The Curious Jupiter 12 | Colton Allen

As there numerous reviews out there (both good and bad) of the Soviet made Jupiter-12 lens, I thought I might share some of the experiences I’ve had with mine, instead of trying to do a more technical lens review.

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About 5 years ago, on a whim, I bought a beautiful 1957 Zorki 4 rangefinder. At the time (and still now) I prefer using a 35mm focal length over the more common 50mm. I had read some good things about the Jupiter-12 35/2.8, so within a few months of buying the Zorki, I started looking for a L39 (Leica Thread Mount) copy of the Soviet made Zeiss Biogon copy.

Rightly or wrongly, Soviet made camera equipment has received very mixed opinions. More often than not, it doesn’t enjoy a great reputation. People will often refer to buying Soviet made camera gear as playing “Russian Roulette”. I may just be lucky, but my experiences have all been generally positive. Shortly after I started my search, I found a rather sad looking 1956 KMZ made silver Jupiter-12, but the seller was in the US (which meant quicker shipping and easier returns) and the listing claimed it was working well. I decided to buy it, and within a week I was out shooting a test roll with it. Initially, I have to admit that I was rather underwhelmed with the lens, and my early results weren’t that good. The lens seemed to work okay, I just didn’t really like what I got from it. I really think that it takes 3 or 4 rolls of film, and a bit of time to get comfortable with a new lens or camera before it starts to gel with you. At the time though, I hadn’t really gotten into using rangefinder cameras, and so the Zorki and Jupiter-12 sat in my camera cabinet, unused for a few years.

In the fall of 2017, I pulled the Zorki out (see my article here) and started using it again. This time, the camera and the Jupiter-12 just clicked with me, and I started getting results I was really happy with. All throughout 2018, the Jupiter-12 was nearly my most used lens, and I made some of my best photos with it.

Physically, the Jupiter-12 is a strange lens. As mentioned above, it’s a copy of the prewar Zeiss Biogon 3.5cm f/2.8, which is a non-retrofocus wide-angle lens. Because of non-retrofocus design, the front element is fairly small and sits deep within the lens barrel, while the rear element is rather large and protrudes way out the back of the lens. The rear element comes out so far that there are some cameras (some Voigtlander Bessa R series cameras) you can’t use the lens on because the rear element will impede the shutter curtains. Some of the Canon rangefinder cameras have light baffles inside the lens mount that the Jupiter-12 will run into if mounted. Another quirk with the Jupiter-12 is that the aperture is adjusted by turning the filter thread and the aperture values are marked on the inside front near the front element.

The Jupiter-12 was made in both L39 mount and Kiev/Contax mount. Optically they are (I believe) the same. The Kiev/Contax mount version should fit all Kiev rangefinder cameras, but I think will not fit the postwar Contax cameras. I believe the Kiev mount Jupiter-12 will also fit some of the Nikon rangefinder cameras, but the lens mount might scratch the front of the camera when it’s mounted.

If you’re using a Leica screwmount camera (or even a Leica M body) and you’re looking for an affordable 35mm lens, I highly recommend finding yourself a Jupiter-12.

This photograph, and the previous 4, were made with the Canon 7 and Jupiter 12

This photograph, and the previous 4, were made with the Canon 7 and Jupiter 12


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Film photographer, Colton Allen is based in Oregon. Connect with him on Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook. You can also see more of his work right here on our website.

Impossible I-1 First Impressions as a Landscape Photographer | Russel Jones-Davies

First of all, let me say that I am by no means suggesting I know everything about this camera as I have only used it once, but I wanted to give my first impressions as someone who mainly shoots landscapes.  I say this because when researching about the camera I noticed a distinct lack of landscape based Polaroid images in comparison to portraits or cityscapes.  I half guessed that Polaroids are a little more difficult to get a good landscape images out of or the cameras themselves weren’t the best to use in this scenario.  Either way I still fancied giving it a go and seeing what I could get out of one.  As a relative ‘newby’ - I could be wrong about this and there are indeed some great Polaroid/instant landscape photographers out there – I will endeavour to find more.

Why the I-1?

I’d been looking at a variety of cameras, particularly the vintage and SX-70, but ended up settling on the I-1 for a few different reasons.  The first reason – price.  I know this was one of the cameras biggest negatives on release but with the release of the One Step 2 and change to Polaroid Originals the camera had come down to £125. Pretty cheap for quite a feature packed, modern camera.

The second reason I chose the camera was for its accompanying app which allowed full manual control.  As someone who spends quite a lot of time double checking exposures and using a spot meter I quite liked the idea I could choose the settings rather than the camera. This worked out quite well on one of my first shots which I will explain a little later.

The final reason I chose it was because I wanted something reliable. I loved the idea of an SX-70 but I kept reading that they could be finicky and a pain to fix and with instant photography not being my main ‘thing’ I didn’t want to be fussing around fixing a camera more than shooting it: especially when the film is dear enough anyway!

I know by shooting with a tripod and using a lightmeter I may go against the grain of what a Polaroid purist is about but I chose to enjoy it this way and it gave me the effect I wanted.  I did shoot a handheld image, which was an incredibly easy process and produced a sharper result than I expected.

First use

I charged the camera up the previous night as I knew there was a 2-hour charge time waiting for me.  I’ve not used it enough for this to be annoying but from what I hear battery life can be something of a nuisance; I already rinsed half the battery on the first use.

Other than that, everything was a breeze: connecting the camera to the app; loading the film; controlling the exposure and turning off the flash.  I was relieved it was simple, as the day I was shooting was cold and I didn’t fancy anything fiddly without gloves on! I have used the camera on a tripod today as I wanted to give it the best opportunity to get good photos; the sky was quite overcast so I knew shutter speeds could be quite slow.
 

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I can’t count how many times I have walked past this spot, but to me it screamed ‘Polaroid!’, so I pre-visualised what I wanted.  I metered using my incident meter and went with the closest settings on the app of f/17 and 1/56th shutter.  I assumed my highlights would be blown as the ground was noticeably darker and I wasn’t disappointed. For me, this is what Polaroids look like – they aren’t perfect. 

I won’t go through each image I took but I did notice the field of view on the camera is surprisingly large and on the shot with the tyre swing I really should have been in closer. This helped with subsequent images where I would be significantly closer than I anticipated. This is not a flaw of the camera but just the sign of using something new.  I liked the broad view it gave as it could fit a reasonable viewpoint into each image rather than it being an aggressive crop each time.

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The other shot I want to talk about is one that explained a lot about the cameras style of metering and from other landscape Polaroids I’ve seen, why a lot of the images have funky exposures with dark foregrounds.

I knew straight away this would be a stretch for the Polaroid to capture and I assumed the sky would be blown again but I figured that would look kind of cool.  I took my incident meter reading and got 0.4” with f/64 (I wanted to smooth the little river a bit). That seemed about right given the film speed so I set about loading that into the app – it really disagreed.  Based on the phone camera preview it wanted me to set it at around 1/30th second instead.  I realised the metering mode it must use is most likely a centre weighted or general average type meter. I stuck with my gut instinct and went for the slower reading.  I’m glad I did as It gave me the detail where I wanted and not just loads of clouds.

Overall

Overall I had an absolute blast with this camera and I can’t wait to use it a little more.  The viewfinder is quite annoying and feels almost useless as the dot obstructs so much but it’s liveable and my images came out how I imagined they would (framing wise).

The camera is lightweight, compact and I personally love the design as it is a little more modern and quirky.  I think I’ll enjoy the unique style and effect Polaroid can give as sometimes landscape images can look a little generic and similar to each other.


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Film photographer Russell Jones-Davies is based in the UK.  See more of his work on his website, Instagram, and on Facebook.