While photographers who have used Helios lenses for years scoffed at the pricing of the Lomography 50mm f1.5, they didn’t take a lot of the new factors into consideration. This lens has an absolutely incredible build quality, smooth clickless aperture, absolutely wonderful colors, and it includes an adapter for Leica M cameras.
This lens is a manual focus optic with an f1.5 aperture, a small body size, and rangefinder coupling. If I haven’t said it enough already, it also has some of the absolute best build quality I’ve felt in years from a modern lens.
It’s fun–and for sure an excellent portrait lens. Despite its great image quality and fun uses, I’m still not sure that it’s a lens for everyone; much like most of Lomo’s products.
Pros and Cons
- Some of the best build quality I’ve felt from a modern lens
- M mount and M39 screw mount options
- Nice little case that it comes with
- Very smooth and beautiful bokeh.
- Sharp when stopped down, though not so much when shooting wide open.
- Fun to use.
- Overall can offer a very beautiful look that isn’t overly contrasty. If you like Canon L glass or Panasonic lenses, it renders a look similar to that. If you crave the contrast of Sigma, Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus glass then you’ll need to do a bit more post-production to get it.
- While still fairly sharp, not the sharpest lens overall when comparing to other 50mm f1.4 lenses. You’re probably best off not pixel peeping with this lens and instead enjoying it for what it’s capable of.
- Clickless aperture is nice for video, but not necessarily for the photographer trying to shoot street and make adjustments just by feeling the clicks of the lens aperture and counting accordingly.
Specs taken from the Lomography listing page.
- Focal Length: 50mm
- Aperture: f/1.5 – f/22
- Lens Mount: L39, includes Leica M-mount adapter
- M-mount Adapter Frame Line Triggering: 50mm frame line
- Rangefinder Coupling: Yes
- Minimum image circle: 44mm
- Field of view: 46 degrees
- Flange distance: 28.8mm (L39 mount) 27.8mm (M mount)
- Closest Focusing Distance: 0.7m
- Filter Thread Requirement: 40.5mm
- Lens Construction: 7 elements in 3 groups
The Lomography Jupiter 3+ 50mm f1.5 lens was tested with the Sony a7.
The Lomography Jupiter 3+ Art lens is a beautiful little optic that reminds me of, well, many of the older ones. Zeiss used to produce lenses that looks just like this, and in fact, I still own one. The Jupiter 3+ has been given a modern update though: one of which includes a beautiful metal finish. There are two rings: one for aperture control and the other for focus. Behind all of this is a depth of field scale that works in conjunction with the distance scale.
This lens is natively M39 screwmount: which the old Voigtlander Bessa R was and a bunch of other cameras too. It comes with an M mount adapter and to put it onto my Sony a7 I used an M to FE mount adapter.
The front of the lens has a 40.5mm filter thread. A bit unusual, but keep that in mind if you’re using film and need to have a special color filter.
When mounted to the camera, it functions much like many other manual focus lenses. The silver color can be quite the contrast and may also kind of scream out in the world “Look at me! I’m a camera!”
Make no mistake, this lens is very, very well built. The rings are easy to turn and may be a bit too smooth for my liking. A focusing tab kind of what Leica has on their lenses would have been an excellent addition. This lens is also small, lightweight, and if anything will suit a rangefinder style camera body better. By that I’m talking about Leica rangefinders, Zeiss rangefinders, Voigtlander rangefinders, the Panasonic GX7, the Olympus Pen F, etc.
Ease of Use
Because this is a manual focus lens, many may struggle with it. Focus peaking is a godsend when working with a lens like this. However, the best experience is delivered by pairing it with a proper rangefinder camera.
It helps to use the depth of field scale when doing street and architectural photography as well. With Sony’s FE mount system, I’ve never felt that the focus peaking was all perfectly accurate. But with APS-C sensors and Micro Four Thirds sensors, it’s generally much better.
As spoken about before, focusing with this lens is done manually. Sure, there are adapters to give Leica lenses autofocus, but most people may not get those. Turning on focus peaking with an a7 and checking the magnification is a must when shooting wide open. Stopped down a bit, you’ll get results that are obvious more in focus.
But generally speaking, you’ll want to be slow and take your time with this lens.
Overall image quality from the Lomography Jupiter 3+ is really good. It can surely hold its own with many of the more modern lenses out there. I mostly recommend it for portraits and the occasional landscape. That means that if you’re using it with film, then get ready to load up some Portra. However, the coloring from this lens tends to be a bit muted. In fact, when attached to a Sony a7, it even made the vivid color mode look muted.
That’s quite a feat!
So to that end, it may also work well with Kodak Ektar.
The best sharpness from this lens isn’t rendered wide open. In fact, it’s moderately soft wide open and doesn’t really start to get super good until around f3.5. To be fair, I’ve embraced that as part of the look and charm that this lens offers.
Yup! Yup! Yup!
It’s beautiful. In fact, I’d vehemently argue that it’s some of the best out there. Sigma is good, so is Zeiss; but for the price point you’re not beating the Lomography Jupiter 3+ 50mm f1.5. If you’re a bokeh fiend and love shooting portraits, then this surely is a lens for you.
As stated before, the colors can be rather muted in practice. For the Kodak Portra lovers, that’s fine. But the landscape lovers, you’ll need to bring a lot of that back in post-production. In some ways I’m okay with it because I post-process everything anyway. But my favorite color rendition is more akin to Kodak Ektar and Kodak Ektachrome (now gone).
The purple in this scene isn’t as bad as it seems. If you look closely, you’ll see its rather controlled but it’s just from a candle behind it. Below is the original image.
As you can see in the unedited version above, the purple is less pronounced. You can still see it, but it’s also easily removed via post-production. And as I always say: stop complaining about something and act.
Extra Image Samples
- Beautiful bokeh
- Excellent build quality
- Focusing tab would’ve been nice
The Lomography Jupiter 3+ Art lens 50mm f1.5 is fun. In the right hands and with the right editor or film, it can be a wonderful image making device. It has a solid build quality and beautiful bokeh. In fact, I’d be amazed if it doesn’t take home more awards based on just that fact. The people who will make the most of this lens are rangefinder shooters that do portraiture and some street shooters. It’s probably one of the better lenses designed for analogue life out there that has come out recently.
But it also has a couple of things going against it. A focusing tab would have been a nice addition and the lack of a clicked aperture is a downside for photography but a great one for video. In 2016, most photographers aren’t okay with lots of sharpness when shooting wide open. To be honest, I don’t blame them. But that’s not to necessarily discount the look that this lens offers: however, when yo combine a lack of wide open sharpness with little contrast then you’ve got an image that looks delightfully analogue but also still not very sharp otherwise. Generally, lenses these days have one or the other as they can often offset the overall look and at least fool the eye into thinking that it’s sharper than it is.
The Lomography Jupiter 3+ 50mm f1.5 Art Lens receives four out of five stars. In the right hands, it will truly be appreciated; though most of those hands may belong to videographers. Want one? Check out Lomography for pricing.
Voigtlander Bessa R: A weird pick, right? I’m selecting this camera because it’s relatively affordable, built like a tank, takes screwmount lenses natively, and has excellent ergonomics. I’ve used it to create some of my favorite images before moving on from it and donating it to a friend who desperately needed it more than I did.
Sure, you can use an M mount and use the lens with a Leica if you want; but if you’re just going for a solid rangefinder experience then you don’t necessarily need a Leica. Leicas are surely at the top of the game when it comes to rangefinders, but Voigtlander produced some that are also worth mentioning.