50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5

50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5

50mm Jupiter 3

An Introduction

I’ve been meaning to get around to this user report on the 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 for quite some time now. This is a lens I have used extensively on the Leica M9, indeed for a long period of time it was the only lens I used. This 49 year old Soviet era glass bought about my neglect of the 50mm Summarit f/2.5, something that would ultimately result in its sale on the basis that I found using the Jupiter 3 to be more rewarding.

There is a genuine thrill and a real romance to shooting vintage glass, something I personally find to be almost tangible, a quick look at my gear will reveal my fondness for lenses old and new. In particular when this vintage glass is combined with modern technology it can deliver results that are often surprising good, occasionally incredible and nearly always in excess of your expectations.

There will always be the purists, there will always be those that dismiss the lens due to its country of origin or indeed era of manufacture.  Others would simply ask why?  Why would anyone shoot a $280.00 lens on what at the time was a $10k camera. The answer to this question is what I consider to be it’s unique character, to my eye the Jupiter 3 has a distinctive look that I for one find visually pleasing and if you can manage to lay your hands on a good one it will reward you handsomely.

The Lens

ZOMZ Logo

For completeness I will give a brief history of the lens but there are entire websites dedicated to the cameras and optics of the former Soviet Union which offer a more thorough perspective. With it’s maximum aperture of f/1.5 its certainly amongst the most inexpensive “fast glass” options for the rangefinder system and worthy of further investigation.

Depending on which version of events you read and where you read it the Russians either begged, stole or borrowed the lens designs from Zeiss at the end of WW2. It’s really a matter for historians and not critical to this post, lets just say that wherever the truth lay we’ve got to be happy about having some very interesting optics available at bargain prices.

Zagorsky Optical and Mechanical plant or ZOMZ has been in operation since 1935, my version of the lens was constructed here and production continued in to the 1970′s. Whilst the company still exists today it no longer has a version of the Jupiter 3 in production, shame!!

Identification 

As is the case with many vintage lenses the Jupiter 3 has undergone various facelifts and alterations over the years and as a result comes in numerous guises, as I am only discussing my version of this lens there is little point in me going in to great detail on the other versions. www.sovietcams.com is an amazing resource for Soviet lens and camera identification and I am extremely grateful to them for allowing me to reference aspects of their research in this report. Using their information on the Jupiter 3 I was able to identify my lens as the following - 

Jupiter 3 IdentificationJupiter 3 Identification

My lens, Serial No: N6311446 does not bear the “Made in USSR” inscription. It does however have an additional character
 
(“P” in Cyrillic – “Prosvetlennij” which indicates the lens is “Coated”)

Lens Technical Details 

Lens SpecificationLens Specification

 

SchematicSchematic
Focal Length

Whilst most people refer to this as a 50mm lens which is indicated on this lens barrel it’s true focal length it is actually 52.4mm to be exact.

Elements/Groups

Comprising of seven elements in three groups the lens design is based on the classic Zeiss Sonar 50/1.5

Aperture Range

There are no click stops between aperture settings, not an issue but you just need to be mindful that you don’t adjust it by accident.

focusing

Officially this lens focuses from 1m, I suspect mine is closer to .9m. I have read about others who have achieved a minimum focusing distance of .8m with some adjustment to the lens.

Lens Mount

This lens comes in LTM/M39 mount, in short that means you will require an LTM/M39 – M Mount adaptor in order to shoot it on the M9 or any other M mount Leica.

Adaptors are available for between $20-70 on ebay. From experience I would choose very carefully as some of the cheaper offerings are not machined accurately and subsequently the fit to the M9 will be less than satisfactory. You can get a sound version Here.

Filters

You most likely won’t find the 40.5mm filters in your local camera store, however they are available from many sources online.

Russian Beauty – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 ISO 400 1/30 Sec

Russian Beauty

My first shot with the Jupiter 3, from memory I’d had the M9 a few days when I took this. It’s not perfect but it really gave me a taste of what this lens was capable of.

Caveat Emptor

In his 1945 allegory Animal Farm the author George Orwell satirised the Russian Revolution in an attempt to dispel what he believed to be the myth of communism. If your wondering where this is going, please bare with me!! Arguably the most famous quote from this particular work goes something like this “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” do you see where this is going yet?? All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. – George Orwell

 

Yes, you guessed it, a critical point to note when looking at the merits of the Jupiter 3 is this. Whilst all lenses may appear the same, some are clearly more equal (desirable) than others.

So we’ve established early that acquiring this lens really is a case of “buyer beware” but that should not put you off, in fact to the conterery the information that follows will hopefully  both encourage and empower you to dip your proverbial toe in to the Soviet lens market.

Sharpness
 
When I initially sat down to plan this post it was my intention to go in to detail on this aspect of performance, now at the time of writing it seems more appropriate to let the images do the talking. This image was taken wide open at f/1.5
Available Light – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 ISO 160 1/90 Sec  

Available Light

Available Light has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

Certainly from f/2 onwards this lens can produce sharpness which is more or less comparable to the VC 50/1.1 which I also own. It’s easy to get carried away in the search for maximum sharpness and neither the Jupiter 3 nor the perviously mentioned Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 can get anywhere near the likes of the 50 Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE, but you wouldn’t expect them to.
 
The point I would make is that if either the Jupiter 3 or the VC 50/1.1 was your only lens you would most likely consider them sharp enough, it’s only when you’ve been spoilt by the Leica offerings that you start to reflect on their performance with a more critical eye.

Vignetting
The Jupiter 3 does exhibit mild vignetting on the the M9 when shot with lens detection off. I choose to code the camera as 50 f/1.4 Asph 11891/11892 to reduce the vignetting. Incidentally this is the same code recommended for the Zeiss C Sonnar T* 1.5/50 ZM

I often add vignetting to images in post processing so for me it’s not an issue, regardless of this it is not excessive and can be corrected in part with coding and beyond that in PP should you wish. In the following image I have added a lot of vignetting in an effort to create a glow.

Owhiro Glow – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 ISO 1250 1/4000 Sec

Owhiro Glow

 Owhiro Glow has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

Focus Shift

This is an acknowledged characteristic of the Sonnar design and therefore it will come as no surprise to know it is ever so slightly present in my Jupiter 3. However it’s taken some fairly critical analysis to spot it, it’s never cost me a shot but it does exist. 

 Back Focus

Additionally there is talk of people experiencing back focusing issues on the Jupiter. This is not exhibited by my version on the Leica M9. This raises a question about the more recent history of my lens, people have resolved the back focusing issue with an adjustment process referred to as “shimming”. Certainly not every Jupiter 3 required this, but it does make me wonder if it had been done to my lens before I purchased it.

Focus Compatibility with the Leica M9

I felt the need to add a note on this as it’s something I have been asked many times. Once more I can only speak for my version of the lens and say it operates on the Leica M9 with exceptional accuracy, certainly more than I could have hoped for and in fairness probably with more accuracy than one should expect from this union of modern technology and antiquity. 

A google search will bring up numerous discussion on various fora in relation to these issues, some I would say are fair others perhaps misguided. Either fortunately or unfortunately the variations between Jupiter 3 versions down to the individual quality of each lens make it impossible to apply a blanket statement to the issue.

I See You – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 ISO 400 1/1500 Sec 

I See You

I See You has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

Mitchell – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 ISO 160 1/3000 Sec

Mitchell

Mitchell has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

Bokeh

It’s difficult to articulate the rendering characteristics of the Jupiter 3 because they can vary so enormously, it’s capable of delivering the full spectrum of bokeh from harsh to smooth dependent on subject matter. When one refers to the “character” of a lens it is predominantly this quality that comes to mind, for me at least! 

The following image could be described as having quite “harsh” bokeh, as you can see the gravel area to the right of my subject.

Look up to You – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 ISO 400 1/4000 Sec

Look up to You

Look up to You has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

In the following image the bokeh is certainly smoother, once more this image highlights both the quality and sharpness achievable with this optic.

The Rock Thrower – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5 ISO 160 1/3000 Sec

The Rock Thrower

The Rock Thrower has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

 

Flare

As with any vintage glass I would always recommend the use of a lens hood at all times. The lens is prone to flare when shot directly in to the sun or other bright light sources as one would expect. This is also a characteristic of certain lenses that are vastly more expensive than the Jupiter 3. I don’t see it as a significant negative and with practice it is possible to use this creatively to some extent. 

I acquired a couple of hoods for my lens from ebay, both vented and unvented. In truth I have never found the flare to be even remotely problematic when using the lens, certainly it’s much less of an issue than it is with certain other Jupiter lenses.

Contrast

Another characteristic of any vintage glass is reduced contrast when compared to modern day lenses, a small compromise as it were. Occasionally this can benefit a specific image but in the main you will find yourself needing to adjust contrast. More often than not this can be corrected with adjustments to Contrast and Black Point. 

The example image below is an extract from my War Games post. Reduced Contrast in this instance was in keeping with the look I was after although as you can see I still made adjustments.

Raw Conversion to JPEG in Aperture 3

Contrast Comparison

                                          Left: With adjustments                               Right: No adjustment

A B&W conversion from the same series of images, I really enjoyed shooting this event with vintage glass, in my opinion it really added something to the images.

The Bad Lieutenant – Leica M9 – 50mm Jupiter 3 f/1.5

The Bad Lieutenant

Conclusion

I have to admit, if you haven’t already guessed I’m a huge fan of this lens, I have been since the first moment I used it and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone. “Russian Roulette”, “The Russian Lottery”, “The Communism Factor”, call it what you will, these are all phrases I have used when referring to the prospective purchase of this lens and the element of uncertainty that comes with it,  but how big a deal is this in reality??? I say buy the lens, try it out and if it doesn’t meet your expectations then simply sell it or seek to get it optimized. What you most certainly shouldn’t do in my opinion is allow yourself to be “put off” by the possibility that the lens won’t be perfect……because by the same measure it just might be!!

Where to Buy

My Jupiter 3 was purchased from www.fedka.com in New York, this may cost a little more than seeking one out on ebay or other sources however it will afford you some peace of mind in relation to the quality of your purchase. Depending where you live these can be picked up for next to nothing, being in NZ my options were limited, ideally you’d try before you buy.

Further Reading 

 

Thanks to the generosity of Brian Sweeney I am able to offer documentation on Shimming, CLA, Focal length Adjustment and even Contax to Leica conversion of the Jupiter 3. You can find the infoHERE

There is a very entertaining write up on the Jupiter 3 by Robert Chisolm on Steve Huff’s site HERE it also contains some excellent images.

www.sovietcams.com is a great resource when researching Soviet cameras and lenses.

Elsewhere on the internet information is fragmented across the various fora, this was in part the motivation for this post.

Thanks for reading.

Jason.

  1. Kaushal ParikhKaushal Parikh10-25-2012

    Obviously a great lens in great hands. Stunning portraits Jason!

    • janrzmjanrzm10-26-2012

      Thanks Kaushal, really appreciate that. Cheers, Jason.

  2. John FerebeeJohn Ferebee10-26-2012

    A very interesting review. Tempted to try one although I have lenses I don’t use often now.

    • janrzmjanrzm10-26-2012

      Hi John,

      Ha, I too have lenses I don’t use often, it doesn’t seem to stop me though…..:-) Thanks, Jason.

  3. Anjolie LanelAnjolie Lanel10-26-2012

    I just bought my copy off of ebay and I’m dying to try it out. I don’t have an M9, but I suppose I’ll get by with my IIIf for now lol

    • janrzmjanrzm10-26-2012

      Hi Anjolie

      Good for you!! :-)

      I look forward to seeing how you get on and hearing your thoughts.

      Cheers, Jason.

  4. Bruce EsplinBruce Esplin10-26-2012

    Jason,
    Interesting and informative review accompanied as always by beautiful images

    • janrzmjanrzm10-26-2012

      Thanks Bruce, maybe a cheap/fast option for you to experiment with on your M6?

      Chees, Jason.

  5. BrianBrian10-26-2012

    Jason, beautiful portraits with J-3- what is was made for.

    The focal length is 52.4mm, slightly longer than the Leica standard. There is deviation, some slightly shorter focal length and some a bit longer. This is the reason why most do better by “shimming” the lens, or by shortening the focal length by moving the rear triplet in closer to the front group.

    • janrzmjanrzm10-26-2012

      Hi Brian, thanks so much for taking the time to read this and comment. You are the recognised authority on this lens! :-) I was going to include mention of you and your post on shimming if you can send me the correct links I would be delighted to include this here. In the end I decided to indicate the focal length as 50mm to avoid confusion. I will amend my post to make note of the actual 52.4mm focal length. All the best, Jason.

    • BrianBrian10-26-2012

      Forgot to add… My M9 has a 1950 KMZ Jupiter-3 on it, focal length and shim adjusted for the Leica.

      • janrzmjanrzm10-26-2012

        Hi Brian

        Thanks for taking the time to read my post and your comments are greatly appreciated.

        I did think about trying to contact you for further information but I always feel a bit guilty contacting people out of the blue with requests.

        If there is anything you think I should add or indeed information on shimming I would be delighted to amend it. Information on line regarding the lens is fragmented and that was one reason I decided to do the post.

        All the best,

        Jason.

  6. Robert BRobert B01-19-2013

    Great photos! I used to use a Zeiss 1.5 on a Contax IIa back in the film days, loved the “eyes” that the lens created. Now you have me thinking about how to get that lens back into operation.

    • janrzmjanrzm01-26-2013

      Hi Robert, I’m pleased to hear you’ve been encouraged to get the old Zeiss out, enjoy.

      Cheers, Jason.

  7. MagidMagid06-10-2013

    Hi Jason,

    Thank you for sharing with the community. Very very nice shots, and valuable comments.

    I would like to share this comment : I had purchased this lens on eBay few years ago, made some shots on my Leica M6 TTTL and on the M3. Good shots, but I am not a good photographer (I do not have “the eye”).

    I was reading recently on the web some comments on that mythic lens and found yours. You had revived it in me and Then I was so excited to try mine on digital cam. Then I was reading a lot on the Fuji xpro1 and bought one, only the body, one week ago (very good camera BTW, I am not willing for the time being to spent 7k$ for the M240 even full frame). I wanted to try my Leica lenses and some others Leica screw or bayonet mount lenses such as Jupiter(s) or Industar(s) Russian lenses, even some Elmar 5cm f3.5 copy lenses.

    The first shots taken with Jupiter3 1.5 are astonishing in terms of quality. You cannot believe your eyes. how such an old lens can make so nice quality photos? I tried in colors, now I have try in B&W. Also I still need to try the other lenses.

    Thank you again for your wonderful story and your photos with this lens.

    • janrzmjanrzm06-10-2013

      Hi there Magid,

      Welcome to my site and thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences here.

      I’m pleased to have awoken your interest in this wonderful little lens. I’m definitely a fan of the Fuji offerings, I have used the Xpro-1 but not owned one, I also had the X100 which I was very attached to.

      I think people underestimate the capabilities of these older lenses on todays digital cameras, they often exceed one’s expectations and can make for very pleasant surprises. I have fooled around with my Soviet lenses on the M9 and MM and at times been quite shocked with the quality.

      I hope you’ll continue to follow here.

      All the best, Jason.

  8. JimJim06-14-2013

    Wonderful photos, Jason. Just super.

    I, too, am a huge fan of the J3 — got mine on ebay for $250, and was lucky to get a great, clean copy with no need for any kind of adjustment. My wife teases me about how much I rave about this lens when I use it. Sometimes the bokeh is just crazy — but I love that. It’s a lens with a truly unique signature at 1.5 and sharpens nicely at 5.6 and above.

    The J8 is also a nice lens (f/2 and smaller), but it seems they all need to be pulled apart and shimmed (which I had done). Not sure if it was worth the trouble, but the lens draws nicely.

    To those considering a J3 — do it. Yes, it’s a gamble — but not a big one. And the rewards, if you get a good copy, are considerable.

    • janrzmjanrzm06-14-2013

      Thanks Jim,

      It’s a cracking lens, underrated and avoided by some, a small gamble as you say but very worthwhile.

      I have the J8 too and again it is excellent.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      All the best, Jason.

  9. RahulRahul01-09-2014

    Amazing portraits! I just bought one for my Zorki 4k.

    • janrzmjanrzm01-09-2014

      Thanks Rahul

      I’m sure you’ll be pleased with it. :)

      Cheers, Jason.

      • RahulRahul01-09-2014

        Jason – did you need to calibrate your camera when you switched your lens from Leica to J3? I’m saving some money for a Leica M4 body….I have no idea about rangefinder calibration….

        • janrzmjanrzm01-09-2014

          Hi, when dealing with lenses from the former Soviet Union one does come across “quality control” issues on occasion. I was fortunate in that my J3 was accurate when purchased, it may be worth your while looking at http://www.fedka.com as they will ensure the lens is operational, less risky than eBay but a touch more expensive.

          Buy an M4 that has been CLA’d would also be advisable for your first experience.

  10. JimJim01-28-2014

    Wonderful photos. Thank you.

    I’d like to add my enthusiasm for this lens – and, yes, I too may have been lucky in the draw. But I greatly prefer it and its rendering over my Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar. Call me crazy – because I am a huge Zeiss fan. I use an M9 and a bunch of film RFs.

    If I had to keep only one 50mm lens – and I have many – this would be the one.

    To those considering: this is one of the great steals of all time – even if you have to have it shimmed and CLA’d. I bought mine for $250 and didn’t have to do a thing to it. Take the chance, it’s worth it.

    • janrzmjanrzm01-30-2014

      Thanks Jim,

      It’s been quite a while since I’ve used my Jupiter 3 on any camera, I do retain a soft spot for the lens though, as you rightfully say, if luck is on your side you can get something exceptional for very little outlay.

      Cheers, Jason.

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