When I began investigating lenses for the Panasonic Lumix GH4 that had yet to arrive in the camera local stores, one store owner respected for deep, hands-on knowledge and good judgement told me many photographers and moviemakers of his acquaintance were buying up old Russian lenses with a vengeance.
It was their optical quirkiness and all-mechanical construction image-makers found fascinating, he told me. Better get in quick, before they all vanish from eBay, he added.
I checked what was available on eBay using “russian lens” as the search term and came across several names – Jupiter, Helios, Industar – and a large selection of them at low prices.
I recalled Danish moviemaker Michael Medgyesi of Supertone mentioning a particular fondness for vintage Russian lenses. He lists a Helios-44-2 58mm f/2.0 and a Jupiter-8 50mm f/2.0 on his GH4 Optimal Film Setting page.
The unnamed author of the SLR Lens Review website published A Guide to Russian LTM Lenses and shed some light on the mysteries of Soviet-era lenses, sharing that “the biggest challenge I've discovered with anything manufactured in the Soviet era, was the variance in quality control.”
Prices of the lenses coming from Ukraine and Russian Federation sellers may be low but the optical and mechanical quality may be correspondingly low. If characterful but production-quality lenses up to the rigors of moviemaking are what you need then best to consider buying new, not used. Revamps, not reconditioned.
And from what I have seen of the photographs made with the most recent Russian-made lenses issued by the Lomo folks on their Lomography Art Lens page, the Jupiter 3+ 50mm f/1.5 and the Russar+ 20mm f/5.6, both lenses may be very handy to have in your moviemaking toolbox.
Neither lens is cheap at US$649.00 each, and don’t forget you will also need adapters to convert these two L39 mount lenses to whatever lens mount is native for your camera, but the payoff looks to be character by the bucketload. [bctt tweet=”Will these quirky Soviet-era Lomography lenses improve your photography?”]
Introducing The Lomography New Russar+ Lens
An Ongoing Legacy
Just like its predecessor, the 1958 Russar, the New Russar+ is a 20mm wide-angle lens with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. This exciting reinvention showcases a host of new features for modern day shooting. The New Russar+ is now multi-coated to reduce flare and surface reflection and has a modified lens tube construction that is compatible with L39 and M mount cameras, and lots more using adapter mounts.
High Quality Manufacturing
The New Russar+ is handmade and features a beautifully complex symmetrical internal construction. Although very compact, it contains 6 lens elements in 4 groups. Thanks to their years of technical expertise in developing premium, high-quality optics, the team at Zenit was able to produce this technically advanced lens! The New Russar+ design utilizes the benefits from its new-moon shaped front and rear elements to achieve almost distortion-free photos and excellent vignetting control. In addition, the lens has fantastic distortion control at less than 0.1%. This means that the photos it produces are a near perfect representation of reality with a great evenness of illumination and resolution.
Ready for any kind of adventures, this special wide-angle lens will inspire you to get creative as soon as you attach it to your camera. The Russian glass used in the New Russar+ produces super-sharp images filled with vibrant colors, vignettes and contrasts, bursting with the unique character and quality that only a lens manufactured using the finest Russian glass can bring. The New Russar+ has an excellent distortion control to avoid barrel and pincushion distortions, making your shots an impressive mirror of reality.
With a wider view, the New Russar+ is great for shooting outdoor landscapes. The lens effortlessly soaks up the whole scene using its 20mm angle of view, producing sweeping, majestic photos filled with a truly authentic and unique personality. This prime lens is great for those up-close-and-personal portraits in corners, cars and cockpits. With creativity and the New Russar+ by your side, who knows what kind of fantastic shots you will achieve?
- Focal length: 20mm
- Aperture: f/5.6 – f/22
- Minimum image circle: 44mm
- Field of view: 94 degree
- Flange distance: 27.8mm (M mount)
- M mount frame line triggering: 28mm
- Closest focusing distance: 0.5m
- Filter thread requirement: 49mm
- Distortion: ~ 0.09 percent
Learn more about the new Russar+
Jupiter 3+ Art Lens
A combined effort by our experienced team and manufactured at the exact same Zenit factory in Russia as the original, the New Jupiter 3+ Art Lens retains the strong character and Soviet spirit of the original lens — crisp sharpness, smooth, natural colors and lush, dreamy bokeh — while transcending its forbearer in many ways.
In the same excellently compact design and classic demeanor, we recalculated the technical specifications of the original Jupiter 3 to make this extremely special lens far more accessible for today’s photographers. It’s compatible with L39 and M mount cameras, as well as a large range of other cameras using adapter mounts.
The New Jupiter 3+ Art Lens is being produced in small batches and thus will be available on a very limited first-come, first-served basis. Head to the Lomography Online Shop to secure your very own!
- Focal Length: 50mm
- Aperture: f/1.5 – f/22
- Lens Mount: L39, includes Leica M-mount adapter
- M-mount Adapter Frame Line Triggering: 50mm frame line
- Rangefinder Coupling: Yes
- Minimum image circle: 44mm
- Field of view: 46 degrees
- Flange distance: 28.8mm (L39 mount) 27.8mm (M mount)
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.7m
- Filter Thread Requirement: 40.5mm
- Lens Construction: 7 elements in 3 groups
Learn more about the Jupiter 3+ Art Lens.
(cover photo credit: snap from Lomography)