On a day trip to the Murray River towns of Waikerie and Blanchetown, I packed a camera bag (Lowepro Passport Sling) with the following light recording items:

  • Olympus OMD EM5 Micro Four Thirds digital body with an Industar 52mm 2.8 lens (more on this in a moment)
  • Olympus Pen EPM1 with a Pinwide Pinhole lens
  • Superheadz ultra wide angle film camera
  • Praktica MTL5B with a Helios 44-M6 58mm lens

Here was my mistake: I packed the Industar 52mm lens when I meant to pack the Industar 55mm LD lens. Even though both lenses feature only a single glass coating to reduce flare, the LD version sports glass containing Lanthanum, which is a mildly radioactive rare earth element (a very very long half-life means that it is less radioactive than the normal background radiation each of us is exposed to daily) with very good light dispersion properties. As you’ll see, this made a significant difference to the photos.

Here’s the Industar lens I mounted and packed by mistake:

Industar 52mm 2.8 lens on Olympus EM5 body

Industar 52mm 2.8 lens on Olympus EM5 body

The silver body is all aluminium, which is easy and light to carry around for long periods. The aperture ring is stepless, making it good for video enthusiasts; and on the M39 to Micro Four Thirds adapter it focusses up to a little beyond infinity. Being a Rangefinder lens for Soviet film cameras like the FED and the Zorki, it feels well balanced on the smaller Micro Four Thirds digital camera body, but I prefer the look and feel of the all black M39 Jupiter 8 50mm f2 lens.

Lock 1 at Blanchetown, South Australia - Industar 52mm 2.8 lens

Lock 1 at Blanchetown, South Australia – Industar 52mm 2.8 lens

In the photo of Lock 1 above, a potential problem with the Industar lens is clearly evident: flare around strong light sources. I say that it is a potential problem because such flare can be very flattering under the right circumstances. For soft portraits or dreamy looking photos, it might be a desirable quality. Look at a crop from the photo above and you can clearly see the flare:

Crop showing flare from Industar

Crop showing flare from Industar

It’s wise to note that all of the photos were made on the Olympus on the Vivid setting (more saturated colours and increased contrast), and further processed in either Photo Ninja or DXO Optics 10. This additional processing has sharpened them up and mitigated some of the softness and loss of detail and microcontrast from the flare. I suspect that the flare is likely a result of the single coated front glass element, internal reflections, or uncorrected speherical aberration (though of a different quality to the character of the Trioplan lens). Even stopping down to f8 didn’t decrease the amount of glow; and at this aperture on a Micro Four Thirds sensor, diffraction is already creeping in to further soften the image.

Lock 1 at Blanchetown, SA

Lock 1 at Blanchetown, SA

Using the lens into the sun results in very strong flare in the photo above, but with some judicious RAW processing the flare can be used to good effect. This is why the flare and softness of the Industar is only a problem for certain tasks.

Ancient sedimentary strata at Blanchetown cliffs, SA

Ancient sedimentary strata at Blanchetown cliffs, SA

It’s in scenic, architectural and landscape photos that the qualities of this particular lens becomes a drawback. I had to process the above photo in DXO Optics 10 and use the Clearview module to remove the haze produced by the flare. I then had to increase the exposure value to mitigate the effects of the Clearview filter. It’s not an ideal solution, of course.

Whilst I would have preferred to have packed the right lens on this occasion, the Industar 52mm 2.8 does offer some benefits for the right subject matter. It will produce softer and dreamier images under the right conditions if this is what you’re after, but is not ideal for photos where detail and sharpness is of primary concern.

More photos of the Murray environment with the Industar in my next post !

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