I’ve recently acquired a new addiction to vintage lenses after have too much fun shooting with some Leica M mount lenses and some old M42 mount lenses.
One of the more interesting vintage lenses is the Russian made M42 mount Industar 50mm f3.5 pancake lens.
The Industar has won lots of praise over the decades and people really seem to love it.
So is the lens good?
No, not really, but it can be.
I know that doesn’t make sense because it’s hard to give any blanket statement like that to any lens, since lenses have many characteristics which maybe excel at one thing but fail miserably at another, this is especially true with a lot of vintage lens.
This review includes images from both my full frame Sony A7rII, and the APS-C Fujifilm X-T2 and an overview of what its like using the lens on each camera.
Industar 50mm f3.5 | Review
Most of these vintage lenses have been designed for 35mm film cameras, so I first shot a lot with the lens on my Sony A7rII to get the true perspective of how the lens was designed.
But my intentions when buying this lens were to actually use it on my Fujifilm X-T2 and X-Pro 2. It’s here on these APS-C cameras the lens gives very different results and it’s here where the Industar 50mm can really shine.
The lens I actually have the the 50-2, I’m not sure how it’s different from the 50, although I plan on getting that lens in the near future.
Industar 50-2 First Impressions
On the Sony A7rII my first impressions were “man this lens sucks.” It has disgusting flaring, terrible vignetting, extremely soft corners and edges, but . . . it’s beautifully sharp in the center, has great contrast and a lot of character and it was this character that made me fall in love, just a little bit, with this lens.
Samples with the full frame A7rII
What I love
- Very sharp in the center
- Fantastic contrast and micro contrast
- Great color rendering
- Lots of character
- Super small
What I Don’t Love
- Terrible vignetting (full frame only)
- Very soft corners and edges (full frame only)
- Nasty ugly flaring
- Difficult to adjust aperture
- Looks ridiculous on most adapters
Those impressions are with a full frame camera like the Sony A7r II and you’re probably wondering, what happens if you put it on an APS-C camera like the Sony A6300 or the Fujifilm X-T2?
A few things happen, mostly positive. Here are a few APS-C samples taken on the A7rII with the APS-C crop turned on.
Because of the 1.5x crop the lens becomes a 75mm and because of this, the terrible vignetting and softer corners and edges for the most part disappear. So when shooting APS-C, you’re left only with the nasty ugly flaring – and I can live with that.
Now I haven’t tried it on a film camera. I know digital camera lenses are designed slightly different to compensate for the micro lenses on the digital sensors and many film lenses can often under perform when adapted to digital. Especially the Sony A7rII which has a more extreme sensor design with the micro lenses because of the short flange distance of the E-Mount.
Shots with the X-T2
Industar 50-2 f3.5 Technical Overview
As mentioned, the lens has a lot of issues, especially if you’re a full frame shooter. However, the micro contrast and center sharpness makes up for a lot of these flaws and many of them become irrelevant if you’re shooting on an APS-C camera like any of Sony or Fujifilm’s APS-C cameras.
It looks a little funky with the Fotasy M42 adapters since the adapter is so much bigger than the lens.
Full Frame Sharpness Chart
On a full frame camera such as the Sony A7rII, you can see the sharpness in the corners and along the edges is really quite bad, but the center is tack sharp.
APS-C Sharpness Chart
When setting the camera to APS-C we can see the results are very different. Not only do we end up cropping in 1.5x making the lens shoot around 75mm, but the camera also ends up cropping out a lot of the soft corners and edges.
Flaring is quite nasty on this lens. No matter what, it seems it wants to veil flare, even when pointing directly into the sun. It also looks like we’re getting a lot of red dot sensor reflections in some of these shots as well.
This is a situation where I think it could look a little more interesting when shooting film where you wouldn’t get that RGB sensor pattern, if that’s actually what’s going on here.
These flaring shots are all APS-C samples.
When shooting full frame vignetting is pretty bad wide open and even at f4. By f5.6 it’s looking pretty good and by f8 it clears up very nicely. If you were to shoot APS-C, the vingetting wouldn’t really be much of an issue, although you would still see it wide open.
Industar 50mm f3.5 | Use And Feel
Using the lens is pretty straight forward, there is no aperture presets like found on some of the Helios and other m42 lenses to annoy you, there is also no click aperture. Everything is smooth solid, although I personally prefer click apertures.
The only tricky thing is adjusting the aperture. The aperture ring is on the very front of the lens, and turning it will instead spin the focus since they are part of the same section of the lens. So you have to adjust the aperture with two hands. One hand to hold the focus in place, and the other to spin just the aperture ring.
As far as compensating for any technical flaws, you don’t have to worry about much when shooting APS-C except the flaring. When shooting full frame, you need to be conscious of your edges, and be aware that they will be soft and if you plan on correcting the vignetting especially if you’re shooting wide open – it’s a several stop exposure lift. I also haven’t really noticed any issues with distortion that are worth noting.
Industar 50mm f3.5 Review | Bottom Line
Do I like this lens? Yes, I actually do, I like it a lot, but only on my APS-C cameras. This is mainly because it’s so sharp and has such great contrast.
I actually think it sucks as a full frame lens and if you’re looking for a 50mm vintage lens, there are better options like some of the old Helios lenses. Mind you, they’re much bigger.
This doesn’t mean you can’t take great pictures even on a full frame Sony A7rII. You just have to learn the characteristics of the lens and work with them. Just avoid framing anything that needs to be detailed too close to the edges and be mindful of the vignetting and flaring.
Where to buy the lens
You can sometimes find these on Ebay, sometimes on Amazon.
I’m told Russia doesn’t have a reliable postal service so it’s in your best interest to order from Ukraine or somewhere else. I got mine on Ebay from a seller in Ukraine.
Now of course, take that with a grain of salt because my last two vintage lenses I ordered disappeared in the hands of USPS here in Los Angeles.
The Lens & Adapters
- Industar 50mm f3.5 – Amazon
- Fotasy M42 to Sony E-Mount – Amazon
- Fotasy M42 to Fujifilm X-Mount – Amazon