Review of Moskva 5 Folding Medium Format Rangefinder
March 20, 2021
I wanted to try medium format (120) photography. I wanted a camera that was both cheap and portable.
The Moskva 5 is exactly that. For a massive 6x9 negative size, this camera is far lighter, much smaller, and waaaay cheaper than anything else in that class. Mine cost less than $100 (including the original box, manual and case, as well as an adapter plate that allows 6x6 format).
The camera was built between 1956 and 1960, as an interative improvement of a pre-war Zeiss Ikonta camera. Everything is manual, with shutter speeds up to 250th of a second and f-stops from 3.5 to f/32. The rangefinder double-image appears when the flip-out front lens is deployed; focusing is done via the knob on the front assembly near the rangefinder lens, or on the front of the lens directly. The lens is the rough equivalent of a 50mm focal length on 35mm film. Film advance is manual, via a winding wheel with film alignment done through red windows on the back.
Oddly, many of the controls feel like they were made for lefthanders. The viewfinder is on the right side (where the shutter normally is), and the shutter button on the left. Film winds right to left with the knob on the left to make right-handed winding difficult. The viewfinder window is on the right, so your nose hits the back of the camera.
Taking a photograph with this camera is an ergonomic mess, and requires changing hands several times to open the front, flip up the rangefinder, set aperture and shutter speed, focus, flip down the rangefinder, recompose, and press the shutter without losing the composition. Usually at least 30 seconds of button pressing foreplay is required before the cover opens, the lens assembly erects, and its ready to shoot. Winding to advance is hard enough to make your fingers bleed after two rolls on a cold day.
Two safety notes emphasized by my seller and most reputable reviewers, worth repeating here:
- Change shutter speeds before cocking the shutter. Remember: Don't change speed once it's cocked and don't cock until you're ready to shoot.
- Focus to infinity before collapsing the front
I like the images I've made with this camera and I generally enjoy a slower process when it comes to taking pictures. But this camera may be a little too much in that direction. It takes so long to get everything adjusted that friends will become agitated and then desert you. I always have trouble reading the numbers in the red windows and often have blanks from where I couldn't remember if I had advanced or not (fortunately, double exposure is prevented, as long as you don't partially wind). With only 8 shots per roll of 120, that gets expensive. The flip-up rangefinder lens looks cool, but it blocks the viewfinder, requiring you to flip it down to really compose, which tends to mess up focus at short distances. I constantly feel (and probably look) like I'm going to drop it.
To shoot in 6x6 mode, insert the adapter plate, change the viewfinder selector on the dial above the viewfinder, and finally move the lever on the back plate to adjust which window is active for seeing the numbers on the back of the film to advance it.
My copy came with the original box and manual.
The worthy photos from my first few rolls are posted here.