After several years of shooting the FED-2 exclusively with 50mm lenses (first the Industar-26, then the Jupiter-8), I thought it was about time I started exploring some of the other options. There are several Soviet Leica Thread Mount (LTM, sometimes also called Leica Screw Mount or M39) lenses that are fairly common and not expensive, covering a range of focal lengths from 35 to 135mm. Most are copies of pre-war and wartime German designs, appropriated after the war as reparations and taken back to Mother Russia, along with the machinery and many of the technicians. Soviet workmanship in general does not enjoy a stellar reputation, but their optics on the whole are considered to be quite good.
There are, of course, some potential complications. Some of the lenses are not ideal fits for certain camera bodies. The sort of quality control that one gets in a failing command economy driven by workers from a culture with a relatively fatalistic outlook to begin with means that functionality is likely to be closer to marginally serviceable than perfect. And on a simpler note, there is the question of the viewfinder, which on the FED-2, like most Soviet Leica derivatives, is designed for the field of view of 50mm lenses.
The last problem is the easiest to address. In my case, it was resolved by the gift from my girlfriend of a vintage Steinheil turret viewfinder (yes, she’s a keeper). This clever device has separate optics that provide the views corresponding to 35, 85/90, and 135mm lenses, along with a parallax adjustment. Mounting in the cold shoe of the camera body, one simply uses the camera’s rangefinder to focus the lens, then moves up to the viewfinder to compose the shot.
The lens I acquired is a Jupiter-12, a 35mm f/2.8 wide angle unit, the design of which is based on the pre-war Zeiss Biogon. It’s quite a compact lens, mostly because the rear element extends deep into the camera body, so deep that it won’t fit some LTM models and requires careful handling to avoid damaging the glass. The advantage is that the front element is deeply recessed and the body of the lens forms an integral hood, making for a very compact package.
Turns out the integral hood aspect of the Jupiter-12 may be a bit overstated; in my first use, I saw a lot more flare than I would like. A proper hood will be added to see if this tendency can be limited, and I’ll go back over the lens to make sure it’s as clean as can be. Other than that, however, the lens did pretty well. I’ll need to shoot some more with it to make a more definitive judgement, but from what I’ve seen so far it’s got potential.
Since I’ve got the finder capability for 85/90 and 135mm lens, it seems only natural that my next acquisitions for this camera are likely to fall into those categories. But that’s not going to happen right now. I still haven’t broken in the Jupiter-12 yet, and my shelves are getting full.