Feb 212012
 

One of the advantages of mirrorless Micro Four-Thirds cameras is that you can find adapters to attach just about any brand of old manual focus lens.  I have some very old Russian M39 mount lenses literally gathering dust in the basement and wondered how well they might work on my Olympus Pen E-P3.  Russian lenses are known for decent optics, but also for dodgy mechanical construction and shoddy workmanship.  The two Soviet-era Industar brand M39 mount lenses I own manifest these mixed qualities.  Similar lenses can be purchased between $25 and $50 in working condition on Ebay.

I ordered an M39 to Micro Four-Thirds adapter from Amazon and it arrived last week.   The M39 thread mount was used on older Leica rangefinder cameras and it is easy to find used M39 lenses on the internet. So, this adapter can be used for a lot more than just cheap Russian glass.  Leica glass is out of my price range, however, the Japanese made M39 lenses to compete with Leica on price.  Those used Japanese copies of Leica lenses are affordable and reputed to be of excellent quality.

What I really wanted to know is just what kinds of effects these aging Russian lenses would produce on a good camera.  One of the lenses comes from a Russian Fed 3 camera I bought on Ebay a several years ago for around $30.  I suspect this camera was made during the 1960’s and my copy never quite worked, but it I bought it mainly for decoration and as a conversation piece.

I took some photos this weekend to show the similarities between the two camera systems.  When put side by side, you can see just how much the Olympus E-P3’s design harkens back to the days of classic range finders.

These old Industar lenses seem right at home on the E-P3, but I needed to do some work before taking any pictures.  The Russian lenses were dirty from years of dust gathering and needed a good cleaning.   The silver coloured Industar 50mm lens required some minor repairs.  The focus ring was so stiff that it was unusable.  With a little bit of work and some WD-40, I was able to loosen the focus mechanism and now it is very smooth.  I would never think of using WD-40 on a really good lens, but this Russian lens is worth less than a premium T-bone steak.  The black colored Industar 61 has some rough spots in the focusing mechanism, but it can still be used as is.  The Industar lenses are relatively heavy compared to modern micro four thirds optics, but they balance well on the E-P3.

I took a few quick shots around the house this weekend using the Industar lenses.  I was somewhat disappointed, because they actually performed quite well!  Actually, I was hoping for some  weird optics, vignetting and selective focus effects.   Much to my chagrin, both lenses proved to be quite sharp with good colour.  I will take a few more photos with these lenses and post them here.

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