Introduction

As the description of this review suggests, the Sputnik is a no-holds-barred, meat and two veg, gloss white skirting boards, cuckold enforcing, brick of a camera. It is essentially a bakelite brick with a central divider. The two separate chambers within said brick have a 75mm lens at one end, and a 6x6 gate at the other. Capturing 12 images as six stereoscopic pairs, the Sputnik uses the sequential method of image capture. You must wind on two frames at a time viewing the frame number via the small red window on the rear of the camera. Enough about the camera. It is in summary two Lubitel-166 stuck together with crude metal arms that sort of link it all together. 
Despite my best attempts to suggest that the camera is but a simple, ugly, and brutalist tool, the truth my friends, is far from it. Read on and discover the bittersweet charm of the Sputnik, and why it, like many Soviet cameras, it is a fuzzy little bitch, albeit a loveable one. 
Reasons why the Sputnik is a B**ch
hate to write this part, but every Sputnik I have handled seems to suffer from the same problem, if you seem to apply a sensible yet firm amount of pressure to the focusing system, the gears will, at some point, inevitably slip. The lenses lose sync, and the three-dimensional effect begins to fall apart. Assumedly you are supposed to mount the camera to a tripod and turn both the camera lenses simultaneously with each hand to achieve focus through the matte centre of TLR style viewfinder. In reality, the charming little guy loses lens sync in an abundantly high number of situations. If you are shooting stopped down a considerable amount of the time and are using hyperfocal distance scales, this is not going to be the biggest problem for you. Especially if the gears only skip a few teeth. That's if you're lucky and realise. If you're shooting anything closer than ten feet, you're straight up fucked. 
Reliability as a trait has risen further and further up my list of requirements in a camera. This time the Sputnik didn't cut the mustard. If you can live with having to re-calibrate the camera crudely in the field then go nuts. It is possible that not every unit has this issue, but the several I have handled have. If repeatable focus accuracy for large scale projection is required then this may not be the right camera for you. Even more so if you face once in a lifetime moments on a regular basis. It is completely possible to achieve outstanding results if you have a particularly well-made copy or use it slowly and meticulously. I know that there are not a lot of options when it comes down to stereo medium format. With that in mind, this camera has a great number of great qualities too, that for the most part are enough to get over the oft crippling shortcomings.
Image Quality
What would a camera review be without a completely scientific lens and image quality segment? Straight out of the gate it was clear to me that the Sputnik is capable of outputting impressive images. The fact that it can achieve this and be so basic in design is rather extraordinary. Upon having tested the odd Lubitel here and there, to which this camera is closely related, I have come to expect a poor to average quality of image. The Sputnik does, despite the aesthetic similarities, appear to be cut from an entirely different cloth. The images are sharp, surprisingly free from any offensive distortion, and render a pleasing image in both two and three-dimensional viewing. 

One thing to observe in many of the example images provided in the context of this review is that one image is often brighter than the other in each stereo pair. I scanned the negatives in image pairs to ensure that they were each given the same exposure and setting applied to each side of the stereo-pair. This issue can often occur in poorly serviced stereo cameras. Either, the aperture irises fall out of synchronisation causing each lens to transmit a noticeably different amount of light to the other. Alternatively, the individual shutters that serve each lens can open for a different amount of time, rather than both opening for the same amount of time as intended.
Other Reasons why the Sputnik is Good
It has PC sync flash connectivity. Maybe not a big deal to some. I have found that shooting stereoscopic images with studio flash can be incredibly effective. Especially for portraiture. PC sync is common in a vast quantity of lighting tools so you can use the Sputnik with a truly elaborate lighting system. Having a leaf shutter in either lens means that all of the shutter speeds should sync up perfectly to electronic flash, which is also brilliant.
It is really quite functional when in use. It doesn't have any frills or bells, but it doesn't need them. Just a few levers and switches to make up the exposure and focus controls and you're good to go. It takes 120 film that is still incredibly easy to find and will be for a long time. The red window is pretty clear and makes it easy to read the frame numbers through in all but the most challenging of lighting situations. All things considered, it is not at all heavy for what could be considered two medium format cameras stuck together. In other words, it just goes, and goes, and is a real joy to shoot with. The controls are small but effective and once a process has been established, it's very quick and easy to operate efficiently and accurately when it is behaving itself.

You'd be fucked in a pinch if you dropped it though. 

Lastly, two final points in favour of the Sputnik. When compared to almost any other medium format option, it costs about 10 per cent as much to acquire as the next best option. Secondly, the camera's design and styling are genuinely, unapologetically Soviet, Brutalist, and in my opinion, make an extremely attractive camera.
Conclusion
The Sputnik was one of the first Stereoscopic cameras I had used with any real intention of viewing the images captured under scrutiny. It stood up to the task. I am more than happy with the image quality especially given the price and current availability of the unit. That and despite the apparent drawbacks of the system, it is a wonderfully capable camera and a serious stereo image-making tool that should not be overlooked. If you can find one at a reasonable price, that isn't in one way or another a bastard, and have the spare cash then go for it, you won't be disappointed. 
That being said, the lenses can become de-synchronised in so many different kinds of fuck-about that I will not list here. Just know that if this has happened to you then you are not alone. For me, that is ultimately too disruptive to my style of shooting and is unforgivable. Many of the shots were not exposed evenly or the lens gears skipped a few teeth when re-focussing. This was causing the subject of the images to be uneven in their relationship to the planes of focus from one side to the next that greatly detracted from the 3D effect. If I saw one at a reasonable price I would snap one up again, but for now, I need to relax and use a few cameras that work every time and keep my blood pressure low. 
Although medium format stereo images are one of the best methods of capture, the David White Co. Stereo Realist is also an incredibly capable camera and can deliver premium image quality for around the same price. The size of image capture may be slightly smaller than 35mm, but has demonstrated the undeniable reliability and great quality lenses the camera has become known for. I stress that it will not eliminate the need for medium format stereo-photography, but on a smaller silver screen, the difference in quality is almost negligible. 
NOTE: Please be aware that I am a huge advocate and fan of Soviet made cameras. The Sputnik is a good camera, and does exactly what it is supposed to. To buy one, or any other camera, or fuck it, any other photographic need, check out the guys at the bottom of the page. They're all lovely people and are good at what they do. ​​​​​​​
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