Soviet stuff is lots of fun, especially for a history grad who specialized in that area.
I recently cleaned, rebuilt, and recalibrated a classic Zenit E. Found in the bottom of a bin of broken cameras at an antique market, the remote idea that I might eventually get around to restoring one of these KMZ classics was enough to add another smelly (literally) Soviet to the collection.
More than this, however, I also bought this camera for its lens. The Soviet Helios 44 needs little introduction, having acquired a cult following for its characteristically creamy out-of-focus and bokeh. Though this example was compromised by a bent stop-down pin paralyzing its automatic diaphragm, it was clear that this marked-down lens would be well worth my while with a little bit of TLC. Though the aperture-click bearings gave me a little more trouble than anticipated, a half hour with some solvent, pliers, and grease have yielded an absolutely delightful and unique lens.
Though it was in mechanically superior condition, I chose to sacrifice the best parts of a rusted Zenit EM to bring the iconic E back to life. After removing a stray chunk of metal that had jammed the gears under the top cover, the selenium cell, meter, winding lever, coil spring, shutter curtain, flash terminal, spring-loaded door latch, and a few black accents were swapped over to the cleaner (and now-functioning) E.
Throughout the process, I was quite impressed with the maintenance-friendliness of the Zenit design. Being built around a solid-cast aluminum chassis, the Es were refreshingly straightforward to get inside of and dismantle. Instead of soldering wires between the shutter and top cover for flash sync, Zenit instead went with a 'wireless' design using pairs of copper strips that simply rest against one another to close the circuit when the top cover is screwed into place. The shutter and mirror tensioners are all accessible together directly under the bottom cover. While it may not be pretty, the E is a solid and sensible platform as friendly to the photographer as it is to the repairman.
Apart from the straightforward cleaning, gear tooth straightening (something had been forced with that hunk of aluminum clearly in the wrong place!), and parts-swapping, I also made one particularly significant modification. While swapping the meters, I toyed around with bending the match-needle up closer to the top window to make it actually readable. Using tweezers, I bent the needle and match-loop up roughly 35 and 45 degrees respectively, bringing them closer to the readout window without risking any contact that might leave them stuck against one another. This tweak alone (coupled with a fresh-cut plastic window) has made for a vast improvement over the illogical and spatially-unnecessary KMZ setup that left these diminutive indicators several millimetres below the top plate.
I suppose the next item on the list ought to be replacing the curtain on the Zorki 1, or maybe reassembling that other Contaflex (urgh)!