Welcome to part #7 of Vintage Lens Jeopardy. Today I am looking at another Soviet or Russian lens. This one was definitely made in the Soviet Union indicated by the serial number which dates my copy to 1976. Yes this Industar 50-2 is 45 years old and still in excellent condition. But is it a good lens and should you buy one? Let’s see.
Industar was a Soviet brand of camera lenses. They were often made by different manufacturers. The Industar 50-2 was produced by KMZ (“Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod”) or Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk. KMZ seems to have quite a good reputation compared to lenses from others Soviet Manufacturers (like the Jupiter 21M). The Industar name was used for most lenses constructed of four elements in three groups according to different sources (i.e. the Internet :-).
If the Jupiter 21-M is a tank this one is a small precision instrument. It is slightly wider and deeper than an M42 lens cap. It is dwarfed by almost every adapter used to make this lens compatible with modern digital cameras. The original Industar 50 was a screw mount lens for small rangefinder cameras. The optical formula was again based (or let’s call it what it is) copied from the German Zeiss Tessar design. The revised Industar 50-2 was offered with an M42 mount for use on SLRs.
My copy was made in 1976 and is in astonishingly good condition except for a few dust specks inside. The construction is so simple that cleaning such a lens is almost trivial with only a lens spanner being needed. The lens barrel moves while focusing and you can’t put a filter on it. Both the aperture and focus ring are very smooth but not damped at the end points. The controls are very small and especially the aperture ring on the front is downright fiddly. Add to that the clickless aperture and I was constantly checking the aperture value which is on the front side of the lens so I had to really tilt my camera to get a good look.
This lens is shorter than it’s lens cap. The markings on the side are beautifully filled engravings, the ones on the front are not. On my copy they still look crisp and clean though. The construction is all metal which was anyway cheaper in the Soviet Union than petroleum based plastics (the Soviet Union generated lots of hard cash with the sale of oil instead). Note the KMZ logo on the front. It is beautiful.
Image Quality and Samples
I shot these images with the Color Negative film simulation which has a desaturated look which I like very much. The images were taken on a rather gloomy March afternoon.
What I noticed first was good sharpness across the frame. Compared to my more famous Helios 44-M sharpness stays quite uniform. There is also little to no distortion but then it is a 50mm lens anyway. If you have a 50mm lens with distortion you have a really bad lens. Maybe like my cheap Porst 50mm F2.8.
A gloomy March day during lockdown. The lens performed very well this day. Using this Soviet construction made me feel the gloomy gray days of of existence under scientific socialism and communism.
These stairs are always closed off. In over three years of living here I never walked those stairs. The lens did resolve a lot of detail in the bushes to the left.
Anything with bokeh is not this lens’ strong suit. You can’t really play with sharpness. I’d say this lens is best set to f8 and used for general or maybe street photography (more on that later). With a suitably small camera it is quite the stealthy package.
Look at the resolution of detail on this wall and sharpness gradient. It really is a wonderful lens optically despite being so small and cheap. Of course a slow aperture of F3.5 makes the optical construction much easier. Using it on a modern digital camera that can easily push ISO 6400 without much noise a slow lens like this is completely usable for everything except bokeh and razor thin depth of field. But imagine using the lens with old ISO 64 film stock. This gloomy day would have proven somewhat of a challenge.
I had to take this snapshot of the women taking a photograph. Looking back I should have spoken to hear about the subject she was interested in. But I was in a lonesome mood and went my way. The small lens compared with an equally small camera would make for a stealthy street photography package. But the need to constantly check the clickless aperture ring and the fiddly and thin focus control makes the Industar 50-2 a very slow and impractical to use lens. I do like the woman’s bike though. A nice but subdued dash of color on this day.
The Industar 50-2 is a solid performer optically. It is neither a fast lens nor bokeh wonder but it produces clear, sharp and neutral images. It is ideal for any kind of general photography. But it’s ergonomics are horrible. The focus ring is alright but the aperture control is very thin, very light and clickless. Carrying a camera with this lens will inevitably move the aperture. I had to check it every time I took a shot. Being someone who is really concerned with ergonomics I can’t use this lens. I love the results but I hate using the lens.
There are so many better 50mm lenses out there for more or less the same money. I can not recommend this lens at all. Yes it is small and light but any fast fifty is still reasonably light anyway. One reason to use vintage lenses is to enjoy the slower and more tactile way of shooting. The Industar 50-2 is not enjoyable in this respect. It is like using a very small keypad where you constantly mistype something.
– neutral rendering
– little distortion
– uniform sharpness
– usually cheap
– small and light
– horrible ergonomics
– not coated
– clickless aperture