Moskva 5 Tips

— Jordan on February 11, 2007

The Moskva-5 is a medium-format folding rangefinder camera that was made in the late 1950s by the KMZ company out of the USSR. It is apparently a copy of the Zeiss Super Ikonta C, its production being facilitated by the theft of tools, parts and plans from the Zeiss manufacturing facilities in occupied Soviet-occupied Germany at the end of WWII. It makes eight 6×9-cm images on 120-format rollfilm. Some Moskvas come with an insert that masks the film opening to 6×6 cm (more on this below.)

You can buy these cameras on eBay for $60 to $80 and they are a decent introduction to medium format. There is a LOT of info on the Moskva at the Medium Format Camera Pages (thanks Bob Monaghan for so much valuable work). Here are some tips I’ve used to get good results from the Moskva (many of them will apply to other folding cameras):

  • Be careful when using the 6×6 mask. I used mine and got good results with some films, whereas with others the negs got all scratched up by burrs or imperfections in the metal. Be careful.
  • Wait to do the final winding-on of the film until just before you take the picture. This gives the film an extra little tightening, keeping it flat. (Thanks to Chuck Miller for this tip.)
  • Parallax is a problem. What you see through the viewfinder is not necessarily what you will get in the image, since there are many angles through which you can look through the viewfinder. The discrepancy will be most noticeable for close-up images. Compose “generously” and crop when printing.
  • This lens does not do well at large apertures. I find that f/11 is noticeably sharper than f/8, which may be the result of a mis-aligned rangefinder. Stop down as much as you can.
  • The tripod socket on these cameras is for European-style tripods, which uses a 3/8″ diameter screw. You can get adapters to convert these to the North American-style 1/4″ socket. Check eBay. They only cost a few dollars.
  • Charts, guides and rules of thumb are helpful in overcoming the limitations of the Moskva (lack of light-meter, tricky focussing, etc.) For example, there are lots of DOF calculators online (such as DOFMaster) that can be used to determine hyperfocal distances for different film formats. The Ultimate Exposure Computer is also very useful.

Originally prepared February 2003, updated June 2006


  1. When setting the shutter to the top speed (1/250), which brings into play a very stiff spring, it’s a good idea to hold the body of the shutter in one hand while turning the ring. This keeps the front standard from twisting.

    Comment by Fred Haeseker — November 5, 2007 @ 5:38 pm
  2. Winding after opening and just before exposing prevents dust from settling on the negative as well, the dust gets rolled into the previous exposed frame. This makes the negatives a lot less spotty.

    Comment by Frank Hovie — February 26, 2008 @ 9:09 pm
  3. I think the main source of vibration and shake with moskva cameras has to do with the ridiculous tripod mount “nipple” that protrudes from the bottom of the camera. This prevents the camera from sitting flat on the tripod plate. Many old cameras have this design flaw – both my other folders have it.

    I made a simple shim out of a scrap of leather that eliminates or at least minimizes the problem. Cut a piece of leather or other stiff but flexible material about 1/8 inch thick to fit between the camera and tripod. cut a hole in the middle to fit around the tripod mount nipple on the camera. If you use a quick release plate as I do you can leave the plate and shim permanently attached to the camera.

    Comment by George Welcher — September 14, 2008 @ 10:34 am
  4. parallax problem: take one piece of matt plastic and cover film area with it. bulb your shutter and keep it open. then frame picture and check it from viewfinder. doublecheck all edges and corners. i think that its quite accurate. in viewfinder you have littlebit more room, than the actual framesize is. easy done on the tripod.

    Comment by Tarmo Virves — April 12, 2009 @ 4:02 pm
  5. You don’t need to use DoF Master as the lens itself has a built-in depth-of-field calculator. That is why the aperture numbers appear on either side of the focus mark. If you are set on, say, f11 just read off the distance between the two f11 markers, that is your DoF at your selected focus distance.

    Comment by Paul — January 4, 2010 @ 9:14 am
  6. can anyone tell me where to find a manual for the Moskva 5?
    I am a rank novice with old camera.


    Comment by susan hayek — June 10, 2010 @ 9:58 pm

    Comment by emgenov — January 13, 2011 @ 3:29 am
  8. Hyperfocal is a calculation of the ideal focal setting for the lens and film format based upon a different ideal then what is shown on the lens itself. In truth, hyperfocal is largely based upon the aperture used on that lens, and format to get the most in focus. True the distance scale on the lens is helpful, but hyperfocal allows the most DOF in focus for a given aperture, somehting that’s not shown on the lens front.

    Comment by whiplock — June 16, 2011 @ 6:07 pm
  9. This camera and other zeiss-alikes were not made from stolen parts or designs. Zeiss material, machinery, etc. came to the USSR by way of war reparations. Therefore, they are perfectly legitimate designs.

    Comment by Bernard Sypniewski — March 18, 2016 @ 5:28 pm
  10. — Spot on, Bernard! — +1.

    Good tips here. A series 6 filter holder, filters and hood should also help. Have to remove them to fold, but that should pose no issue in the big scheme of things.

    These camera’s have good performance for what they are, which are essentially 1930’s design and technology – with a few improvements. The biggest problems seem to be the spotty quality control on some of these, and lack of adequate maintenance these almost 60 years hence.

    Mine took a lot of tinkering to get it up and running as well as it did when it was new – the rangefinder was horribly misaligned with the rotating prisms all out of whack. Once I got those back into alignment, and adjusted and confirmed infinity – it looks to be fairly accurate after the first roll of film. Its a slow and deliberate process. It’s not as quick as my Zeiss Super Ikonta “B” – but not that much slower either.
    Looking forward to some direct comparisons of the lenses. initial impression is that it appears to be about the same. I will know more once I print some negs.

    Comment by Blaine — July 10, 2016 @ 3:51 pm

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