1980 Kiev 15 (USSR)

The Kiev 15 was the third and last iteration of the automatic SLR that began with the Kiev 10. Mine was made in 1980 (the only year that the model was marked with TTL, in other production years it was marked as a TEE model). Mechanically it’s very close to the Kiev 10 with the same metal fan shutter and the same bayonet lens mount that was unique to the Kiev 10, 11 and 15 models. The main differences are that the big selenium cell is gone in favour of a battery-powered lightmeter, the cold-shoe is now a hot-shoe and the aperture selector wheel has migrated to the other side of the lens mount.

Like the Kiev 10 it’s a big and heavy camera. Even without the 10’s huge selenium cell on the front, there’s still a lot of camera here. It’s also slightly less space-age in detailing than the 10. The 10 has a hidden rewind lever that folds out of the baseplate and hides the door catch, the 15 has them separately and simply recessed into the base. The advance lever on the 10 moves through a slot between the top plate and the door and an internal dustguard swings aside as it moves, the 15 just puts the lever on top. The shutter release on the 15 is also a bit more utilitarian. There are some improvements however, there’s now a switch to select spot or average metering and there’s a system built into the speed selector dial that allows you to calibrate the lightmeter for lenses with different max apertures. There’s also a button to activate the lightmeter (in the photo above, it’s the silver button on the top plate behind the aperture selector wheel), the 10 didn’t need that because it didn’t have a battery.

Mine came with the standard Helios-81 53mm f/2 lens which is identical to the lens that shipped with the Kiev 10. It’s a good lens optically although it’s soft at wider apertures and only gets sharp  all the way to the edges at about f/8 or so. Other Kiev automat lenses are also compatible and an adapter lets you use m42 lenses but without the shutter priority automation or TTL metering. Unlike later Kiev SLRs, the automatic lens bayonet mount is not compatible with Nikon F mount lenses. There is only a very limited range of Automat lenses and they don’t cover niche uses such as macro or very long telephoto (the longest available is the Jupiter-11 135mm f/4). I have the Jupiter-11 as well as a Mir-1 37mm f/2.8 and the Mir-20 20mm f/3.5 which is (as far as I know), the full set.


Sample Images