A subjective look at Jupiter-9 2/85 M42 @ Fujifilm X-Pro1

Jupiter-9 is a fast full-frame manual focus portrait prime lens which belongs to Soviet Jupiter family of lenses. Initially it was named ZK-86 («Sonnar of Krasnogorsk», 85 mm), was manufactured since 1948 and exists in variations for the rangefinder cameras Kiev and Zorki. Design and technological documentation on Carl Zeiss Sonnar lenses as well as the manufacturing equipment were transported to Krasnogorsk as the reparations after the World War II. The lens was manufactured by KMZ (Krasnogorskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod) as M39 silver version, LZOS (Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory) as silver and black M39, M42 and adapter ring versions, Arsenal as bayonet version for Kiev rangefinder cameras and Progress as Jupiter-9-avtomat. The multi-coated version exists since 1985. The lens was discontinued at early 1990-s.

Jupiter-9 2/85

The reviewed copy of Jupiter-9 has M42 thread mount and was manufactured at LZOS as indicated by a special symbol on the housing near the front element. There is no MC abbreviation so the lens was produced before 1985 but but not earlier than 1970. The maximum aperture of the lens is F/2 and the focal length is 85 mm. For this review the lens was used with the Fujifilm X-Pro1 camera with a crop factor of 1.53 and the effective focal length of the lens «became» 130 mm (full-frame equivalent). The lens was used via M42 — Fuji X adapter without chip. There was no focus confirmation, but the metering was performed by the camera automatically in the stop-down mode. All you have to do is just to select the desired aperture and rotate the manual focus ring until you have your subject sharp in the EVF or LCD in Live View mode.


Build Quality and Characteristics

Overall the build quality is excellent. The black housing is completely made ​​of metal, including thread mount, has a moderate weight of 360 g and a length of 55 mm (when focused on the infinity; not including the caps). The weight of the lens is comparable with the Nikkor AF 85mm F/1.8D (380 g) and and even less than that of the plastic but autofocus Canon 85mm F/1.8 USM (425 g).

Jupiter-9 2/85
Jupiter-9 2/85

The manual focusing ring is located in the central part of the housing, has width of 14 mm, well damped and has no play but rotates with excessive resistance. The condition of various control elements of the lens depends on the year of manufacture and the level of preservation of a particular lens. The angle of rotation of the ring is 280 degrees and is sufficient to provide very accurate focusing. The front element is pushed forward only by 12 mm when focusing on the minimum distance of 0.80 m. It is interesting that the manual focusing ring could be rotated behind the minimum focusing distance. Anyway it’s just a design flaw and nothing else.

Jupiter-9 2/85

The preset aperture ring has width of 6 mm, located at the front part of the housing, has the following marks from above: 2 – 2.8 – 4 – 5.6 – 8 – 11 – 16. Interestingly the intervals between the marks are different: the interval between 2 and 2.8 is the largest, between 2.8 and 4 becomes smaller, between 4 and 5.6 even smaller and 5.6, 8, 11 and 16 marks are located very close to each other. The diaphragm of the lens is of course of iris type and has 15 blades thereby the aperture always retains the circular shape.

The aperture ring is located below the preset aperture ring and has a width of only 4 mm. It rotates smoothly and steplessly between F/2 and the pre-set aperture. You have to wide open the aperture in order to select a bigger pre-set aperture. Unfortunately the ring is located literally right next to the manual focusing ring and during the shooting you will often start to rotate the aperture ring instead of manual focusing ring. And this is despite the fact that the designers of the lens tried to make the aperture ring slightly smaller in diameter than the manual focusing ring. As a result the manual focusing sometimes could result in spoiled images. Furthermore the situation becomes complicates due to the fact that you can sometimes forget to close the aperture by the corresponding ring and take the photo for example at F/2 instead of F/8. Therefore for me personally such method of closing of the aperture is inconvenient because it is not possible to control the aperture simply and efficiently by performing a minimum of actions. On the other hand when used with modern digital cameras with Live View feature and/or EVF such method of aperture control has its advantages — the photographer can effectively choose the desired depth of field.

Given the dense arrangement of rings on the lens barrel and their small width and in contrast — a wide distance scale with large marks, in terms of ergonomics the lens in my opinion looks mediocre. My impression is that the designers of the lens had almost no interest in arragement of the lens control, the main thing was just to ensure their availability. I am pretty sure it was really possible to to increase the length of the body and spread the rings far apart from each other so after that they could allow you the adjust the certain parameters of the lens intuitively, by feel and touch. The distance scale could be located in the central part of the housing and and it could be served as a natural separator between, say, the manual focus ring and the aperture ring. It is possible, theoretically, that the compact body and badly arranged narrow control rings indicate the desire of the manufacturer to save on materials and reduce the cost of the production…

Optically the lens consists of 7 elements in 3 groups and is based on Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar 85mm F/2 for the rangefinder cameras.

The diameter of the filter thread is 49 mm — a common size even for modern autofocus lenses. The filter thread does not rotate when focusing, making it easy to use polarizing and gradient filters. No filters were used during shooting for this review.


Optical Results

Wide open the lens is soft and the overall contrast is lowered. Accurate focusing wide open is difficult not only because of the narrow depth of field but because it’s very hard to find a position on the distance scale where the image in the frame becomes sharp when looking through the viewfinder. The sharpness and overall contrast increase a bit at F/2.8 but still leave much to be desired. More or less acceptable results start at F/4 and at F/8 the Jupiter-9 is very sharp as almost any lens a such aperture. The edges of the APS-C frame are soft at F/2-2.8 but the sharpness grows with further closing of the aperture and does not lag behind the center of the frame.

Vignetting is not noticeable with APS-C sensor, the same goes to distortion and lateral chromatic aberration.

The quality of the bokeh is very good. The background blur is very soft and creamy. The degree of blurring, however, also depends on the distance between the front element of the lens and the subject, the distance between the subject and the background. The out-of-focus highlights are round at any aperture.

The longitudinal chromatic aberrations (colored halos in front of the focus point and in the background) are visible wide open, become less visible with further closing of the aperture and don’t cause any problems at F/5.6.


Summary

If you want to get the best results with this lens the aperture should be closed at least to F/4 (but F/5.6 will be better) — you’ll get the pleasant background blur and the out-of-focus highlights will remain circular. However most modern AF 85mm F/1.8 portrait primes are already usable wide open and don’t exhibit any soft effect so the Jupiter-9 won’t be the right choice for the portrait shooting. The ergonomics of the lens is average at best: the control rings are located very close to each other, the preset aperture control is archaic and takes some time to get used to. The Jupiter-9 is cheap like dirt but all in all I can’t recommend it, sorry.

Author of the review and photos: Evgeny Artemov, eugene.artemov@mail.ru

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