Beautiful and Affordable: 7 Vintage Soviet Lenses to Adapt to Your Camera

If you want to get the authentic vintage look for your digital snaps, these beautiful and budget-friendly vintage Soviet lenses are your best bet.

The dreamy look of retro photography continues to be a popular aesthetic even for digital photography, and nothing is better than achieving it using the real deal. Vintage Soviet lenses make great options for adapting to your digital cameras because there’s still a fair number of them available for cheap. To help you make the best choices, we’ve done a bit of looking around for some vintage Soviet lenses to score today.

Before we get to our list, we also thought it would be great to share some noteworthy facts about these vintage Soviet lenses. Indie Film Hustle reminds us that these were copies of Carl Zeiss lenses. Following Germany‘s defeat in World War II, Russia sought the designs and equipment of Carl Zeiss plants as part of reparations. This led to much cheaper Soviet lenses based on the German optics company’s originals. While the knock offs aren’t the same as the Zeiss lenses, their provenance explains why they are still surprisingly good.

Helios-40-2 85mm F1.5

Photo from the eBay listing by fotofilmcam

A “cult” lens made by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Works (KMZ) from the mid-1950s to early 1990s, Bob Atkins tells us that the Helios 40-2 85mm f1.5 was based on the Carl Zeiss Biotar design. That makes it essentially a double Gauss lens, which is typically used for fast semi-wide to short telephoto lenses. It has a M42 mount instead of the original M39. While still relatively costly, the Helios 40-2 85mm f1.5, it has become sought after for the swirly bokeh effect it creates when shot wide open for portraits.

Check out our Helios 40-2 85mm f1.5 review, for our in-depth experience on this lens using Nikon D700, D90, and Sony A7 with a Metabones adapter.

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Helios-44-2 58mm f2

Photo from the eBay listing by helioslens

Like the Helios 40-2 85mm, the Helios 44-2 58mm f2 also has the Carl Zeiss Biotar as the basis for its design. There are several different versions of the Helios 44 58mm lens, but your best option is the M42 mount Helios 44-2 since adapters are readily available for various mounts. This lens is also known for its swirly bokeh and flare, which could be of interest to you if you’re looking to add some whimsical retro effects to your snaps. If you tend to shoot with normal lenses more, this could be your option instead of the Helios 40-2 85mm f1.5. This lens also has a clickless aperture which could be a plus for you if you also do a bit of filmmaking on the side.

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Industar-61 L/D 55mm f2.8

Photo from the eBay listing by artemstore

The Industar-61 L/D 55mm f2.8 was the kit lens for FED rangefinder cameras, but Josh Solomon also reminds us that the FED-5b was its Leica knockoff of choice. While still based on the old Zeiss Tessar design, this M39 lens also came with some notable improvements. It features lanthanum glass elements which give it a higher refractive index for improved resolution and sharpness. With its optical performance making up for its rather unimpressive build standard, this cheap lens has become a Soviet lens favorite, especially among mirrorless camera users.

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Jupiter-9 85mm f2

Photo from the eBay listing by vega8plyus-0

Another interesting 85mm on our list of noteworthy vintage Soviet lenses, the Jupiter-9 85mm f2 is a Soviet copy of the pre-war Carl Zeiss Sonnar 85mm f2 lens. This compact and fast portrait lens in M42 mount is compatible with vintage cameras as well as DSLRs and mirrorless systems, making it a great vintage lens for hybrid photographers and content creators. According to Soviet Camera Store, its aperture stops are set without clicks, making it great for videography as well. Like the Helios 40-2 85mm f1.5, what made it particularly sought after is its smooth, and pleasing bokeh, made possible by its 15 curved blades. If you’re comfortable with your manual focusing and tend to do a lot of low light photography and retro-styled portraits, this could very well be worth your consideration.

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Mir-1 37mm f2.8

Photo from the eBay listing by viktoria_snigur

Another lens from KMZ (and other Soviet factories later), Mir-1 37mm f2.8 was based on the Pentacon Flektogon 1 lens of the same focal length and aperture. According to camera-wiki.org, the first model was made for the early Zenit 35mm SLR cameras in M39 mount. It features a pre-set aperture control between f2.8 and f16. Several other Mir-1 models include the M42 mount Mir-1B, which is the most common, and the T-mount Mir-1A, which can be adapted to several mounts using thread adapters. Both black-bodied models are top choices if you’re particular about matching your lens with a black camera body. Take note, however, that this lens is prone to flare so a hood is advised for outdoor use.

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Mir-10A 28mm f3.5

Photo from the eBay listing by grizzly33bear

While not as well-known as the other lenses mentioned here, the Mir-10A 28mm f3.5 is still a very unique and rather rare glass worthy of adding to your collection. According to All Photo Lenses, this KMZ-made lens was designed for M39 and M42 mount SLR cameras and features the A-adapter changeable rear part. Some of the notable features of this lens listed by Iron Glass Adapters include 0.20m closest focusing distance, a “sheriff star” bokeh when shot wide open, minimal distortion, and a 3-dimensional feel.

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Arsat H PCS 35mm f2.8

Photo from the eBay listing by magicperi2014

Last but definitely not least is the Ukraine-made Arsat H PCS 35mm f2.8, the only perspective control shift lens ever to come out from the Soviet Union. It was originally created for the 35mm Kiev SLR cameras with the Nikon bayonet. According to Soviet Camera Store, this multi-coated Nikon mount lens has an 11 mm shift and 360-degree rotating plate capabilities, which allow for correction of perspective distortion. Pair these features with the angle of view provided by the 35mm focal length, and you have a nice vintage lens ideal for photographing architecture and interiors.

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