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Photo Sniper F3
Surveillance camera (Фото Снайпер)

Photo Sniper was an observation camera, developed in Russia during the Cold War by KMZ. Having the look and feel of a rifle, it was ideally suited for observation and surveillance tasks. It enabled the user to shoot steady images of distant or moving objects, such people passing in a car. The camera was used by counter intelligence teams of the KGB (2nd Chief Directorate), the Border Guards [1] and by the intelligence services of the other countries of the Warsaw Pact.
Photosniper consists of a modified Zenit E-type camera with Praktika mount, and a 300 mm telephoto lens, mounted on a long boom with a pistol grip. When assembled, it looks pretty much like a rifle. At the rear end, the boom has a stock mounting that allows it to be pressed firmly against the shoulder, resulting in steady shots without the use of a tripod.

The camera was named Zenit ES and had an extra shutter-release button at the bottom, that mated with a pawl on top of the boom, allowing the shutter to be released by pulling the trigger.
Complete 'Fot Snaiper' camera, ready for use

When operating the camera, the user could easily adjust the focus with a large knob at the front end of the boom. As the long lens takes away quite a bit of light when aiming, the diaphragm can be opened by locking the diaphragm control knob on the lens. When pulling the trigger, a spring quickly releases the diaphragm just before the picture is actually taken.
The 3 major parts separated Complete 'Fot Snaiper' camera, ready for use Close-up of the Zenit-ES camera Additional shutter-release at the bottom of the camera Activating the shutter-release button when pulling the trigger Pulling the trigger Adjusting the focus Diaphragm control knob

When unused, the camera is usually stored in a purpose-built metal container. The camera, the boom and the stock are separated and are each stored in a dedicated space inside the container. The top lid of the container holds all of the accessories, such as filters, screw drivers and films. The coloured filters were used to improve contrast when using black-and-white film.
The shoulder stock is stored at the bottom of the case, held in place by two clips, whilst the pistol grip can be screwed to the bottom of the container. The camera and the long lens are fixated to the front of the container with a large black knob behind the leather case grip.

The camera could also be used on its own, as an ordinary 35 mm camera. It was usually supplied with a suitable leather case and a standard 58 mm lens that was stored under a plastic cup in the lid of the metal container. Spare films were stored in the top lid of the container.
All items packed nicely in the metal container

Two additional leather straps were supplied that could be attached to the bottom of the container, allowing it to be carried on the back, or to be strapped to something else. The Photo Sniper is also featured in Keith Milton's excellent book Ultimate Spy [1].
Original packaging Metal storage container All items packed nicely in the metal container Set of filters stored in the top lid of the container Standard 58 mm lens stored in the top lid of the container Screwdrivers Standard 58 mm lens Fixating the long lens to the container
Fixating the boom to the bottom of the container Shoulder stock Additional accessories to allow the Zenith-ES to be used as a normal camera Leather straps to be fitted to the bottom of the metal container The various colour filters Zenit camera and 300 mm lens Advancing the film The name 'Foto Snaiper' on the pistol grip

The Photo Sniper was initially made for the Russian market. The text on the camera body, on the pistol grip and on the container was in Russian. ФОТО СНАЙПЕР means FOTO SNAIPER (Photo Sniper). The container was usually painted in the typical Russian grey hammerite colour.
The set was later also produced for the rest of the Warsaw Pact countries. It was labelled with the name PHOTO SNIPER in Latin rather than Russian and came in a dark grey hammerite metal container.

The image on the right shows the Russian text on the pistol grip of the USSR version of the camera. Some more images of the Latin version of the Photo Sniper below. Both cameras were manufactured by KMZ (Kraznogorsk Mechanical Works) in Kraznogorsk near Moscow during the Cold War. The company still exists today [2].
The name 'Foto Snaiper' on the pistol grip

KMZ or Красногорский Механический Завод was also the manufacturer of the Zenit 35 mm cameras and the famous F-21 (Ayaks) button-camera that was used by the KGB and other intelligence services. After the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) the company continued the production of analogue cameras, but finally closed down most of their production lines in 2005 [2]. The only camera produced by the company right now is the Horizon panoramic camera [3]. The company currently produces a range of military optics and laser range finders for the Army.
The storage container with the lid closed The camera and the accessories stored inside the metal container. Close-up view of the camera and the accessories inside the metal storage container. The storage case of the Sniper with opened lid. The complete Sniper Camera, showing the Zenith, the lense, the 'rifle' and a leather carrying strap. Close-up of the pistol grip. The trigger is used as shutter release. All accessories of the Sniper (filters, lenses, etc.) are normally stored inside the metal container.

  1. H. Keith Melton, Ultimate spy.
    ISBN: 0-7513-4791-4, 1996-2002

  2. Wikipedia, Krasnogorskiy Zavod
    Красногорский Завод. Retrieved August 2011.

  3. Wikipedia, Horizon Camera
    Retrieved August 2011.

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