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Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod

Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod (KMZ) was the Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk, a company that specialized in the production of optical equipment for the Army of the former Soviet Union (USSR) and special cameras for espionage. The company was founded during WWII (1942) in the western Moscow suburb Krasnogorsk, on the base of evacuated optical-mechanical plant No. 69.

The current KMZ logo

Shortly after WWII, in 1946, KMZ began the production of cameras, starting with the Moskva (Moscow) folding camera. No less than five different versions of this camera, that was based on the Zeiss-Ikon Ikona, were introduced in the following years (Moskva-1 to Moskva-5) [1].

In 1948, KMZ started co-production of the so-called FED camera, a copy of the popular German 35 mm Leica II camera, that had been in production in the USSR since 1934. As the FED factory got damaged during WWII, they couldn't meet demand for this camera and part of the production was therefore moved to KMZ. Millions of FED cameras were built under the FED-Zorki brand.

In 1949, after the FED factory had been restored and prodcution of the FED-Zorki camera was moved back to the FED factory, KMZ continued to produce rangefinder cameras under the Zorki brand. The first Zorki camera was basically an improved FED camera with some design changes.

In 1952, the Zorki camera was further modified, resulting in the company's first SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, which would become known as Zenit (sometimes written in Cyrillic as ЗЕНИТ). Like the Zorki, it had a 39 mm screw mount (ZM39), but due to its positioning, Zorki lenses with an M39 mount could not be used, as they could not focus except at close range.

The image on the right shows the lens assembly line at KMZ in Krasnogorsk in 1956 [4]. Click the image for a larger view. The KMZ-ZENIT factory is still located at this address today (see below).
Lens assembly line at KMZ in 1956. Copyright unknown [4].

After several modifications and improvements, a completely new version of the ZENIT was introduced in 1962, ten years after the first ZENIT model saw the light of day. It became known as the ZENIT-E, a camera with a hinged back door that resembled a western Praktika. A variant of this camera, the Zenit-ES, was used, for example, with the KGB Photo Sniper camera.

In the special workshop at KMZ, a range of espionage cameras were made for the KGB and other intelligence agencies of the Warsaw Pact. Some popular examples of such cameras are the F-21 (Ayaks), a.k.a. the button camera, the KGB Photo Sniper (Фото Снайпер) and the Tochka-58 (Точка) range of subminiature cameras, that were known in the west as the necktie cameras.

In 1993, KMZ was renamed to S.A. Zverev Krasnogorsky Zavod JSC (Joint Stock Company), but kept trading as KMZ under the ZENIT brand. The company is still in business today and has specialized in special cameras and laser range finders for weapons and armoured vehicles.

Defferent KMZ logos that have been used over the years

The KMZ logo has changed quite a few times over the years. The original logo, that was used when the factory was started in 1942, consisted of a simple dove prism. In 1949 a refracted light ray, with an open arrow at the end, was added to the prism. At some point, probably around 1970 the open arrow was replaced by a closed arrow. In its present form the logo consists of a dove prism with a thick reflected light ray, sometimes combined with the name ZENIT or ЗЕНИТ.

KMZ/Zenit products on this website
Typical F-21 camera as used in many covert configurations
Complete 'Fot Snaiper' camera, ready for use
Tochka-58 and Tochka-58M subminiature clockwork cameras used by the KGB (Russian variant of the Minox-A)
Miniature electronic covert surveillance camera
High-volume covert surveillance camera
Soviet covert observation camera with spring mechanism
Czech version of the Russian JASEN IR/UV viewer
Current address
  1. Camerapedia, KMZ, Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod
    Retrieved February 2013.

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

  3. KMZ - ZENIT
    Company website. Retrieved Febrary 2013.

  4. Zenit Camera, Archive photographs of KMZ factory 1
    Copyright unknown. Retrieved February 2013.
  1. Website closed as of 2 May 2012. Images retrieved in February 2013 using WayBack Machine.

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Crypto Museum. Created: Saturday 02 February 2013. Last changed: Wednesday, 29 July 2020 - 06:47 CET.
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