You’re Twisting My Melon Man!  What K-3 do I Buy: Bayonet, M42, Super16 or Regular 16?

After the improbably militaristic overtones of my first instalment, suddenly I’m back with bayonets and M42s.

O.K., deep breaths, zen yourself out a little. Get in touch with your inner pitta-bread. Go slay a vegan. Whatever.

You gotta get yourself tuned in to all this. Cos this was the COLD WAR man! Like, the real one. With machine gun nests and towers that even Steve McQueen on a Triumph couldn’t overcome. Really. Talking about ‘bayonets’ and ‘M42s’ was completely normal. And so it goes around. To quote someone who knew how to wield a pen.

Back to the thread. If you are looking for a Krasnogorsk to buy, you’re going to see them advertised in a few different flavours. First of all, there are the three different eras. Prior to the K3, surprise surprise, there was a Krasnogorsk2 and and a Krasnogorsk 16mm camera. Older is cooler right? Well, er……no. These older versions of the ‘K’ are often very cheap, in fact, without the shipping costs factored in they are virtually worthless, and hence very tempting. Care is needed here though. Early cameras (K and K-2) used ‘cassettes’ designed to be bought ready-stuffed with film, and not the 100′ daylight loads widely available today. No doubt, with time and ingenuity you could reload these, much like some people are doing for the Kodak cassettes of the same era for their 16mm cameras. But that’s a whole different story. The key thing to remember about the early versions of the K is that bayonet versions of them might come with wider-angle lenses that Might be useable on a mount bayonet K-3, as the mount system from the earlier versions of the cameras was continued on to the first ‘Silver Face’ K-3s.

So, lets move on to the 3. Two factory versions, the early version just referred to, and late, distinguished by the  Krasnogorsk ‘bayonet’ lens mount on the former, and then the latter, with the M42 screw mount. On both versions, the lenses are designed to be taken off the camera body, and the words ‘bayonet’ and ‘M42’ describe the design of the mechanical attachment. And back in the day, this was what it was all about. Camera makers way back were no better than those pushers on the other side of 110th Street. You had to commit. And once you had some skin in the game on one seller’s lens mount system, that was it, you was hooked brother! They had you, and there was no escape. Before all the whoring of today’s M4/3 system arrived and the widespread availability of Chinese lens mount adapters better began to reflect all the infidelity of modern life in general, mount systems drove you into a state of lifelong monogamy. And that road led precisely fucking nowhere if yo signed up to the Krasogorsk bayonet. Or did it? . In fact, it’s precisely why you might want to take note too. Wide-Angle. These are the words that strike horror into the buyer of an M42 K3 (and that’s most of us). The truth is, the later, M42 screw mount (don’t be scared by that, it just means it’s a metric-sized hole of 42mm diameter with a thread cut into into it of 1mm ‘pitch’ between the mountainy looking bits of the screw thread) are ‘oh-so-cool’ cos you get to mainline straight into one of the richest veins of lenses known to mankind, that are still (whisper this) cheap, except, no-one made an M42 wide angle lens…….but wait, it gets worse…..that’s just the shit you need when shooting film indoors….or close to your subject….or faraway from your subject….or as it can sometimes appear, virtually anytime.

This is all made much worse by the fact that when we talk about lens focal lengths, a technical issue raises its head. All the pedants will tell you that a ‘133mm lens is always a 133mm lens, no matter which camera you mount it on’. The word ‘pedant’ actually means ‘I’m always right, and can’t help pointing it out’. Whether you chose to react by calling that person a twat or accept their neural or cultural (often Germanic) difference is entirely a matter for you. But they are right. But that’s not the whole story. Most of us grew up with 35mm slrs and the feeling of what a particular lens length meant at that length. Other formats change that story. The basic effect is that on any camera other than what all the cool kids today call a ‘full-frame’ sensor camera or an actual 35mm camera, where lets say, (and don’t argue with me, pedant) a 40mm lens would have given a natural/human field of view (what your eyes see), the smaller the format you put that lens on (M4/3, 16mm, Super8, 8mm) the same lens, when mounted on that camera, takes on an increasingly telephoto character, and you are going to see less from left to right, and what you see (and record on film) is going to look more ‘zoomed in’. The zoom lens fitted as original equipment takes you down to 17mm (or so, I think), at its widest. But this is nowhere near the 7, 8, 9, or 10mm lenses available for comparable 16mm cameras, that you might need to get a sufficiently wide angle of view inside a car or railway carriage etc. Time to tap in that ‘artistic limitation as strength’ narrative and get over it, or consider buying  bayonet mount AND an M43 body!

The cold hard truth is that a bayonet mount K- is not to be dismissed out of hand.  In addition to the bayonet mount zoom, at the time of writing the Mir 12.5mm bayonet offers an angle of view for the price that nothing for the M42 mount K-3 comes close to.

A related question is the eternal one between so called ‘regular’ and ‘Super’ 16mm. Everyone wants ‘Super’ 16, not least because it is, of course, ‘super”! The super16 invention was clever. All it involved was widening the area of film actually exposed in the camera to generate a wider, and more pleasingly cinematic (when that meant 35mm) image, for projection or whatever. For most 16mm cameras, it’s implementation was never ever anything other than an arse-ache though. It requires film perforated only down one side, and the camera itself needs to be modified. Most 16mm cameras simply can’t have this done to them, or not within the bounds of what today might be regarded as reasonable expense.

Fortunately, with a K-3, at least two of the three camera modifications required for a ‘super16 transformation’ can be achieved by virtually anyone, at very modest cost; the film gate (the shiny bit of metal with a square or rectangle cut in that the film passes over to actually be exposed to light) can quite easily be seen to with a file, to make that orifice larger, with guess, what, a file), and  lens mount cant be recentered with an offset mount by simply undoing a few screws and replacing the whole thing, although care needs to be taken that your lenses maintain their correct location. Adapting the viewfinder to that you actually see what you are recording on film is both possible and advisable on the K3, but rarely done, as for most people, the joy of moving to what is essentially a ‘widescreen’ (ie, super16 format) from a ‘square’ (ie, old school tv, format) is enough to temporarily halt people’s ‘upgrade’ programme in it tracks, and they seem content to get on with guessing what they are actually shooting to the left and right of what is actually in their viewfinder while experiencing all the joy of a widescreen super16 effect. So, before paying a whole lot more for a camera that has been modified in this way, just remember that to achieve this all you have to do is in fact substitute a ‘recentred’ lens mount (themselves available on eBay) and englarge your film gate aperture (by means of a file and lots of sandpaper – beyond the bounds of no man or woman worthy of that appellation).

So, let’s see where we have got to:

We have bought one, possibly two K3 cameras, both standard-16mm versions. There is no need to spend hundreds on a full kit. Bare bodies are fine, although if either one had a good standard Meteor zoom included for ‘giveaway’ money then don’t be shy, but there’s plenty of neat, cheap primes available for us not to worry about that. And bare bodies, even really late, 90s serial-numbered versions, are dirt cheap if that’s all you buy.

One thought on “You’re Twisting My Melon Man!  What K-3 do I Buy: Bayonet, M42, Super16 or Regular 16?

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