LZOS Jupiter-9 85mm f2

So pleased with my first Soviet M42 lens purchase, a 1978 Helios 44M, I decided to take the plunge & buy another piece of Soviet glass.

The Jupiter-9 is an 85mm f2, a focal length classically used for portraiture. After the 1.54x crop factor of an APS-C sensor the effective focal length is 131mm, making it an ideal replacement for the common 135mm f2.8. Designed for portraiture, images are understandably soft wide open, but quickly sharpen as you stop down; the beneath was taken at f4. Really need to take it out & do some actual portraiture mind.

I wasn’t quite so lucky with the serial number this time, getting a 1991 sample. Those who know Soviet history will recall that the USSR collapsed in 1991 & as the rumours of this collapse circulated there was an understandable drop in the quality of output from state-subsidised optical plants like KMZ & its satellite plant LZOS. Still, whilst this particular sample may not be optically as good as some of the earlier, chromed samples, the build quality is still superb & the rings are some of the smoothest I have felt. Incidentally, this is the first pre-set aperture lens I have used; there are two aperture rings, one to set what aperture you want & a second to actually stop down. So you set the aperture you want with the first ring, focus wide open & then stop down with the second ring before taking the shot.

CS Reading Party 2010, The Burn

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the annual Computer Science Reading Party again this year; I posted some photos from last year’s Reading Party (my 1st) which was just after I had taken delivery of the K20D. You would think that a year on there would be a noticeable improvement in my photos… but I still rush composition far too much!

It was raining a bit when we went out & whilst the K20D & grip are weather sealed, the 28mm Sigma isn’t, so I put the Helios 44-M (Soviet M42 58mm f2) on instead as it wouldn’t be the end of the world if that £13 investment got wet!

Should’ve rotated this one a bit more anticlockwise…

I didn’t even notice the threads of spider web here until I looked at the photo on my computer – guess I got the manual focus right!

Not sure what the deal with the pink stuff in the top corner is, could be some nasty chromatic aberration around spider web.

Now this bit of spider web I did notice at the time.

Didn’t get this anything like I wanted. Would’ve had to stop down more, but was already at the limit of how steady my hands are at f2.

And of course there were the taps!

Including these extra longs ones!

Helios 44M & Blossoms

I recently bought an old lens on eBay for ~£11 & had the first real chance to try it out today. I’ve been noticing beautiful blossoms all over St Andrews over the last month or so, but haven’t really had time to take any photos. Luckily today on the way back from the hardware store I came across a tree that was still well endowed whilst the rest are starting to fall bare. All the photos on this page were taken with the new lens; there’ll probably be another post later of some blossoms/flowers that I took with the 28mm Sigma, abusing it’s under-advertised macro capabilities.

A bit about the lens. The Helios 44 is a Soviet copy of the Carl Zeiss Jena ‘Biotar’, a 58mm f2 with 6 elements in 4 groups. Several Soviet factories manufactured the Helios 44 as the standard prime for Zenit SLR cameras. My particular sample is one of the earliest, the 44M, made in 1978 by Красногорский механический завод (Krasnogorskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod, better known by their acronym KMZ & their dove prism logo). It seems they kept improving the design & manufacturing the lenses for decades, but this early design came before the advent of multi-coating so will probably suffer badly from lens flare & may warrant getting a hood for it, but it also has an 8-blade aperture rather than the 6-blade of the later versions. This gives it a wonderfully smooth bokeh, though the lens is incredibly sharp (even surprisingly so wide open at f2). After some of the shots I took today I understand what some people have said about the bokeh looking almost ‘swirly’ in shots involving foliage in the out-of-focus regions.

It’s an M42 screw mount, but you can buy adapters to every modern mount under the Sun (Pentax K in my case) for a few pounds. It seems that some of the very latest revisions were available in Pentax K mounts, but are rather rare & certainly won’t sell for just £11.

Build quality is excellent, reminding me of old Pentax M lenses but a lot chunkier; the thing exudes the sorts of qualities that make you think it would waltz through a nuclear holocaust just to take photos of the aftermath & sell them to AP. I’ll try to get some photos of the lens itself, maybe compared to my Pentax M 50mm f1.7, but that will have to wait for another time.

All of these were shot wide open at f2, with ISO cranked down as low as it goes on the K20D (100). I think this is the first time I’ve had a genuine reason to use the body’s fastest shutter speed (1/4000)!

K20D seems to consistently underexpose by about 1 stop with this lens. Couldn’t see the photos on the camera’s screen at all because of how bright the sun was, so had to go by the histogram & hope to get the exposures close enough.

Should’ve stopped down a bit on some of these. The M42 to K adapter isn’t perfect, because without modification the body can’t stop down the lens at all (M42 uses a pin that moves perpendicular to the K mount’s lever). Luckily the early versions of the Helios 44, including mine, have a manual/auto switch on them for controlling the aperture, so I can permanently stop down the aperture if needs be; just isn’t very handy if it’s too dark to see with a small aperture!

Luckily managed to avoid shooting towards the Sun or any reflections so I didn’t get any nasty lens flare in these. Never really knew how useful multi-coating actually was until I started pointing this lens at direct light sources!

Effective focal length on the K20D’s 1.54x APS-C crop is 89mm. Combined with the nice smooth bokeh, it should prove to be quite a nice portrait lens, should I ever have the opportunity to get into such a thing!