Problem Child- the Jupiter 12 lens

shoot-248I don’t often do lens reviews. Mostly, I don’t have the temperament for them. I’m not going to shoot with one at various f stops and focus depths and then scan the result at some absurd resolution and crop it down and then pixel peep. I don’t write about lines of resolution or falloff or opine about coatings. I don’t base my lens choices on any of that. I don’t live in a lab, I live in the real world, so I base whether or not a lens is a good choice for me on two criteria: does it deliver what I want, and how expensive is it? The Jupiter 12 nails the latter, but the former is hit or miss.

This lens has the typical Soviet back story. The equipment that was used to make it was dissembled in Germany after World War II and relocated to the Soviet Union. It was designed for use on a Contax mount camera and converted to the Leica M39 mount later. The original Biogon Zeiss formula design predates WWII, and is a retro focus design. That element of the design leaves the Jupiter 12 with an unusual appearance and limits the selection of camera bodies it will actually fit on.

shoot-247That bulbous rear element protrudes pretty far back in to a camera body. While this isn’t a problem on the Soviet rangefinders it was originally used on, it does preclude using it on other cameras. For instance, this lens will not fit any Voightlander Bessa rangefinder. The rear element pushes in to the shutter curtain when mounted, which can damage the lens, camera or both. As for screw-mount Leicas, I have heard anecdotal evidence both ways. Likewise, it will not always mount on Canon screw-mount cameras. Some examples will hit the baffles on the sides in front of the shutter or the shutter itself, and some will not. It just depends on the “quality control” that was used that day.

My copy fits my Canon 7. I won the QC lottery. I like shooting with a 35mm focal length. It gets you closer to the subject and brings enough of the background in to the image. I tend to shoot with a 35 more often than any other lens. So do I like shooting with this lens? Well, sort of.

One of the most famous flaws of the Jupiter 12 is its’ lens flare. As in, it has a lot. When I looked at the lens I noted how recessed it was and figured it wouldn’t need a lens shade. Well, I was wrong. It flares, a lot. I shot most of a brick of film shooting with it on the Zorki 4K and the Canon 7 trying to get the hang of it. And if you are careful to shoot with your back to the sun, or stand in the shade, it does pretty well. Otherwise, though, it’s a crap shoot.

Typical lens flare
Typical lens flare

I tried using a supplemental lens shade and that does help a little. It’s been suggested that perhaps my copy has lost some of the black paint on the sides of that huge rear element and that’s contributing to the flare. I will attack it with some paint next and see if that theory has any credence.

I don’t mind putting some effort in to it, as it delivers pretty well on black and white when it resists flaring. And it only set me back $80 or so. I suppose I’ll keep tinkering with it until I get something better.

One Comment

  1. John Osterholn
    April 9, 2019

    I found your article to be exactly what I experienced with my 1953 Jupiter 12. The images are sharp enough when stopped down a bit. I use three Canon rangefinders, IVsb2, L1 and a 7s all with features that make them better than similar Leica screw mount cameras

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