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Kometa

  

The Kometa was successfully introduced to the specialized press during the Brussels International Exposition of 1958.
Despite the camera's volume (Simon Nathan, an American reporter, initially mistook it for a medium format camera!), the jounalists were favorably impressed.  In 1957, it was the only rangefinder 35mm camera with built-in lightmeter cross-coupled both to the shutter speeds and to the diaphragm setting of all the lenses in the system. The Leica M series had a meter coupled only to the shutter speeds (from 1954) while the Contax never had meter coupling. Only the single lens reflex Nikon F had cross coupling via its external meter, toward 1959.

But the exact reason for the Kometa's presence in the Soviet Union pavilion was not readily visible to the visitor.
Even before considering the Kometa's intrinsic qualities, one must accept that it was the result of the one of the gratest Soviet specialties: propaganda. Engineers G.M.Dorsky, V.I.Pluzhnikov and A.P.Orlov, under the direction of E.V.Soloviev had received a very simple set of specifications to fulfill: to create a full frame 35mm rangefinder camera incorporating all the best technology of the day, better than any other camera then available...!!

Better than the Leitz's Leica M3; better than Zeiss Ikon's Contax IIIa. at that time the beacons of the world photographic industry. In 1958 the Soviet supremecy in the space race was incontestable, Sputnik having been launched on October 4th, 1957. It was therefore absolutely necessary to confirm this technological advance in other domain at the Brussels International Exposition.

Among all the other photographic and optical material shown at the Soviet Pavilion of the Exposition, eclipsing even the LENINGRAD, the KOMETA was the masterpiece. Apparently two units of the Kometa were ready and working prefectly for the duration of the Exposition.

The goal was achieved, and the KOMETA was unanimously praised and flattered by the members of the international press (Notably in the October, 1958 issue of Popular Photography and the 35mm Handbook by S.Nathan in the USA, and in the French magazine le Photographe). Once back in Moscow after its triumphal introduction, one Kometa disappeared, while the other becomes an organ donor for other projects. In any case, the camera was too expensive to make ...

Rather than choosing to become a great camera producer, the USSR opted for sheer numbers; quantity prevailed over quality (source: J.L.Princelle "The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras", 2nd edition).

Full frame rangefinder 35mm semi-automatic camera. Selenium lightmeter (16-250 GOST = 20 - 320 ASA) cross-coupled between shutter speed and diaphragm. Body completely machined from aluminium alloy, including the top plate. Combined VF/RF, with parallax-corrected bright-line frames for 50/85/135 mm fields, keyed automatically by the lens in use. Single-stroke wind lever with film speed memo. Automatic reset frame counter. Removable back with two tabs, Contax-style. Shutter release on camera front. Leica-type focal plane shutter with speeds: B; 1s -1/60s -1/1000s. Internal bayonet lensmount unique to this camera system. Standard lens: Mercury-1 2/50mm.


Picture below scanned from authentic Kometa's leaflet (for Brussels's Exposition, 1958).

  

Kometa prototype camera.

 

  

 

The leaflet of Kometa camera from private collection in Russia.

 

  

 

The leaflet of Kometa camera from private collection in Russia.