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.
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 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.
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|