Moskva 5 Tips

The Moskva-5 is a medium-format folding rangefinder camera that was made in the late 1950s by the KMZ company out of the USSR. It is apparently a copy of the Zeiss Super Ikonta C, its production being facilitated by the theft of tools, parts and plans from the Zeiss manufacturing facilities in occupied Soviet-occupied Germany at the end of WWII. It makes eight 6×9-cm images on 120-format rollfilm. Some Moskvas come with an insert that masks the film opening to 6×6 cm (more on this below.)

You can buy these cameras on eBay for $60 to $80 and they are a decent introduction to medium format. There is a LOT of info on the Moskva at the Medium Format Camera Pages (thanks Bob Monaghan for so much valuable work). Here are some tips I’ve used to get good results from the Moskva (many of them will apply to other folding cameras):

  • Be careful when using the 6×6 mask. I used mine and got good results with some films, whereas with others the negs got all scratched up by burrs or imperfections in the metal. Be careful.
  • Wait to do the final winding-on of the film until just before you take the picture. This gives the film an extra little tightening, keeping it flat. (Thanks to Chuck Miller for this tip.)
  • Parallax is a problem. What you see through the viewfinder is not necessarily what you will get in the image, since there are many angles through which you can look through the viewfinder. The discrepancy will be most noticeable for close-up images. Compose “generously” and crop when printing.
  • This lens does not do well at large apertures. I find that f/11 is noticeably sharper than f/8, which may be the result of a mis-aligned rangefinder. Stop down as much as you can.
  • The tripod socket on these cameras is for European-style tripods, which uses a 3/8″ diameter screw. You can get adapters to convert these to the North American-style 1/4″ socket. Check eBay. They only cost a few dollars.
  • Charts, guides and rules of thumb are helpful in overcoming the limitations of the Moskva (lack of light-meter, tricky focussing, etc.) For example, there are lots of DOF calculators online (such as DOFMaster) that can be used to determine hyperfocal distances for different film formats. The Ultimate Exposure Computer is also very useful.

Originally prepared February 2003, updated June 2006