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Why are the vintage Soviet/Russian lenses so popular?
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:26 pm    Post subject: Why are the vintage Soviet/Russian lenses so popular? Reply with quote

I just don't understand. Truly. Question

I understand that they are normally inexpensive, and good alternatives to some
which can sell for more money, but I honestly don't understand why they are
so very favored.

There are many others available, at similar or even lower cost,
which have been praised and tested by many. Results have shown that many
less-expensive and lesser-known makers' products are at least as good
if not better to far better in overall output.

So, what's the big deal?
Is it no more than the novelty of using a Soviet-era lens,
or is it that these lenses carry a 'magical' quality of image recording that I have missed?

I'm serious about this; I really just don't understand it.


PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Because they are really copies of the German Zeiss lenses but cheaper


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

D1N0 wrote:
Because they are really copies of the German Zeiss lenses but cheaper

Are they?

I haven't yet seen any compelling comparisons or reasons to believe the Zeiss lenses
are such superior performers to others, but I'll be the first to admit that I do not
shoot to film, which may be a huge difference in my own perception.

All in all, I still don't understand the huge attraction to the Soviet/Russian vintage lenses.


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:38 am    Post subject: Re: Why are the vintage Soviet/Russian lenses so popular? Reply with quote

SkedAddled wrote:
. . .
So, what's the big deal?
Is it no more than the novelty of using a Soviet-era lens,
or is it that these lenses carry a 'magical' quality of image recording that I have missed?
. . .


For me, it boils down to one word - and you've already used it:

Novelty.

I enjoy the sometimes wild, wide open rendering of my Helios 44-2 and 40-2.


Last edited by 55 on Sat Jul 14, 2018 6:29 pm; edited 1 time in total


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some are attracted by looking at images online. You can probably find comparisons with say Japanese and German lenses including Zeiss here at mflenses.com

Some are attracted by trying one. Have you ever used one? A Jupiter 11 or Helios 44-2 maybe.

Try it you'll like it?


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They are on many cases, Zeiss designs, and are 1/10 the cost of the Zeiss, in general they have great IQ and vibrant colors, other brands that are as cheap usually have worse IQ.


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 2:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They are cheap, usually good, and always "old school" meaning metal and glass.
Most are either uncoated or single coated and render in quite lovely ways.
There is also a kickback against plastic and computer designed lenses of the modern era.
They also look really funky
Tom


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oldhand wrote:
They are cheap, usually good, and always "old school" meaning metal and glass.
Most are either uncoated or single coated and render in quite lovely ways.
There is also a kickback against plastic and computer designed lenses of the modern era.
They also look really funky
Tom


Like 1 Like 1 Like 1 You nailed it Tom!!


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They are cheap. Control quality is bad. But they are fun and have definitely different look compared to classic brands such as Nikkors, Minolta, Olympus OM... I'm not found of soviet lenses because some of them have really (too) distinct look, but well used, they can give great results.


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can only answer the question for myself.

The references to being cheap are not necessarily correct for all commie-lenses. E.g. a good Jupiter 3 1.5/50 is in the 100-200 euro range; for much less, other fast fifties can be purchased. The same goes for many other lenses, think Orion-15, Jupiter-12, etc. Of course, some are cheap (Helios, Jupiter 8,...) but so are most Canon/Nikon/Minolta/.... lenses. As for quality: some are good, some less so, but other brands also have their failures.

For me, the attraction is more historic/cultural. As a kid, I grew up with the Iron Curtain still in place, and I had a curiosity about anything related to the countries on the other side. So close yet so far away. How would those people live?

In the past 15 years or so, I have traveled extensively in former Warsaw-pact countries.

Getting hold of stuff they have produced and used gives some small window into the past.

Added bonus is that most of the lenses look really nice when mounted, and many have an output that matches my personal preferences. Tuzki with lens


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Uh, that's a flame war invitation, right?
I'll bite, because I went from indifference to appreciation.


There was a time, when I thought getting Canon FDn 50/1.4 would be the end of my Helios 44M-6 58/2.
I was under impression the former will simply crush the latter.

Didn't went like that at all.

In the real world shooting they trade blows as equals.
Putting things in perspective, it took me some lenses to accept Helios as a very well balanced general-purpose 50.
It just balanced differently than a western glass.

In the midst of USSR ruins folks at Valday made their last stand against the flood of western second-hand lenses.
They've put improved coatings on everything that looked like glass and black finish on everything that looked like metal.
And that shows: 44M-6 has the best overall flare resistance among all of my manual lenses. Let that sink in.

I often shoot people with Helios, because they love the swirl.
You may not, but they do.


In the end, I feel no need to bring up the cost argument. Valday 44M-6 has no trouble defending itself without it.
I would also have no problem in preferring Helios as a single general-purpose on me, if I know I'm going to shoot lots of portraits.

P.S. You may say I'm biased, since I'm from exUSSR, and that would be true. I was biased against it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/curry-hexagon/sets/72157690439128060


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, "socialist lenses" from USSR/GDR are very common and thus cheap in the eastern parts of Europe...

Jupiter 8 ~ 10 EUR
Jupiter 37 ~ 30 EUR
CZJ Pancolar 50/1.8 ~ 60 EUR

Besides of that, some of them objectively great. Eg. Jupiter 37 is a clone of praised CZJ Sonnar but with multi-bladed aperture. The Zentar-M line is comparable to Japanese production.


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For me it's simply a case of already having the lenses and not being able to justify the expense of replacing them with some unrepairable modern plastic autofocus assembly that'll only marginally outperform them, if at all!

The wide apertures and "characteristic" rendering can make the results stand out Smile


PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2018 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
All in all, I still don't understand the huge attraction to the Soviet/Russian vintage lenses.


There is plenty of cheap glass that will take decent images (especially at popular focal lenghts like 50 and 135mm), but the design of those lenses is much more modern than the pre-war zeiss designs. What are lenses you like that are cheap and widely available? Maybe we can explain how they compare to the heliosses, Jupiters, Tairs, Industars, etc...


PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:11 am    Post subject: Re: Why are the vintage Soviet/Russian lenses so popular? Reply with quote

55 wrote:


For me, it boils down to one word - and you've already used it:

Novelty.
That's about all I've seen from them, but...

Oldhand wrote:
They are cheap, usually good, and always "old school" meaning metal and glass.
Most are either uncoated or single coated and render in quite lovely ways.
There is also a kickback against plastic and computer designed lenses of the modern era.
They also look really funky
They do certainly look funky to me. Wink
I get the 'old-school' aspect; that's what I like so much about the lenses I have.
They're solidly engineered and constructed, and will last several lifetimes if cared for.

Lightshow wrote:
They are on many cases, Zeiss designs, and are 1/10 the cost of the Zeiss, in general they have great IQ and vibrant colors
Is this to say that many are literal copies of Zeiss optical designs? That they are reverse-engineered reproductions of groundbreaking Zeiss designs?

visualopsins wrote:
Some are attracted by trying one. Have you ever used one? A Jupiter 11 or Helios 44-2 maybe.

Try it you'll like it?
I never have used or handled one.
Honestly, they look goofy to me as compared to the more 'mainstream' lenses.

I've also seen pictures and read accounts of how aperture blades like to fall apart,
or helicoids foul up, or some other issue. This all plays to the sketchy quality-control
issues which have been brought up in this very thread.



I also don't care to use 'standard' focal lengths such as 50/55mm, 90, etc.
I'm much more comfortable with zoom and wide-angle lenses, so it seems
the old Soviet-era lenses aren't suited for me. However, I haven't looked
into the offerings enough to know if what I would use is even available.


PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:19 am    Post subject: Re: Why are the vintage Soviet/Russian lenses so popular? Reply with quote

SkedAddled wrote:
Is this to say that many are literal copies of Zeiss optical designs? That they are reverse-engineered reproductions of groundbreaking Zeiss designs?


Some are straight copies of Zeiss designs, e.g. the Jupiter 8 (Sonnar 50/2), Jupiter 9 (Sonnar 85/2) and Helios 44 (Biotar 58/2) and some others are derived from Zeiss designs, e.g. the Helios 40 (Biotar 75/1.5).

I've seen rumors that some of the early models were actually assembled using original Zeiss-made glass (carried off from Jena) but I've never seen them substantiated.


PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2018 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can substantiate that the early KMZ Jupiter lenses were made using Zeiss elements, and most of the KMZ Jupiter lenses used Schott glass. Shape of the rear triplet changed ~1956 when production moved from KMZ.

J3_Sonnar by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

kmz_j3_1950_rear_moved_out by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr

As to why people use Zeiss formula lenses- you would need to shoot with one to understand. The C-Sonnar 50/1.5 renders very close to these Jupiters. Either you like the look, or you don't.

1950 J-3, wide-open on the M Monochrom.

Skate and Fun zone by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr