Ze Fotosniper.

Is there anything more American then something that is not a gun being made into a gun?! No. No there is not.

Wait… it’s Russian?

So here’s the story… my best friend Sully sent me a text while he was over in Ireland shooting a film. I, being in Los Angeles at the time, was totally asleep. The text, looked like this:sully

And thats why we’re best friends.

So for my birthday, Sully gifted me the illusive Zenit KMZ Fotosniper; the jewel in my growing camera collection. The Fotosniper was made by Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod (KMZ for anyone that has to catch a train). Founded in 1942 at the meaty part of WWII, this secretive government run company worked out of the evacuated optical-mechanical plant No. 69 in a derelict district in Western Moscow (you feeling this yet?) … their sole purpose? To make optical equipment for the Red Army. 

Boom. (Mic drop.)

The Fotosniper was forged into being so that soldiers, who were good a shooting people, but crap photographers, could do spy reconnoissance and gain intel on the enemy. Like this badass:


Or, you could head down to Long Beach and scope some honeys:


Is that a Fotosniper or are you just really happy to see me?

The Fotosniper’s claim to fame comes from our dear pal and cold war enimy no.1 (La Femme) Nikita Krushchev. See, Nikki, as his friends called him, broke his original Fotosniper FS2 (which he loved dearly apparently). So he took it to the secret No. 69 optical-mechanical plant, but the lads there told him they no longer made the fotosniper. Apparently everyone “disappeared” after that, however, a new  government-run company called Zenit started making a new version of the Fotosniper! Yay capitali…, er, communism!

Great story Rob. What the hell is it already?

Glad you asked. This is the box. Soviet Army green (read grey) and solid steel. Weighs a good 30 lbs.

Open her up and you got all sorts of goodies… TO SPY ON!


First, the camera. A Zenith 12s. This dates the kit to the mid 80’s right when Rocky was fighting Ivan Drago. Beautiful. This beast is fitted with a 300mm f3,5 Tair tele lens. The pistol grip and stock then attach to the base of the lens, that has been modified so that you can focus with your stable left hand, while keeping your right hand on the trigger. Focusing consist of turning a fat dial at the front, which immediately makes you feel like Indiana Jones when he’s using a surveyors transit to find The Well of Souls (c’mon film nerds… you know what I’m talking about).

What’s also dope about this little marvel is the trigger system. Basically it has a lever that connects under the lens, and then a cable that runs into the shutter release of the camera. I immediately wondered if you could possibly rig it to work with a modern camera, and the internet immediately told me yes, yes you could:

I mean listen to that bastard… cha cha cha cha cha cha… machine gun that landscape photography you celluloid hunter you! Just imagine how many more trees Ansel Adams could have shot with this bad boy!

Digging deeper in this pristine kit we find two filters: a green one to see horny Russians, and an orange one to see people from New Jersey. There is a nice 50mm F2, not entirely horrible, a very weird lens hood that once on makes your camera look positively uncircumcised, two soviet screwdrivers (no vodka in these types of screwdrivers sadly) and two film canisters… one of which…


Zapruder move over son. 

I can’t wait to develop this roll and see whats on it. KGB spies assassinating key American targets? Ronald Reagan leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel moments before he was shot? A bunch of lumpy Irish women in bathing suits at Derrynane Beach totally out of focus? Could be anything….

Camera’s … I’ve always loved them. Ever since my pop bought me my first, a Canon AE-1, from a little pawn shop I’ve been in awe of them. That was the first… I still have it, still use it… but this… the Fotosniper. This is the stuff that shelves in your living room were made for. Thanks Sully. Thanks for having the same ridiculous excitement for absurd photographic equipment that I have. You are a true friend.

Roberto Serrini AE-1
Roberto Serrini AE-1

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