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Rare Soviet Spy Lens to be Auctioned

Simon Skinner - 3 months ago

Ever fancied getting your hands on a huge Soviet Spy lens? Well, you could be in luck as one has just surfaced for sale and could be yours for as little as £8,500.

The online auction site, Catawiki, has listed a Zhemchug 4 lens, which was launched into space as a part of the Yantar 2K, the first-generation high-resolution film-return variant of the Yantar reconnaissance satellite series, which were used from the mid-1970s until the latter years of the Cold War.

Soviet Spy Lens for sale
The lens weighs 158kg without its carry case.[Picture courtesy of Catawiki].

With an estimated focal length of between 3000 – 4000 mm, the listed Zemchug-4 lens comes complete with its original storage case and measures 4.5 ft in length and about 1.5 ft in width. It also weighs a whopping 158kg. It consists of various parts; the front section has a 40 cm diameter and the last has a 23 cm diameter. It contains three collimator modules and the middle has a diaphragm that can be adjusted with the use of the red rotary knob.

One thing’s for sure, you’ll need a heavy-duty vehicle to get it around if you plan to shoot with it anytime soon, and how you manage to fix the lens to your camera will certainly cause a challenge, too!

Soviet Spy lens up for auction
[Picture courtesy of Catawiki].

It’s said that the Yantar-2K satellites regularly orbited the Earth for 30 days in a low-Earth orbit, capturing high-resolution shots on film, which were released back to the Earth in film return capsules. Catawiki has stated that this particular lens was on a satellite that failed to launch, with the lens being used just a few times before being stored away and largely forgotten about.

The auction site states that: “Thirty Yantar-2K satellites have been launched, historically, with each having a flying time of thirty days. Two launches failed, amongst others, the ‘Fenix no. 1’. The lens consisted of three parts, of which one, the ‘landing and camera system module OSA’ was recuperated and could be recycled three times. The camera system that was in the OSA was titled ‘Zhemchug-4’ and this is what this lens was used in. This lens was used three times and was sent for storage afterwards.

The lens is being offered by a Belgian seller and is expected to sell for between £8,541 and £12,8120, according to an expert opinion.

For further info, head to the Catawiki website.

About the author

Read Rare Soviet Spy Lens to be Auctioned

Simon Skinner

Co-founder // Editor

Having spent many years working in various pockets of the music industry, and always with a camera in hand, Simon has worked with organisations such as Warner/Chappell, Food Records and ultimately, co-founding the innovative independent record label, Izumi Records before moving fully into the world of publishing in 2007. Amongst numerous other projects in the last decade, he has been responsible for a number of specialist photo trade magazines and journals for the filmmaking and photography communities, along with a coffee table book entitled, "Great Britons of Photography' which he produced with Peter Dench and Leica. Now heading up PhotoBite, Simon and the team have set themselves a task of delivering informative and inspirational content for photographers of all levels, from the beginner, shooting with smartphones, to the seasoned photographer and filmmaker.