This is a short piece about the Industar-69 28mm f2.8 LTM lens from the land of Putin, or Chroesjtsjov more likely. For this review I’ve mounted it on my Fujifilm X-E1 using a 5 dollar m39 to Fujifilm X adapter from ebay.
So this is not a lens you’ll buy for its sharpness and optical perfection. This is a lens you’ll buy because you are in desperate need of some cheaply bought street cred. And that’s what this gives you. When you’ve hung this lens onto your fashionable mirrorles camera of choice, you will look like someone who knows his stuff. Using this sophisticated looking Russian made Tessar copy makes your camera look like a rangefinder that will make Bresson turn his head. So it looks damn good, yes oh my it does. The image quality isn’t that great though… It’s horrible at modern standards really. This lens is not sharp, it’s so soft that focus peaking will hardly work and above all, this lens won’t work for you until you take it apart and make some minor modifications to its core construction.
Let me explain the above. This lens was never made for Leica camera’s, it just happens to share the same m39 thread mount. It was made for some Russian halfframe rangefinder that has a flange distance miles away from that of the leica’s. That means that the m39 adapter (needed for putting this lens on your camera) is a couple of millimeters to thick. So you either have to grind down the adapter, or screw the lens block inside of the lens barrel a little closer to the sensor. There are some great hacks out there on the interweb that will show you how to do this easily (this one for instance: http://www.mu-43.com/threads/20259/). Allright so this lens is an absolute piece of poo right? Well no, it is not. In fact, I totally love this little lens. And I will tell you why after the picture down below:
Allright So if you get a good copy (DDR quality control…you never know), like mine, you will find yourself the proud owner of a full metal, smooth operating and above all very tiny lens. Even with the small m39 adapter, this lens protrudes no more than 25mm from the front of its retro styled host. Which is the European way of saying you’ve got yourself a one inch bulge sticking out your jeans pocket. Because yes, this kit will make your fujifilm X, Sony NEX or M43 camera awkwardly pocketable. Though I do suggest large pockets. Furthermore, it gives you a 42mm equivalent focal length. Which is very close to the legendary ‘perfect’ focal length of 43mm. They say that that is the closest you can get to what the eyeball sees (this does not apply to micro fourthirds camera’s, it’s 56mm there). The f2.8 max aperture is good enough for indoor shooting and some background blur. Ah yes, I almost forgot the one reason I actually went to the Bay of E and bought it from war-torn Ukraine. It’s the price! The cheapest near 28mm f2.8 mirrorles lens you can buy is the Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN EX lens for Sony and m43 MILC’s. And this lens costs you just below 200 USD where this one, with an adapter will set you back about 40 bucks. Allright, the sigma is a better lens in every way (except size and awesomeness) but you can just buy this lens to have fun with wherethe Sigma is dangerously close to being an actual investment. Same goes for the Fuji option. The Fujinon XF27mm f2.8 costs somewhere around 350 bucks nowadays.
The industar has a unique way of rendering things. Like I said, the lens isn’t that sharp and the contrast coming out of it isn’t very contrasty. Also the colors seem somewhat flattened to me. This may not sound very good, but it actually gives your pictures a sort of vintage feel. They sort of are vintage because they were created through some very old glass. If you are to apply the VSCO film simulations in Lightroom, pictures made with this lens are absolutely film-like. And that’s kind of the charm of this type of lens. It looks cool and gives your photo’s a unique look. It doesn’t even make sense trying to pixel peep this thing. This is a lens that needs to be used creatively instead of technically.
So if you are willing to give up on autofocus, modern coatings and image stabilisation, this lens might just be something for you. When you buy this lens you get an everyday walkabout lens that will do your street photography, your portraits and maybe a landscape here and there. The focal length makes it a good lens across the board and the f/2.8 aperture makes it usable in a wide variety of situations. The size helps it to never be in your way.
Sample images below:
Wide open at F2.8. This lens does some crazy stuff wide open. The cornes are all over the place and it only remains sharp in the center, but that works just fine for this shot really.
This shot shows the crazy swirly bokeh this lens creates. Love it or hate it.
Shot at F2.8
It’s definitely sharpest at F5.6