This post tells the story of how I discovered that vintage lenses, designed for rangefinder cameras in the 1960s, can be put to renewed use with some of the modern mirror-less cameras. In this particular case the lens in question is the Industar 61 which was supplied as a standard lens on some models of Fed camera. First some pictures of the lens itself.
Industar 61 general Images
Industar 61 Description
The recent acquisition of a Sony NEX 6 has opened a variety of options for me on the lens front. Because the NEX camera has such a short distance from the sensor to the lens mount it's possible to adapt it to take a variety of lenses. Couple this with the focus peaking, which makes it much easier to manually focus, and you have the ideal camera for trying out lots of different lenses.
I have already tried a Jupiter 8 lens on my NEX, which I took from a Zorki 4k my Dad gave me, and I've been looking around for other M39 soviet lenses to try as well. The problem is, I think a lot of people have the same idea, because the price of the popular lenses seems to have risen quite a bit over the last few months. They are still good value if you find a good copy, but we are talking about kit which has been around for up to 50 years and so could have had any sort of treatment. I don't mind paying £40 for a good lens, but don't want to pay that sort of price and then throw the lens away.
I was looking on e-bay to see what was available when I found a Fed 4 for sale which was marked as, 'viewfinder cloudy, self-timer lever missing', and had no bids. The Fed 4 has a m39 lens fitted - an Industar 61 which has a reasonable reputation, so I waited until 1 minute before the auction finished and tried a £5 bid. No one else seemed interested (or they weren't quick enough) and I won the auction for £4.99 + £3.00 postage. So yesterday I took delivery of a type 2 Fed 4 dated somewhere between 1969 & 1980.
The first thing I did was remove the lens and have a look at the general condition. The aperture ring is a click stop adjustment moving from f/2.8 to f/16. This seemed to move well and the aperture blades themselves seem to slide over each other without any problems.
The focus ring was a different story, however. It turned, but it wasn't at all free, sometimes moving tightly and then suddenly jumping forward a few degrees. After a bit of internet research it seems this is a common problem caused by the grease used to lubricate the focus mechanism turning into a sort of waxy solid over time.
At this point I thought I had probably wasted a few pounds because it really wouldn't be worth having the lens professionally repaired. However, a bit of further research came up with Matt's Classic Cameras and I found instructions there on cleaning and re-greasing the Industar 61.
This looked a bit scary at first, but I thought 'what's the worst that could happen?' and decided to give it a go. Turns out these lenses are really not too difficult to work on. The most difficult part of the procedure was the removal of one of the screws which forms a stop for the focus adjustment. This screw was beneath the depth of field scale and I could only just get a screwdriver on half the screw head. I didn't want to take the top off the screw, but with a series of careful half turns I got it free. Once that hurdle was over it only took about an hour to have the lens stripped down, cleaned, re-greased and re-assembled ready to go.
There are a few minor scratches on the front element of the lens and on closer inspection it looks a bit dirty, so I don't know what effect that will have on the quality of the images it produces. I'll need to take a few pictures to find that out.
So now I have a fully functioning 50 mm f/2.8 manual lens to try out. If it turns out that the lens is too dirty or scratched to be of any use I will only have lost a few pounds, and it may turn out to be a nice lens.
I'll post some pictures once I have a few taken.
I've been out and taken a few pictures with this lens, so I'm posting the results as promised. These are all shot in raw and processed in Lightroom in exactly the same way I do all my photos. In this case however there are no lens corrections applied.
Industar 61 sample pictures
So overall I think this is a pretty good lens for about £8! There are some obvious problems when shooting directly into the sun - presumably caused by the small scratches in the front element, but if you take that into account and shade the lens it quite nice.
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