Kiev Vintage Camera Brand
Kiev Brand Overview
|Founded:||1764 — Kiev, Russian Empire|
|(modern day Ukraine)|
Kiev Brand History
Kiev Arsenal is a Ukrainian company founded in 1764 by the Russian Empire inside a fortress. Commonly referred to as the Arsenal Factory, it’s one of the most storied and famous industrial factories in the former Soviet Union as well as modern day Ukraine. When it comes to photography, Arsenal is perhaps best known for its Kiev line of rangefinder, viewfinder, SLR, and subminiature cameras.
Originally founded as a military maintenance and production facility under the rule of Empress Catherine II, the operation that would eventually become Kiev Arsenal was housed in Pechersk Fortress which was originally built by Peter the Great. The company produced military equipment throughout its history, including artillery, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank guns for the Red Army during World War II. In 1941, the production was relocated to a remote location in the Urals to avoid German bombs. It wasn’t until after the Great War ended that the company returned to Kiev as Завод Арсенал (Zavod Arsenal or “Arsenal Factory” in English) and production of civilian products began.
After the Third Reich’s defeat in World War II, the Allies moved in and began carting off German technology. The Soviets stormed facilities like the Zeiss factory in Dresden, commandeering machinery and schematics alike to send back to the Arsenal Factory in Kiev. After simplifying some of the designs for cheaper production, Arsenal began manufacturing approximations of foreign cameras from companies like Zeiss Ikon (ex: Kiev 4A), Hasselblad (ex: Kiev 88), and Nikon (ex: Kiev 19). That said, Arsenal also designed their very own cameras like the peculiar looking Kiev-10, one of the most innovative cameras to ever be produced in the Soviet Union.
Arsenal is still state-owned and continues producing both military and civilian products. Unfortunately, the original Arsenal Factory closed its doors in 2009 and Arsenal appears to have stopped manufacturing consumer cameras. However, many of the factory’s optical engineers are now working for another Ukrainian company called Arax who are still producing cameras and lenses originally designed by Kiev Arsenal.
Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Kiev cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.
McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), 312-315.
“About us,” ARAX, http://araxfoto.com/about/
“Kiev Arsenal,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiev_Arsenal
“Kiev Fortress,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiev_Fortress