Many reviews online criticise the Kiev for poor build quality, especially when compared with a Contax of the same vintage. While I haven’t handled a Contax, the Kiev does feel quite solid (heavy too!) and all the functions seem to be smooth. The body doesn’t flex or creak.
The viewfinder is indeed dim, when compared with my CLE or R2, but the rangefinder patch is contrasty and usable. No brightlines in the Kiev, but none in it’s contemporaries either.
The shutter is quieter than my R2’s, and is pretty much of the same level as my CLE, at least on faster speeds. The clockwork mechanisms can be heard at speeds lower than 1/50s.
Size-wise, with the lens it’s about the same size as my R2 (with collapsible 50mm Summicron), only a little wider. It is much heavier though; and feels about as heavy as my Rolleicord!
On the ergonomics side, the positioning of one’s fingers takes a little getting used to, and my third finger tends to obstruct the rangefinder window. Not a major problem though. The aperture ring on the lens is click-stopped, but it’s pretty hard to set without changing the focus. Another thing would be the infinity lock; I really dislike these! I placed a little plastic piece into the notch for the infinity lock button (near the lens)—problem solved.
I have a roll of Fomapan 400 (my new standard 400-speed film) in the camera right now. We’ll see shortly how well the Kiev performs.
Oh, and yes, the camera does have that ‘Russian’ smell.
Update 1/14/06: The lens originally was a little wobbly in the inner bayonet, and the aperture ring was loose. Tightened both according to the instructions in the Kiev Survival Site. Works like a charm now. Have also added a soft-release as well as a nice vented hood.
Update 1/29/06: In the two weeks or so that I’ve owned the Kiev, I’ve managed to shoot about 5 rolls with it. I also bought a Jupiter 12 to go along with it.
While I mucked up the processing for one of the rolls (don’t ask), the other four look good. Performance from both lenses are pretty darned good, especially considering the cost of each (the ‘8 came with the camera, the ‘12 cost me US $40).
One of the issues I’ve faced with the camera is film spacing. That can be a little tricky after processing as the spacing is a little off for the first 5 to 7 frames, but settles down after that. Also, the spaces between each frame are rather narrow.
One thing about the ‘12 though: the DOF markings are overly optimistic, and should be used at two stops smaller.