Medium Format on a Budget, Part Two: An Affordable, SLR Style Medium Format Camera

For many people who are into film, medium format is seen as being a natural next step moving on from 35mm. The issue is, of course, that medium format cameras have become very expensive in the last couple years. 

In this video, Kyle McDougall reviews the Kiev 6c 6x6, a camera that can reliably be purchased for around $150 or less. This is the second affordable medium format McDougall has reviewed, the first of which was the Lubitel 166B, which can be found here. All in all, the Kiev seems like a much more dependable option for a camera, and if a good copy is found, it will make a fantastic option for someone looking to get into medium format.

Personally, I find the Kiev 6c to be an interesting option for a camera. I've always been really intrigued by the 6x6 format. It is certainly the most unique and specific to film. When I think of getting a 6x6 camera, I cannot help but think about TLR cameras (specifically, the Mamiya C330). Seeing a competent SLR 6x6 camera, my eyes have been opened, and I hope to one day give this camera a go. 

Do you have any experience with the Kiev 6c? What were your thoughts? Does it hold its own compared to other medium format cameras that you've used?

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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A Kiev? Consider only if you are or know a competent camera repair technician. They don't have the greatest reputation.

I'm a great fan of Kiev Medium Format Cameras, my name is a giveaway, and have 4 Kiev 88s, 2 Kiev 60s, and a single 6c, and love them all but with a caveat, never buy unseen.
Most models now should operate fine and I have been pretty lucky in that I have never bought a dud possibly because I took the time to learn beforehand how they should be treated, as they do have some operating quirks.
I was lucky enough to visit the Factory in Arsenal a couple of times before it closed down and spend time watching them being made and talking with an old guy who ran the line and had spent his entire working life there.
To a man, the technicians I spoke to loved the cameras but felt hamstrung by the financial constraints they had to work under, whatever quality control they had went the way of the dodo towards the end and started to diminish once the USSR broke up.
Shutter like a thunderclap so not a camera for stealth work :)

That confused me — i'd not heard of the Arsenal factory before and reading your comment briefly assumed it was in London. 😂🤦🏻‍♂️

Established in 1764. That's insane. What year did you visit?

The last time would have been 2007 I think, I was living in Moscow at the time and needed to leave the country for a short time due to Visa issues so elected to cross the border over to Ukraine to get another visit in whilst I was there as I'd heard it was to close.
Sadly I didn't take cameras on my visits as I usually came out of the factory shop with something but the below image is the one occasion I did as I'd just bought another Lomo LC-A in the city centre on my way over and wanted to test it.
Apologies for the quality, this is a crappy scan I found in my cloud archive and hasn't been cleaned up in any way.
The big red brick building is the factory, it gets its name from its original purpose as an arsenal and has had a colourful history, the various marks on the brickwork are from small arms fire as it has undergone a siege or two.

The Arsenal Factory is in the District of Pechersk in Kiev. It was built in 1700's and used to make military equipment including optics. Much later it focused on camera designs and manufacturing. These cameras are of the love/hate kind as you rolled the dice to see what you get. They do make some very good ones but many factors are involved in their quality. My wife is Russian and most of my assignments were there and other parts of Europe. As stated before, it is best to have the camera in hand and inspect it first, but sometimes that alone will not tell the whole story. If possible, try to test one for a few days to know. There are some issues with film advance and proper spacing of the frames. If your camera has this problem, there is an easy fix for it but you won't know unless you test it out. I like the Kiev 6. Lenses can run the gammott of good or bad. I go there every year even though I am retired (have property there). If you can find and test one or 2, you will know if it's what you're wanting. I am getting one the next time we go there. Keep shooting and have fun. Oh...and be safe.

Киев 6С, Киев 60, Киев 88 пользовался в 1985-1992гг. Работал фотографом в салоне. Киев 6С тяжёлый аппарат, через год отказал контакт подключения вспышки. Потом стал срабатывает спуск при взводе и портить кадры. Ремонт дорогой. Вообще он у меня до сих пор валяется в шкафу им можно колоть орехи или забивать гвозди))) Киев 60 один умелец переделал мне механизм под меньший размер 6х4. Плёнка в СССР стоила очень дорого, в основном пользовался NC-18 DDR и ч/б. Свема. Объектив Волна рисовал неплохие портреты.. Киев 88 TTL очень хороший аппарат был и стоил больших денег, фишка заключалась в двух съёмных задников (кассетодержателей). Это позволяло использовать один для цветной плёнки, второй для ч/б. К нему приобрёл пистоль рукоятку. Солидная копия Хасселблад. В 1990г. приобрёл Pentacon Six вот это был классный фотоаппарат! Не рекомендую сейчас Киев 6С, 60 вообще. Тяжело носить, капризные. Старые линзы 80мм. от Киева 6С через адаптер иногда ставлю на обычный Рentax. Честно скажу, купить лучше Pentax, Bronica, Mamyia. Для бизнеса и коммерции новые Fujifilm.
Р.S. Была такая советская фотокамера "гармошка" (Москва-2М), Москва-5, пейзажи и группы для школьных альбомов, со штатива и спусковым тросиком снимать очень удобно.