“And let me take you as a keep­sake from a pho­to­gun … I’ll click!” — the dog Sharik sug­gest­ed to the post­man Pechkin in the leg­endary Sovi­et car­toon “Vaca­tion in Pros­tok­vashino”. Few peo­ple know that such a pho­to gun real­ly exist­ed, more­over, a work­ing mod­el can still be found on the Inter­net or even at a flea mar­ket in France! Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Math­ieu Stern had prob­a­bly nev­er watched a Sovi­et car­toon before, so this dis­cov­ery dou­bly excit­ed his imag­i­na­tion. We have trans­lat­ed for you an arti­cle from petapixel.com with a brief overview of this unique pho­to set.

Video by Math­ieu Stern, in which he not only takes pho­tos with the Zenith Pho­to Sniper, but also tries to shoot video with the kit lens. Source: Youtube chan­nel Math­ieu Stern

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Math­ieu Stern was wan­der­ing around a flea mar­ket when he unex­pect­ed­ly stum­bled upon the Zen­it Foto­snaiper (the export ver­sion was called the Zen­it Foto­snaiper), a Sovi­et-era pho­to kit that looks more like a rifle. Stern took advan­tage of a gift of fate and imme­di­ate­ly decid­ed to try out the cam­era.

The Zenith Pho­to Sniper first appeared in the 1940s: a device designed for mil­i­tary pur­pos­es and used as a sur­veil­lance and sur­veil­lance cam­era. A gun-like stock secure­ly sta­bi­lizes the cam­era while help­ing the pho­tog­ra­ph­er stay mobile.

Source: Youtube chan­nel Math­ieu Stern

The mod­el has been improved over the years and was even­tu­al­ly redesigned for civil­ian use.

When Stern asked the sell­er at the flea mar­ket how much he want­ed for this beau­ti­ful­ly pre­served piece, he was amazed: the sell­er only asked for 15 euros. (approx­i­mate­ly 1350 rubles — trans­la­tor’s note) for the set, case and acces­sories. It turns out that the own­er him­self was too afraid to use a pho­to gun and sim­ply decid­ed to get rid of it. Need­less to say, Stern made the pur­chase with­out hes­i­ta­tion.

Inside the met­al case was a Zen­it ES SLR cam­era, a Helios 44M‑4 58mm f/2 lens, a TAIR-3S (TAIR-3S) 300mm f/4.5 lens, stock, trig­ger, lens hood, caps, 6 fil­ters, 2 screw­drivers and film cas­sette.

Stern bought a set of “Pho­to­sniper” at a flea mar­ket for 15 euros (1350 rubles). Pho­to: Math­ieu Stern / petapixel.com
Zenith Pho­to­sniper in full assem­bly. Pho­to: Math­ieu Stern / petapixel.com

“What is the main prob­lem of the Pho­to Sniper? You are unlike­ly to go unno­ticed by oth­ers. At best, you will be asked what you are doing. In the worst case, some­one will freak out and call the police, because there is a ter­ror­ist with a grenade launch­er walk­ing around here, ”Stern says in his 7‑minute video review (see above).

If you use such a cam­era these days, you can eas­i­ly become the sub­ject of a viral video.

Pho­to: Math­ieu Stern / petapixel.com
Pho­to: Math­ieu Stern / petapixel.com

After walk­ing with the Pho­to Sniper on full alert for some time, Stern decid­ed to sep­a­rate­ly test the optics of the TAIR-3S 300mm f/4.5 lens by attach­ing it to his Sony a7 III mir­ror­less cam­era using an M42 to Sony FE adapter.

Here are some of the pic­tures he took:

Pho­to: Math­ieu Stern / petapixel.com
Pho­to: Math­ieu Stern / petapixel.com

“16 aper­ture blades cre­ate beau­ti­ful bokeh. To be hon­est, I’m amazed at the qual­i­ty of this lens. It’s just incred­i­bly sharp,” says Stern.

You can see exam­ples of video shot with this lens in the video above. You can find even more reviews of strange and vin­tage lens­es on the pho­tog­ra­pher’s Youtube chan­nel.