The Kiev B.i.G.
A review written in 1998
by TRA

Use of Kiev 88 accessories

All Kiev 88 accessories designed for use with the viewfinder and the camera back are usable.  Thus, the magnifier hood, and the focusing screen designed for the camera back, can be used as normal.

To see details of the magnifier hood, click here.

To see details of the focussing back, click here.

There are two other superb accessories, one usable unmodified, and the other not.

The Wind Crank

The wind crank supplied and fitted by KievUSA transforms the operation of the camera.  In two days in autumn 1997 they fitted this, and in my experience the service they offer is outstanding.  Instead of grasping the body with the left hand and the knob with the right, and twisting both in opposite directions in order to advance the film, cock the shutter and reset the mirror, I can now leave the camera on its tripod (or cradled in the left hand), and gently wind the crank in about a second.  This speeds up operation astoundingly, and I would recommend unreservedly this modification to any Kiev 88 or Kiev B.i.G. owner.
[C232-52:  The wind crank fitted by KievUSA.]

(Note added in September 2005:  the Kiev 88CM available from Kiev Camera includes as standard a wind crank that is actually better than the one illustrated above  – and it takes Pentacon Six lenses!)

The Side Grip

[C232-54:  The side grip slides onto a base plate that is fixed to the base of the camera.  Standing (on the left) is the plate I received, with the over-large holes.  Fitted to the camera is the replacement that a local engineer made for me.]

The other accessory that I recommend is the large side grip, which also speeds up hand-held operation, and improves modelling when using a flashgun.  Unfortunately, there are two problems with this grip.  Firstly, it has to fit and work.  The one I received didn’t – again down to the apparently non-existent quality control in Kiev.  (Brenner can supply this accessory, but I did not buy it from them.  I shall not name the supplier, to protect the guilty!)

To fit the side grip to the camera, you first have to screw a metal plate to the base of the camera, and then slide the grip onto this plate, and lock it into position.  My grip arrived without the metal plate and two screws!  The supplier immediately mailed the missing components to me, but when I fitted them, the screws went straight through the holes in the base plate, which immediately fell off!  Quite simply, the holes in the plate were larger than the heads of the screws.  Rather than going back to the supplier and trying again, I got a local engineer to machine a new base plate that fitted the screws provided.  I could now add the side grip.


At this point, I discovered that the metal sleeve on the grip inside which the shutter release button is located was loose.  Inspection revealed that the unit had not been manufactured to the necessary tolerances: the thread within the grip into which the metal sleeve should have been screwed was not aligned with the hole in the black plastic grip cover.  Disassembly revealed that the person assembling the unit in the factory had spotted the problem, and tried to solve it by hitting the sleeve with a hammer.  This hadn’t worked, so he/she had passed on the unit as finished anyway!  It proved impossible to align the thread with the hole in the grip, so the sleeve had to be glued in place instead.


[C232-68:  The sleeve in which the shutter release button slides  would not mate with the thread in the handle of the grip.  A job for super-glue.]
With these two problems out of the way, the grip now worked as it was designed to.  Unfortunately, the relocation of the shutter release on the Kiev B.i.G. body means that the grip is incompatible with this camera without some modification.  The next picture shows the modification made by my local engineer.  The wide wing is designed to engage both with the shutter release on the Kiev B.i.G. and with the release on the Kiev 88 or Hasselblad, should I ever wish to use it with either of these cameras.  The hole visible in the “wing” enables a cable release to be used with the grip in place – an improvement on the original Hasselblad and Kiev 88 specification.

[C232-56: The grip with modified prong fitted.  The original one is in front of the grip.]

(Note added in September 2005:  Modified grips are now available that engage with the relocated shutter release button on Kiev 88 cameras modified to take Pentacon Six lenses.  The best source would appear to be Gevorg Vartanyan at Arax Foto in Kiev – another very reliable supplier.  At the time of writing, this grip can be seen here.)

To see a flash grip used with the Pentacon Six, click here.

To see a flash grip used with the Exakta 66, click here.

Was it worth it?

I am now on my fifth Kiev B.i.G., bodies 1-4 having been returned to Brenner under guarantee because of a series of faults – jammed shutter (on two bodies), light leaks (one body and back), faulty mirror mechanism (one body).  The one I now have seems to work faultlessly, but I have not yet built up enough confidence in it to use it on important projects such as weddings, other special occasions or foreign trips.  I take my Pentacon Six and/or Exakta 66 instead!

Brenner’s guarantee is good, and their patience in dealing with the many problems is exemplary.  Unfortunately, not all the manufacturing and quality-control problems have yet been overcome.  You might get a faultless and reliable camera first-time round, and Brenner are still promoting it (now with a mirror lock up), so they have clearly not yet lost faith in it. “If you get a good one, it lasts forever.”  I think I now have a good one.  I hope you get a good one, too.

[C232-66:  Here it is, all assembled, working, and ready to go -- at last!]

Brenner can be contacted at: Brenner Foto Spezialversand, Postfach 1360, 92603 Weiden, Germany.  Telephone: Germany (49) 961 670600.  Fax: Germany (49) 961 6706070.  I have always dealt with them in German, but I do not doubt that they have staff who can speak English.  There is a link to their website on the links page.

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© TRA February 2002, January 2007  Minor formatting improvements: November 2018