Idiots Guide To Repair a ZENIT 4

Idiots Guide To Repair a ZENIT 4 – By the idiot himself.

Skip to PART II – Zenit 4 – the complete strip down / Overhaul on the blog.

Reason why I said by the idiot himself, not because I broke it. I always like to tear stuff apart and put them back together since I was 7. Toys, AC unit, Electrical Outlet (oh yeah it was spectacular, ever seen a purple fireball outta 240V?). I’ve been fixing cameras and lens that I acquired for about 5 years now. Also a lot of other peoples cameras.  Lately everything been mostly successful, sometimes with minor trade-off but most everything function like it should. Lots of time I revive them from the grave. Earlier ones are resting in pieces. On top of my head. I fixed a Kiev 4A ‘s focus mechanism, numerous Petri 7S and 1.9 and Ebn … Olympus 35RC, Rollei 35, Kodak this and that and that, Rolleiflex, Mamiya 645, k1000s, XG7….. and the list goes on and on.

This time good friends of my Steph and Joe bought me a Zenit 4 for cheap. The shutter won’t fire when they got it, viewfinder won’t show nothing either. I got the camera in the mail today. Without any knowledge to this camera, you can’t even find a manual to this camera online, closest thing to it will be a Voigtlander Bessamatic, let alone a repair manual. But, being an “idiot”, that’s not gonna stop me.

When I got the camera, knowing the shutter won’t fire and the viewfinder won’t show. Meter seems to work. Focusing screen’s dirty. The prism does come off. The shutter speed ring is the weirdest design I’ve even seen, also how to change the shutter speed and aperture.The shutter speed ring goes from (green) 250 125 60 …. B (start with black) 1 2..30…. 500. And you change the shutter speed and aperture combo with the knob on the top of the camera. The rewind crank will be at the side instead. Usually, I’ll jump right at the linkage and shutter assembly. But remember, this is one of the first SLR made, with leaf shutter, and after opening the back of the camera, it’s getting more weird. I decided to slow down and try to make sense out of it.

WTF is this. it took me a minute to think this through. I know this is an SLR, there is a Mirror in there somewhere. And I know this is leave shutter. But what is that?! Alright, in order for the viewfinder to work, the leaf shutter has to stay open, and with the shutter open, you need something to block the light from getting to the film, until you hit the shutter button. I was pretty much stuck right there, because its not only the shutter linkage, or the shutter itself, now I gotta deal with this mysterious curtain. Feeling lost, I decide to start poking around literally.

I knew that “curtain” needs to move at some point. And logically, it should flip-up. So i decided to cock the shutter again, press the release button, and poke that “curtain” open with my finger (the curtain is one piece, metal). I got it open, I inspect the inside through the opening. Did not see the mirror. That means the shutter release did release the mirror up already, but the shutter itself did not fire. Right there I decided to put my finger inside right where the spring’s at in the bottom. At the precise moment, everything broke lose and all the gears started buzzing. It’s almost like you activated a trap in Indiana Jones movies. Moved my finger real quick, the shutter opens and close. Crank it, fires repeatedly. Good sign. Upon further inspection, the shutter unit itself is slowing down the chain reaction from the front a little bit. Sometimes it takes a second for everything to release after you press the button. Now its time to give the shutter a little more “motivation” as i call it. Hey you need to wake the camera up after so many years of hibernation.

Took the lens and the lens mount off right away, exposing more holes and gears. As usual, 2 drops of lighter fluid here and there. Now the shutter assembly is fully awake. All shutter speed fires perfectly except “1” is still sluggish, but i will let it work itself out. It sounded so good. Now I turn to some minor stuff, cleaned the focusing screen, the mirror, replaced the broken pressure plate with a Minolta donor.

Now see what else needs to be free up. The focusing ring is a little stiff. And the Shutter speed/aperture adjustment knob is also stiff, but only with the lens on, that points to the lens itself.  I decided to take the lens apart. I did not photograph any of these events. Who knew this can be so frustrating after tearing apart so many Nikkors, Super  Takumar, Sigma, and such. Long story short, I got the lens back together but I did lose one spring, yes as usual my carpet ate it. The DOF scale would not work on the lens now. But, everything else works and works better without sticking. Took me 2 minutes to tear it apart and about , it took me an hour and half to put it back, with a missing spring. My advice is, be very careful there are lots of rings, springs and shim inside. Try lube it from the outside if you have to, Yes this means potentially you will get lube in your aperture, so do it really light. But if you have to take it apart, just be very careful.

Anyways, it’s all back together now, everything works, except the meter, the needle moves but not the other match needle that should be controlled by the shutter speed knob (I don’t feel like taking the top cover off after the lens, and who needs it anways?), and the DOF scale. I would still call this a success.

Back in once piece and ALIVE.

Next to it’s new midget little brother, the Olympus Pen EE.


Thank You Joe and Steph.

And Thank You Dad, for not killing me after i tore apart the SLR when I was 10. Sometimes I think you did this on purpose not taking tools outta my hands even though I didn’t have a clue how to use most. But whats a better way to learn.



Did some more adjustment and lube with the shutter speed / aperture ring combo on the lens mount. You want to line up all the gears so it will go (green) 1/250 with all aperture range, and (black) 1/500 the same. Or you will find out that you can only go up to f8 @ black 1/500 or it will only go to green 1/60. Pay attention to the levers on both side.




Of course the next morning Something strange happens. The shutter fires but the mirror fails to come down. I had to tore the camera all the way down to fix that problem. It’s done and working even better, even fixed the meter and calibrated it.


Click here for PART II – Zenit 4 the complete strip down / Overhaul on the blog.


7 thoughts on “Idiots Guide To Repair a ZENIT 4

  1. Very interesting article. I have a Zenit-4 too that I have never managed to make it work. It feels rough cranking the shutter, and the mirror does not come fully down. It is as if the bit that pushes the curtain fully back has slipped before that curtain.
    Has it been the same case with yours too?
    Thank you for the wonderful article.

    • It has been a long time . As far as I remember the flap behind the mirror to make it light tight when it’s cocked wouldn’t come back town . It had something to do with the gears at the bottom inside the mirror housing . Mine is a leaf shutter so I call that thing a flap instead of a curtain at the very back of the film gate .

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