my newest addition

…to my growing collection of film cameras!

I picked up this Smena-35 (Смена-35) at Orto-Sai Bazaar for 300 som (about $8). I was drawn partially to the packaging (it was one of the only cameras this vendor had that came with its original box and instruction manual) and partially to my recent desire to pick up a shitty, plastic 80s-era camera. This one does not disappoint! I could crush this thing with my hands, it’s so flimsy. That’s not to say I don’t love the more classically retro cameras, but I wanted to expand to something a bit more kitschy.

The vendor assured me that it worked, which is, of course, meaningless until I test a roll for myself. My other Soviet camera, a Lubitel 166-B, has some sort of malfunction with its film-advance mechanism, even though the woman I bought that one from (for $40! ужас!) assured me it worked. Although, this vendor did tell me that the first camera I was looking to buy (I just liked it for the name – чайка/seagull) didn’t work, so maybe he’s more honest.

If you’re looking to purchase a Soviet-era camera while you’re in Bishkek, I highly recommend visiting Orto-Sai Bazaar on Sunday mornings, which is when there’s a weekly flea market to the northwest side of the actual bazaar, next to Cosmopark. There is usually at least one guy with an extensive camera collection for sale, which is your best bet for finding an affordable camera; the guys who have only one or two cameras for sale amongst their wares usually seem to ask $100+ in my experience (even if they are in decent shape, I don’t want to spend that much). The real camera guys tend to set up near the playgrounds, off the main sidewalk.

That probably sounds incredibly vague, but I swear, if you happen to make it there in person, you’ll understand what I mean.

My other piece of advice: don’t buy your camera at Tsum (there are some for sale on the souvenir floor) unless you’re prepared to spend a lot of money. If you’re willing to spend up to $150, do some research first and make sure you know the worth of the camera you want to purchase.

That being said, when I was in Tsum the other day, I noticed my next coveted Soviet camera purchase, locked in a glass case of a kiosk that was already closed for the day. Sputnik, I will have you some day!

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