In the first post of 2021, I am going to review Industar 50mm f3.5, a tiny wonderful lens from Russia. I admit that even though I have owned this lens for quite some time, I had misunderstood its capability. What did I do wrong?
Continue to see why.
Build and Handling
As always, let’s start with the build first. For such a small ‘pancake’ lens it’s surprisingly sturdy. The main body is made of metal but the focusing ring grip and aperture ring, as well as the lens cap, are made from plastic. In addition, the aperture ring is clickless just like another lens I’ve reviewed before — one feature that I like but might not fit everyone’s taste. The clickless aperture ring though is fantastic to use.
Given its tiny size, it’s easy to imagine someone with large hands will find Industar tricky to focus and control the aperture. Practice will eliminate that problem though so just be patient and try. Also, if you happen to lose the slide-on lens cap guarantee you’ll spend some time finding the right size to replace it since the filter thread size is just 33mm!
Now this area is where I got it wrong from the first time. In the beginning, I tried to adapt this lens on my DSLR with a corrective-lens mount adapter. Big mistake as the quality dropped by a large margin. Then I tried to adapt to my mirrorless Sony a6000. This time the result was better: it’s (quite) sharp in the center with softness all around in the corners. I could use it as-is but it’s nothing amazing so I ended up just giving up and letting this lens collecting dust…
…until early 2020 out of curiosity, I acquired a vintage film camera Fujica ST701 and tried to use Industar on it. I thought that since this lens was originally made for a 35mm camera, so maybe it would fit well. And what do you know, it’s the perfect match.
Suddenly everything makes sense. Industar performs superbly well on a FILM camera because it is a lens from the film era! Mounted on a 35mm camera it yields a stronger result, a certain flavor of the golden days of photography. Sure you might get better results digitally using a much more capable mirrorless camera with in-body stabilization, but I am now convinced Industar is meant to be used only with a film camera.
Even when I messed up the result still looks pretty.
Getting back to film photography is gaining a lot of traction lately. And I’m happy to say Industar 50mm is the perfect lens to ride on the trend. Paired with a vintage 35mm film camera, this lens will be the best traveling companion you’ll ever have. So small it snuggly fits in your pocket for a quick shutter chance.
Final score: 9/10 (if mounted on a film camera, less than 6/10 on digital)
Now go on, get this cheap lens, and see for yourself!
More photo samples below, taken with my Fujica: