I have a bunch of old lenses, and there are some generalizations that can be made about different kinds. Japanese lenses are refined. They feel very intricate and meticulous in design and construction. The focus rings on Japanese lenses tend to have a short throw with light action, so you don't need to wind them around forever to get from minimum focus to maximum.
Russian lenses feel like they're built from old tank components, and built from fewer parts that are twice as thick as necessary. They tend to be heavy, and this heaviness can also be felt in their focus rings, which not only are stiffer to turn, but they also tend to require more turns from one end of their focal scale to the other. There's no "whipping" into focus with a Russian lens. They take some spinning to get them sharp. I've read in a few places online that Russian lenses are lubricated with tank grease. The Jupiter and Helios definitely feel like it. The focusing action is not light. These may sound like criticisms, but they're not. It's just the character of the lenses that, to me at least, is really interesting to discover. To their credit, the Helios and Jupiter seem as though, if you dropped them, you may worry about your floor.
Carl Zeiss AG is a German manufacturer of lenses, and was originally founded in 1846. They've always been famous for the high quality of their product. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, Russia "somehow" found themselves in possession of the Zeiss manufacturing equipment and design documents. Quite a prize. Purely by coincidence, Russia soon began turning out lenses based on the Zeiss designs, which have been in production since the Fifties. I have to believe that Zeiss AG are at least a little miffed about this.
This lens is pretty much the darling of the Russian lenses on the Intertubes. There are lots of pages dedicated to it. It can be had on eBay for about 45 dollars, and that's a bargain. Focusing actions is smooth but heavy, and takes longer than you want to get from one end to the other. But for your money you'll have a great lens that will be there at your funeral, unless you drive your tank over it somehow.
It's a 58mm, which is a little longer than a typical 50mm, but you can use it more or less the same. The f/2 aperture is nice and wide, letting in lots of light, so you can get away without using flash in more situations.
This lens is really pretty, big and heavy... a little smaller than your fist, and it shares the Helios' long focus threads, too. It seems like there are more elements inside it than the Helios. It's kind of Japanese in that way. There's also a black version. They go for about $150 on eBay. That's kind of expensive, but after reading some gushing reviews, I had to go find one of these for myself.
The Jupiter is an 85mm focal length, which is kind of long. Don't think of this as a general purpose lens. You wouldn't shoot a landscape with it, because you'd need to be standing on the moon to get all of Mount Rushmore in the frame. It's more of a portrait lens. So, for outdoor parties or cookouts, it will give you nice intimate head shots from a non-intrusive distance with soft, blurry backgrounds. It also has a big wide aperture, which will help soften up the backgrounds, as well as giving you the option of shooting indoors without annoying people with a flash.
This version of the Industar is a weird little thing, and I'm not sure what it was originally for. My guess it was just a kit lens for a holiday camera. It's smaller and lighter than the other two, and it feels like it is of a simpler construction.
At 53mm, the Industar is just a little wider than a standard 50, but you could probably use it as you would a 50.
Coffee and Wodka
This is a pair of Skyy vodka bottles and a coffee maker. It's as good a place for some test pictures as any. The sun was coming through the window pretty nicely, so why not?
The Industar's contrast is similar to the Helios, but with a little more DOF. It's a 53mm, and the Helios is a 58. You can see the slight difference in the less pronounced blurring in the out of focus areas.
|Again, you can see the Ju[iter's paler colors in the paneling. But look at the bokeh in the|
background. Every little highlight in the chrome springs to life as a little bubble of light.
|Image from kurtmunger.com.|
Anyway, a normal camera has maybe six or seven blades in the aperture (also called the "diaphragm"). The sample picture to the left has seven. Very inexpensive lenses sometimes have four. The shape of the hole in the center is revealed in the shape of the "bokeh balls" in reflective objects. What you want is nice, round bokeh, so, more blades is better, but this makes the lens harder to manufacture.
|Image from here.|
The Jupiter 9 has fifteen aperture blades. That's pretty extravagant. This ensures that any bokeh produced by this lens will be smooth and round.
|The 53mm Industar has the least-blurry backgrounds of the three. No surprise there.|
Temple of Maroon
|The Jupiter seems to really love the reds in the background. They're not just saturated, they're frikkin' soggy. "You chose.... wisely."|
|The Industar produced some nice, round bokeh balls up there. Impressive, little Industar!|
Achey Bokeh Heart
Lastly, we just threw each lens way out of focus and pointed it at the Christmas lights. Bokeh time!
|The orbiting almonds made by the Helios only appear out from the center. In the middle, bokeh is nice and round.|
|The Jupiter's bubbles are very round, and only slightly ovalized at the edge.|
|The Industar turns in a respectable bokeh performance for being so tiny. I like the sharp ones with translucent centers.|