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Rubin   РУБИН
Rollover reproduction camera

RUBIN (Russian: РУБИН) 1 was a so-called rollover – or brushcopying camera, developed around 1970 as a civil variant of the secret ZALOM and FT-67 cameras, that were used by intelligence services like the KGB and MVD. It was intended for (covertly) copying photographs, documents, fingerprints, stamps and other flat objects, at airports and border crossings, but was ultimately a commercial failure, due to its rather heavy weight and its extremely high price tag of $27,000 [3].

Nevertheless RUBIN is a good camera system that fixes many of the problems and flaws that plagued the earlier ZALOM, in particular its problems with film loading and film transport.

RUBIN uses 16mm non-perforated film, of which 5 metres can be loaded into the supplied film cartridge. A pre-loaded cartridge is installed in the camera within seconds, and allows up to 175 A4 pages to be scanned with a single charge, assuming that the text on the A4 page (297 x 210 mm) is not wider than 200 mm. Drawings and photos were often scanned in 2 or 3 passes.
  
Rubin roll-over camera

The camera is normally powered by five internal C-size 1.2V NiCd batteries, but also has a socket for connection of an external power supply unit (PSU). It was supplied in a leather zipper bag and came with an instruction booklet [A] and an inspection report (passport). Although the camera was a further development of secret KGB cameras like ZALOM, it was not very successful, as it was rather heavy and expensive. Nevertheless it was in production from 1970 to at least 1987.

Based on the manufacturing codes on various components inside the device featured here, our RUBIN camera was produced as late at 1987. It is likely that by that time it had received a mid-life upgrade, as the internal electronic circuit is different from the 1983-one in the manual [A].

  1. RUBIN is Russian for Ruby.

Rubin in storage wallet, with manual Storage wallet Rubin roll-over camera Rubin rollover camera - front 039 - Rubin rollover camera - front 039 - Rubin rollover camera - rear 039 - Rubin rollover camera - rear Rear view
Rubin rollover camera (upside down) Rubber rollers Power connector (5-pin 180 degree DIN) Two rubber rollers Lock Film cartridge Rubin manual Manual - detail
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Rubin in storage wallet, with manual
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Storage wallet
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Rubin roll-over camera
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Rubin rollover camera - front
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039 - Rubin rollover camera - front
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039 - Rubin rollover camera - rear
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039 - Rubin rollover camera - rear
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Rear view
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Rubin rollover camera (upside down)
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Rubber rollers
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Power connector (5-pin 180 degree DIN)
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Two rubber rollers
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Lock
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Film cartridge
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Rubin manual
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Manual - detail

Features
The diagrams below give an overview of the features on the body of the RUBIN camera. The device has a wide gap at the bottom, behind which an optical system with mirrors and lenses is located. In parallel with the gap, are two rubber rollers that must be moved over the document.

RUBIN camera seen from the front top

When starting, the camera has to be placed over the document, with the gap at the edge of the paper, about one centimeter from the start of the text. As soon as the device is moved in the direction of the white arrow, the electronic circuit is activated and the internal lights come on. This is indicated by a red LED at the top. The camera should be moved at a constant speed of approx. 9 cm/s to obtain the best result. A proper speed should be indicated by the green LED.

RUBIN camera seen from the bottom rear

Once the pass over the document is completed, the camera can be lifted from the page, and the camera will be turned off automatically. The device can be powered by five internal 1.2V NiCd batteries, or by an external 6V DC source, typically from the (optional) power supply unit (PSU).

Film cartridge
The camera can hold up to 5 metres of non-perforated 16 mm film, that should be installed in the film cassette – or cartridge – shown in the image on the right. A simple film cutter was supplied, to allow regular 35 mm perforated film to be adapted for use with the RUBIN camera.

An arrow indicator at the top of the cartridge, shows the amount of unexposed film that is left on the supply reel (in metres). The cartridge can be opened, by pushing the aluminium button towards the rear. Each camera was supplied with four film cartridges that should be pre-loaded.
  
Film cartridge

If an A4-size page can be scanned in a single pass (i.e. if the text or image is not wider than 200 mm), each cartridge with five metres of film should be sufficient for scanning 175 pages. With three additional pre-loaded cartridge is his pocket, a spy could copy as much as 700 pages!

Close-up of the camera system Film cartridge removed from the camera Film cartridge Opening the film cartridge (click) Film cartridge - interior Inside the film cartridge Inside the film cartridge Film cartridge - bottom view
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Close-up of the camera system
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Film cartridge removed from the camera
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Film cartridge
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Opening the film cartridge (click)
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Film cartridge - interior
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Inside the film cartridge
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Inside the film cartridge
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Film cartridge - bottom view

Front side of the camera, with the hinged lid open

Interior
RUBIN is build on a strong die-cast aluminium chassis that is accessible from two sides. One side – on which the name RUBIN (РУБИН) is printed – can be accessed by the user, in particular for swapping the film cartridge, for cleaning the Industar lens and for installing the five batteries.

This side can be accessed by rotating the knob on the hinged lid (close to the bottom side of the camera) from the white dot to the red dot ( ), after which the lid can be opened as shown.

At the left is the battery compartment which accepts five C-size NiCd cells of 1.2V each. At the top right is the film cartridge, that must be installed in such a way, that the film is guided over the rubber roller at the bottom right. For this, the guide mechanism – to the right of the rubber roller – must be disengaged temporarily. After installing the film, it must be re-engaged.
  
Inside the camera

At the bottom left is the serial number (N80023) which is engraved in the body of the camera. To its right is the painted number '82' which probably refers to the year of manufacturing. 1 This is corroborated by the manual, which was printed in 1983 [A]. At the bottom centre is part of the optical system, with the Industar f/2.8 lens facing right, where the film is guided past the roller.

The other side of the camera (the rear) is more difficult to access. First, the outer cover must be taken off by removing two recessed screws at the top, and two larger bolts inside the front compartment. This gives access to the primary light path and the first (wide) surface mirror.

Next, the inner cover should be taken away by removing three small screws at the bottom and two inside the rear compartment. The secondary light path is now exposed as well. This situation is shown in the image on the right, with the first mirror visible at the far side, near the top edge.
  
Interior - rear side - seen from the bottom

The light from the (smaller) second mirror, is projected via a (sloped) third mirror onto the lens optics located at the other side (front) of the device. At the bottom of the camera (here shown at the front) is an axle with two rubber rollers and a friction switch. The friction switch enables the internal lighting as soon as the rollers are set in motion, whilst the rubber rollers themselves are resonsible for the film transport. At the end of a scan, the friction switch is disengaged and the lights are turned off. A sensing switch in the film path causes an alarm when the film has run out.

  1. From manufacturing codes on the electronic components, we know that the device featured here, was made as late as 1987. It is quite possible though that the mechanical parts (in particular the chassis and the lens optics) were manufactured in bulk in 1982.

Camera open Inside the camera Interior (top view) Film cartridge Close-up of the camera system Camera system with film cartridge removed Lens and film transport mechanism Another view of the lens and the film transport mechanism
Rear side with cover removed Interior - rear side - seen from the bottom Interior - rear side - seen from the bottom First mirror Interior - rear side - seen from the top Second and third mirror Second mirror, third mirror and Industar lens optics Friction switch (power)
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Camera open
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Inside the camera
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Interior (top view)
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Film cartridge
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Close-up of the camera system
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Camera system with film cartridge removed
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Lens and film transport mechanism
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Another view of the lens and the film transport mechanism
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Rear side with cover removed
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Interior - rear side - seen from the bottom
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Interior - rear side - seen from the bottom
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First mirror
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Interior - rear side - seen from the top
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Second and third mirror
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Second mirror, third mirror and Industar lens optics
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Friction switch (power)

Rear side of the camera showing the light path and optics



Connections
External power supply
The 5-pin 180° socket at one side of the camera, can be used for connection of an external power supply unit (PSU). The socket has a built-in switch that can disconnect the internal batteries, which can be useful if non-chargeable ones are used.

  1. 0V
  2. not connected
  3. (+) 6V
  4. not connected
  5. not connected
Other rollover cameras
  • Alycha I
    1955
  • Alycha II
    1957
  • Nippel
    1958
  • Zalom
    1958
  • Nichrom 63
    1963
    Renamed Alycha II
  • Granitnik
    1965
  • Zadatock
    1975
    Improved version of Granitnik
  • FT-67
    1967
  • FT-68 Type 1
    ?
  • FT-68 Type 2
    ?
Checklist
  • 1 x Reproduction device (Rubin camera)
  • 2 x Illuminator
  • 4 x Film cassette
  • 1 x Power supply unit
  • 1 x Film cutter
  • 1 x Storage case (wallet)
  • 1 x Spare parts (4 x lamp, 2 x fuse)
  • 1 x Instruction booklet
  • 1 x Passport
Missing items
The following items are currently missing from our RUBIN camera:

  • Additional film cartridge (3 x)
  • External power supply unit
  • Film cutter (16 mm)
  • Spare parts (4 x lamp, 2 x fuse)
  • Passport
Specifications
  • Distance
    Fixed, contact type
  • Lens
    Industar with fixed aperture
  • Aperture
    f/2.8
  • Focal length
    19 mm
  • Film length
    5 metres max.
  • Film width
    16 mm (unperforated)
  • Frame width
    15.3 mm
  • Field width
    200 mm
  • Magnification
    1:13
  • Scanning speed
    90 mm/s
  • Pages
    52 or 175 A4-size pages (297 x 210 mm)
  • Light source
    4 x lamp OP3-0.25 (CU3.371.896 TU)
  • Batteries
    5 x A343
  • Dimensions
    204 x 162 x 51 mm
  • Weight
    1.7 kg
Documentation
  1. Reproduction device RUBIN
    Technical Description and Operating Instructions (Russian).
    0390.00.00.000 TO. 6 February 1983.
References
  1. KGB Spy Museum, Rubin camera
    Lithuania, November 2017.

  2. USSR Photo, Rubin camera
    Retrieved November 2017.

  3. H. Keith Melton et al., The secret history of KGB Spy Cameras
    ISBN 879-0-7643-5616-2. 2018. pp. 45—57.
Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Wednesday 22 November 2017. Last changed: Monday, 07 January 2019 - 17:49 CET.
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