength.

Framelines for 35, 50, 85, 135mm (non-selectable)

Coupled rangefinder (41mm base length)
1.00x magnification factor
Parallax compensation

Reflected framelines for 35/50/100mm. (non-selectable)

Coupled rangefinder (39mm base length)
1.5 x RF magnification. 58.5 mm effective baselength.
Parallax compensation

Framelines for 50/90mm. (non-selectable)

Coupled rangefinder (69.25mm base length)
0.92 x magnification factor; 63.731 effective baselength. Separate viewfinder / rangefinder. Parallax compensation

Projected framelines for 50/90/135 mm. (auto-selected; manually selectable on later M3s)

Lens Mount

Leica M39 screw mount compatible

Leica M bayonet mount
Shutter Horizontal focal plane shutter
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B + X (1/25)

Horizontal focal plane shutter (stainless steel)
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B & X (1/55sec)

Horizontal focal plane shutter (rubberized cloth)
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B & X (1/50sec)

Horizontal focal plane shutter (rubberized cloth)
1 sec - 1/1000 sec + B & X (1/50sec)

Metering System
Flash External cold shoe
PC cable connector on right side
1/30 sec X flash sync

External cold shoe
PC cable connector on left side
1/55 sec X flash sync

External cold shoe
Proprietary connector on rear
1/50 sec X flash sync
External cold shoe
Proprietary connector on rear
1/50 sec X flash sync
Battery type
Dimensions and weight Body:152mm x 93mm x 46mm, 730g

Body: 144 x x mm, 650g

  Body: 138mm x 77mm x 36mm; 595g.
Original Retail price  

¥52,700 yen (w/50mm f/1.4) in 1958 (~US$146)
37,700 yen (w/50mm f/2.8) in 1958 (~US$105)

Current Street price

 $50-100 shipping from Russia (~$20)

$400~$500 w/o lens  $600~900 w/o lens  $900~1200 w/o lens





About GOMZ

GOMZ started out its life ...


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