Sunday, October 23, 2011

Industar-22 Review

Or how an old manual lens works on the micro four thirds system and why you should try it.

This is my third manual focus lens. It's getting to be something of a habit. No doubt, many of you are wondering, "Why on earth would you want to stick a manual lens on a camera that has one of the fastest Autofocus systems available?"

Because you can. Because there's a quality to these lenses that you can't capture with modern lenses. Because old lenses kick ass. Because it will help you to become a better photographer. Because it will change the way you look at shooting. Because your camera will look cool. Because you will look cool. Because the pictures will be interesting. Because it's fun.


The Industar-22 is a lens that looks like a Leica Elmar, but has more in common with a Zeiss Tessar.  It's a Russian copy of the Tessar, and from what I've read Russian-made means that the quality can be quite inconsistent. I won't pretend to be able to judge this, having never laid hands on a Leica Elmar or a Zeiss Tessar. I'll venture that you can get some interesting, unique (and sharp) results with this lens. You be the judge. Photo samples can be found below.

Ze Leica Elmar
It's a 50mm f/3.5 lens. Not exactly fast. This doesn't give you much reason to stick it on a modern camera body -- unlike say my other Russian lens, the 50mm f/2.0 Jupiter-8. On a micro four thirds body, the Jupiter-8 is a bright short telephoto lens. The Industar-22 is middle of the road with its f/3.5 aperture. Wide open, it's sharp though, unlike the Jupiter-8 which is soft wide open. But I am getting ahead of myself.


The Industar-22 was designed back when rangefinder cameras were new, so I was scratching my head when I first laid hands on it. You control the aperture from the circular dial on front of the lens. Focus is controlled by twisting the base of the lens, but first you have to unlock the base by turning the protruding knob.

This lens was also designed to be collapsible into a rangefinder body. You can try it on a micro four thirds body, but there's not enough room to go all the way in. By my reckoning and according to other reports on the Internet, the collapsible portion will hit the plastic parts inside the camera before it hits the sensor, but even then, collapsing this lens into the camera body isn't for the faint of heart. I sure wasn't brave enough to try it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. This lens looks gorgeous on the Olympus E-P3.


Let's face it. Manual focus isn't for everyone. It's slow, no matter how hard you practice. If you shoot kids, manual focus can be incredibly frustrating (I shoot kids). The more I do manual focus though, the more I like it. It's just a whole new way of shooting -- or rather, it's an old way of shooting. It frees yourself from the half-press-compose-shoot tyranny of photography. It becomes focus then shoot, shoot, shoot. Provided you don't move around too much, it's ace.

Then you find yourself thinking of other things like your depth of field. If you're in a hurry or if your subject is moving, set a narrow aperture for deeper depth of field. You think more of framing. Once you have focus out of the way, you have that extra split second more to capture that special moment.

Let me amend that statement. You would think more of depth of field if you could get much with this lens. Sadly, not too much. Or not enough. It doesn't hold a candle to the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7.

The act of focusing on this lens feels very loose. That's not entirely a bad thing, but it depends on your preference. You really can't be too rough on this lens because if you manhandle it, it tends to collapse when you don't want it to. You have to be wary of exactly where you hold it.

The protruding knob actually helps you to turn the lens and focus more precisely.

The equivalent focal length of 100mm is useful for portraits, but it can be challenging for other situations. I find myself backpedaling a lot. It's pretty much useless for anything close up. The minimum focus distance is a meter.

This is as close as I could get to shooting an action figure on my table. Definitely not for macro shots.

Image Quality

IF you can nail the focus, you can get some sharp results.

Results on this lens can be sharp.

Missed the focus here.

When the subject's not moving, it's much easier to achieve sharpness.

But as Henri Cartier-Bresson famously said, "Sharpness is overrated."  Often used an excuse for lousy photos. You can use it as an excuse when you use this lens, or you can learn to evaluate photos on more than just how sharp it is.

You will get lens flare. This lens is prone to it. You can get a lens hood if that concerns you, or shade the lens with a hand, simple. I'm actually a big fan of lens flare.

Reduced the flare in Aperture, but I still got some weird color smearing. But I likee.

Like I said earlier, on the E-P3, the Industar is a 100mm (35mm equivalent). This makes it ideal for portraits.

You typically get some, but not much bokeh.

That doesn't mean you have to use it for portraits. Here's a landscape:

In Conclusion

I wasn't really blown away by the results here. I do find the exercise of shooting with the Industar-22 to be something worthwhile and fun, but when it comes to image quality, you can achieve similar or better results with other lenses. For starters, the Panasonic 20mm is far brighter, has autofocus, and gives you more bokeh (background blur). Then there's the Olympus 45mm, which is also much brighter at f/1.8 and, again, bokeh-licious. That leaves the Industar-22 with, well, character, and I'll leave it up to you to decide if the lens has any special characteristics on its side. My opinion is it's got something going for it -- something that does bring me back to the days of film -- but it just doesn't have enough of it to convince me to stick the lens on my camera on any kind of regular basis. If the situation is bright enough, if you'r not too close to your subject, if you're not pointing at any bright lights, and if you can nail the focus, then you can get some fascinating and sharp photos with a little extra something. The Industar-22 is fun and hipster-friendly and inexpensive, so it's hard not to recommend, but sadly, it's just a little too iffy.


SleepyHammer said...

I like your review, and completely agree with everything you say about this kind of stuff making one a better photographer. My breakthrough came when I got a micro 4/3 Holga lens. I, too, bought my Industar 22 partly for looks, even going so far as to buy a cyrillic-lettered metal lens cap for it.

Can you get your focus all the way to the infinity setting without carving a chunk out of your adapter for the focus knob to spring down into as it clicks into place?

The Third World Nerd said...

I read about the focus to infinity issue, but never got around to fixing it mostly because I am too chicken. Did you modify your adapter? And if so, how did it go?