Monday, March 2, 2015

The Sharpest Lens in the Drawer

The Industar 50-2 on my EOS 5D Classic
Hello! It's been over two months since my last post.... I think we need to get re-acquainted. And what better way than to talk about something I've done many times before!

Yes - once again I'll gas-on about my "Russian Eye - the diminutive Industar 50-2 lens. I hadn't used this little wonder for quite awhile - in fact I think it's the first time ever on my EOS 5D Mk-1 ("the Classic"). I can't say what it is that would make this little Russian made lens perform so great, but hey - who cares? There are still dozens of these to choose from on Ebay for just under $20, and if you really love a sharp lens, this little gem really delivers!

The Greenest House Around (Industar 50-2 at f11)
The Industar 50-2 gives great sharpness right across the frame, perfect colour, and no vignetting (darkening in the corners) at f11. It's unexplainable really, how what once was the "budget lens" offered on Russia's least expensive SLR camera in the 1970's (the Zenit - E) could be so good. To my eyes, it out-performs the "luxury lens" offered as an upgrade to that same camera, the Helios 44 which is also a staple in my kit.

This lens is derived from a German design, the Zeiss Tessar, which was back-engineered and copied by just about everyone. Subsequently, Tessar became a design standard, not necessarily a lens brand, although the "real thing", made by Zeiss Optics and usually called the "Jena" is available for not a whole lot more money. It is extremely simple, and certainly does have it's limitations, most notably it only opens to f3.5. The following shot was taken at it's maximum opening, so you can see what this might look like in practice:

Industar 50-2 at Maximum opening of f3.5
As you can see, it provides great subject isolation by keeping the foreground sharp, even near the edges, but instead of providing the "bokeh" of a much brighter lens, it gracefully softens the background without obliterating it. I consider this to be good taste, without the need of showing off the completely different aesthetic of a wide-open f1.4 lens. You might notice how there is a stronger falling off of light in the corners when used at f3.5, but nothing more than you'd see on any modern zoom kit-lens. This is the perfect snapshot lens, being so forgiving, and at the same time, so good. The best way to use this lens is stopped down to say f8 or f11, with the Infinity symbol on the focus-ring also aligned to your chosen f-stop, this provides a kind of "focus-free mode" that can be used for almost any outdoor landscape or street shot, unless you want to isolate a subject by getting close to it. It also requires your camera to be set in Manual, or Aperture Priority Mode, and of course a lens to camera adapter. All of my manual lenses are M42 thread Mount, so I use an M42 to Canon EOS Adapter.

I'll end this with a few more shots:

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