120folder.com          Iskra-2

The Iskra-2 is a 120 film folding rangefinder camera, 6x6 format, built from 1961 to 1964 by Krasnogorsky Mekhanichesky Zavod, KMZ , (Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk), Moscow. Iskra means "spark". The Iskra-2 is the light meter version of the Iskra, launched in 1960. Except the window for the light meter cell, the rest of the housing is the same. The Iskra-2 is quite rare, only a bit more than 6000 were made. Both models were sold to professional photographers.

The Iskras were largely inspired by the Agfa Super Isolette, including its ingenious automatic film advance. The camera shown seems to be a late type 1 (Cyrillic inscription). It has all good features from a top class camera in those days: coupled rangefinder, a good lens (Tessar type, 4 elements in 3 groups), an automatic film advance which detects the film itself, a double exposure prevention and, on top of it, a non-coupled selenium light meter. Working light meters are very rare. If you want one, read the description with care and ask the seller.

Size (mm): 154 x 110 x 53
Weight: 889 g
Lens: Industar-58 3.5/75, closest focus 1 m
Shutter: not named, B. 1 - 1/500, F 3.5 - 22, Light value system
Finder: coupled rangefinder
Film advance: fully automatic, even first frame, accessory shoe, light meter

Here are some photos of the camera. There is a short introduction to the use of it and how it feels at the bottom of the page.

Camera front closed. Top: film advance, rangefinder window,light meter cell, viewfinder window and meter setting.

Seen from the back. On top: Meter setting, viewer, accessory shoe, front opening button, shutter button, film advance.

Seen from above. Light meter setting, accessory shoe, opening button, shutter release button, film counter and film advance knob.

The light meter is a matched needle type. Do not forget to set the film speed. Aim the camera at the subject. Turn the wheel intil the red mark meets the needle. Then read the EV value opposite the little arrow, it's 11 on the photo.

Seen from the bottom. Tripod socket.

Camera front open. Little lever on top of the lens: shutter cocking.

Seen from above, camera open. Focusing at infinity. Aperture/speed ring, shutter cocking lever, depth-of-the-field scale. focusing ring. The camera was built for the light value system, so aperture and speed are connected (LV scale on the next photo). Once set to the appropriate light value, there is a choice of different shutter speed/aperture combinations, you change the speed and the appropriate aperture is set at the same time.

Left side, camera open. Front (lens): light value scale (set to 15 on the photo), flash socket and synchro, distance scale. To change the light value, you have to lift the front part of the ring and turn. Half values are possible.

Right side.

A beauty.

Camera back open. It's not hinged. The knobs on the bottom retract the pegs.

Film chamber. Note the little dented wheel near the top of the chamber (towards the film advance) and the small roll  near the bottom, both part of the automatic film advance.

Original leather case, has written Iskra 2 on it.

Leather case open, can be used as half case.

Handling an Iskra is easy, it's mostly like other folding rangefinders. Loading film is quite as usual, very easy because the pegs retract by turning the knobs on the bottom counter-clockwise. Open the camera back, retract the peg and put the take-up spool into place. Turn the knob clockwise and the peg engages into the spool. Same procedure for the film spool. The knobs are blocked when the back is closed. Insert the film paper backing into the take-up spool and advance it using the advance knob until it's well engaged, 1 to 1.5 turns are sufficient. Close the camera back. Now comes the magic part of the film advance: Just turn the knob, it will detect the film start, it will stop automatically and move the counter to "1".

Open the camera.
Aim the camera towards the subject, match the needle of the light meter and read the EV value. Cock the shutter, set the light value, you have to lift the front part of the ring and then turn to a new setting. Be cautious: You must change the shutter speed for 1/500 before you cock the shutter. It's a good habit to do so for the other speeds, it's less stress for the shutter system. And please don't stock the camera with the shutter cocked. Set focus by the ring near the bellows, focusing moves the lens out. Press the shutter release button. That's it. The double exposure prevention will block the release until you turn the film advance. To close the camera, set focus to infinity, press the hinges of the struts as usual, it will fold easily. Turn the film advance. It stops automatically and shows the next number.

If you forgot to cock the shutter before pressing the shutter release, the double exposure prevention might get engaged. So you can't press the shutter release after cocking without a new film advance and you would lose a photo. In this case you can release the shutter at the little lever at the bottom of the lens. A toothpick or other small object might help.

The Iskra is a very nice and very sturdy camera, it's on the bigger and heavier end of the range. In comparison to my other Iskra cameras, this one is smooth. I had no issues with it, neither with spacing nor with the shutter or the film advance. The film advance is marvellous, I wish, other cameras had this. It has a well working light meter, a big advantage to most other models. The lens is very good. So it's a wonderful camera, everything is working as it should.

A general advice for spacing problems. In "the old days", film and/or backing paper were thicker than now. So the roll would be thicker and hence move film a bit further if the automatic film advance is determined via turns of the roll. If the spacing is too tight on your camera, there is an easy trick to compensate to a certain degree: When you open a new roll, it's held together by a paper strip around the roll. Open it cautiously and leave a part of this strip attached to the backing paper. Insert the paper strip into the take-up spool and wind. The beginnig of the backing paper will follow. Wind, until it's firmly engaged. Your spool core is now a little bit thicker than usual. This might solve your problem, just have a try.

I had already bought other Iskra-2 cameras, none of them worked. One has a working meter, but the film advance is broken. The other one looks good, but  has both broken, the meter and the film advance. I got this one from a Russian camera dealer, okvintagecamera.com. He has a good reputation and my camera met his reputation of selling fully serviced and tested cameras.

3 Iskra-2 cameras, 2 with working meter.

3 Iskra-2 cameras and an ordinary one. The housing is the same except the window for finder/meter cell/rangefinder.

Iskra-2889154 x 110 x 43CAuto, DEPIndustar-58 3.5/75 | 1B 1 - 1/500 | 22, LVauto 1st frame, light meter