Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Industar 69 - 28mm f2.8

The 28mm Industar 69 is extremely compact, has a full frame equivalent focal length of 42mm, & opens up to f2.8. Is this the perfect, compact manual focus lens for the NEX?

Background & Specs

After doing a good deal of research on the smallest lenses & adapters I could find for the NEX, I decided on this lens, and found & purchased it on ebay for $40.

The Industar 69 is a soviet lens that was made for the half-frame, Chaika camera in the late 60's & early 70's. You can read more about that camera on wikipedia here.

This lens has a maximum aperture of f2.8, and closes to f16. There are no stops on the aperture ring, so you have complete flexibility as to how open or closed it is. The aperture is made up of 5 curved blades that create a somewhat rounded pentagon. On the NEX-3, after modification (see next section), it manages to focus as close as 16”, and goes exactly to infinity on the opposite end. The APS-C sensor on the NEX puts this 28mm lens at about a 42mm equivalent on a full frame camera.

I purchased my 39mm to NEX adapter from Rainbow Imaging on ebay (http://stores.ebay.com/rainbowimaging) for $23.99. But you can get the same quality adapter for much less now on Amazon:

Modifications to allow Infinity Focus

A quick google search will turn up multiple links to modifying this lens so that it focuses properly on various cameras. Basically, you remove 3 set screws, the the focus ring, and file down the focus stops so the lens will screw down further, allowing you to focus to infinity. My method was slightly different, in that instead of filing down the 2 focus stops, I removed one of the stops completely to gain closer focusing capability. Without doing this, the lens will only focus as close as 0.8m.

You can read a more detailed explanation of modifying this lens at Hamish Gill's blog.

Build quality

My particular copy of this lens feels very sloppy. There is no dampening in the focus motion at all. It feels like threading a bolt through a nut. The aperture ring wiggles a little too freely as well. Overall, it just feels worn out & cheap. That said, I don't feel like it's going to get any worse. And because of it's small size, I'm not worried about it breaking. It's so light that I don't even think it can be damaged by being dropped (unattached to the camera).


The L39 adapter protrudes 3/8" from the NEX, and the lens another 1/2". Adding a little more than 7/8" to the camera body, this combination truly looks & feels like a compact point-and-shoot camera.

At a combined adapter & lens weight of 108g, there really isn't much balance to speak of. The lens itself comes in at 54g, and the adapter 54g as well. For comparison, the Sony 16mm 2.8 pancake weighs in at 66g. I often shoot one handed with the aperture closed down for greater depth of field. There's really no need for 2 hands unless you're doing some precise focusing.

Focusing & aperture control require finger tip accuracy. The focus ring is an 1/8" ring at the very end of the lens. The aperture is a 1/16" ring on the face of the lens. Operating this lens is like rotating a poker chip between your thumb & index finger.

Ease of Use

This lens can be both easy & a pain to use at the same time. When you stop it down and focus to infinity, it can be a great walk-around lens. Point & shoot to your hearts content. In this method, the lens is as easy as it gets!

When you want to open it up, and do some closer focusing, it can start to get tricky. The lens' focus action isn't the easiest to begin with. This lens is also not the sharpest, so it can sometimes take an extra second to make sure you've nailed the focus.

In regards to overall use however, this & the 16mm pancake are two of the easiest lenses to use on the NEX. They both allow you to comfortably carry the camera in a jacket or hoodie pocket. Or a purse. I'm often guilty of making my wife carry it in her purse when we travel.

Image Quality

Image quality is a mixed bag. This lens never gets sharp, but it's sharp enough to still get useable results. The edges & corners are always blurry. The center sharpness gets better around f4, and peaks at about f8. My copy has uneven blurring around the perimeter. It's stronger on the right side than the left.

This lens also vignettes badly at all apertures. There are even some color shifts. Hues of purple & yellow in different areas of the frame.

When shot wide open, there is a noticable drop in contrast. I still prefer shooting wide open with this lens. The contrast issue is easily fixed in post process.

This lens has swirly bokeh. The out of focus areas seem to spin around the middle. You can see it a little in the second example shot at the bottom of this article.

But....for some reason, I love this lens. It's probably a compromise because of it's small size. When used properly, the blurred edges & vignetting can accentuate the subject matter. Yes, you can do this in post-processing as well. But there's just something fun about shooting a lens like this.


Center Sharpness:

Full resolution jpgs available here:

Industar 69 28mm f2.8

Should I keep it in my bag?

Why not? This thing is so small, it fits in the inner zipper pockets of my camera bag, usually reserved for cords & memory cards.

So is it the perfect compact, manual focus lens for the NEX? Probably not, but it's definitely fun to use!

Below are some shots I've taken with it on the NEX-3. All have some degree of post-processing.

Swirly bokeh, most noticeable on the right side of the image


zachstern said...

Great review! I really enjoy using my Industar-69. I guess my copy is in a little better condition than yours because my focus action is smooth and nicely damped.

Scott said...

Great to hear zachstern. I think a little bit of grease on the threads of my lens would help out with the focusing action. I may try it!

Anonymous said...


The colour shift is not specific to this lens, it's a limitation of the Nex's sensor when using wide angle rangefinder lenses.
(I get the same shift, yellow and pink, using a Voigtländer 28mm 3.5 that can hardly be compared to cheap russian lenses in terms of optical quality…)

You can fix that easily with Cornerfix. :)

amalric said...

I think you have a bad sample with a slightly off axis lens. I have one, but I use it on m4/3. No vignetting, decent sharpness, even in the corners, no CA.
In fact it's a standard Sonnar triplet type that Industar used for other lenses.
I bought it from Moscow already modified for some 35$, so for me it was a terrific buy

Scott said...

Amalric - Thanks for the info! I'll try to acquire another sample of this lens & update my review in the future.

amalric said...

On the NEX I believe you can't avoid vignetting, but the rest yes, and I have heard of bad samples. Or the modification was badly done. My purveyor was Grandseller of Moscow, and the mod was perfect.

He is also a quick shipper, therefore I avoided all the annoyances that are associated with this lens in many forums. It's not uncommon that people buy two or three Russian lenses to get at least a good one :)

rick said...

Both colour shift and vignetting cannot be fixed with another sample, being related to the camera and not to the lens.
Anyway, thanks for the review, I'm looking for a cheap pancake all-round lens and this one seems the best option!
Alternative is Voigt. Color skopar 35mm 2.5 but it's like a real 50mm, so no more all-round (and way more expensive), but with excellent lens quality.

amalric said...

You are not really listening. I never mentioned colour shift and I said that the lens didn't vignette *on m4/3*.

In fact it's rather an ideal pancake for 4/3, a Tessar (not Sonnar) which is very sharp at the center and less so at the edges. Nice for portraits and street shots.

joel said...

How does this compare to the SLR Magic 28mm?

Eduardo said...

Can you share some basic PP you did after using this lens? I think your images after PP looks incredibly nice for this mixed bags lens...

Rob said...

Is that grey spiral shot taken in Rothenburg? I think I took a very similar shot...!

Scott said...

Yes it was!

Haruko said...

Very nice! Thanks for the great review! I've never purchased or shot with vintage lenses before (These things are probably way older than I am) but I'm excited to try on my NEX since they wont break the bank! Shots looks great!

LcMotes said...

I know this was discussed over half a year ago, but I just thought I would add this in for 2013 viewers.
The NEX has an APS-C sensor, meaning it actually takes in the corners of the lens, when it wasn't made for that.
This lens was designed for a half frame camera, and the micro 4/3 cameras are technically half frame, so you will not see as much vignetting or color distortions on the edges.

It's like putting a Canon crop lens on a full frame body, the does will be bad. But when putting it on a crop sensored camera, the edges are fine.

DeathArrow said...

And being for half frame, no way it would be equivalent to 42mm, it would be equivalent of 21mm. (28 * 0.5 * 1.5)

If you like vignieting and color shifts, use it on a camera with APS-C size sensor.

Aside from that, sharpness is not there and distorsion can be visible even in small sized pics you posted.

Felix said...

This is not true.
I can confirm, that the Industar 69 operates as a 42mm equivalent on a APS-C camera. This lens was indeed made for a half frame camera, but the focal lenght mentioned on the lens (28mm) is indeed calculated for the 35mm standard. So, your calculation with "*0.5" is false.
Currently I am working with the Industar 69 on a Fuji X-E1 and the field of view is in fact 42mm in 35mm equivalent.

Roi Sitjar said...

Hi Felix, how is the I69 working on the XE-1? Planning on using I61 but I think it will be too long for my liking. Well at least for my street shooting. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Half frame = roughly APS-C size (a bit bigger than APS-C in fact). 4/3 = 16mm film...

Anonymous said...

I have an Olympus OM-D EM-1. I am still new to vintage lenses. Is it possible to use this lens on it? What mod/adapter would I need?

Unknown said...

I don't know why you couldn't. I have an epl3 and it works fine for me with an m39 to m43 adapter I bought on ebay for £2.99. As regards the mod, I started off watching the Mike Kobal video on YouTube, that got me an improvement but not all the way to infinity. So I finished off with the Hamish Gill approach. You need a jeweller screwdriver and a flat needle file and thats it. If you google Industar 69 and these guys' names you will find what you need. Hope this helps.

agapito27 said...

I have an I-69 and an adapter M39 to nex to which I filed off 1.3mm to reach the infinity, glue them permanently and make it work as it was intended to. I am very happy using it in my NEX 3 and my A6000 for its portability and rendition besides the low replacement price. I don't think it is fair to judge its optical characteristics where the optics were modified in a way which change the distance between groups. This is an easy and popular modification but in my view not the proper one. Filing off 1.3mm is easy enough.

Translucent said...

I had to click "anonymous," because I don't have any of those other things. It's not intentional!

Translucent said...

ah, I see, they call me Translucent . . . !

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