If you are looking for a razor sharp 135mm even at full aperture, then have a look to the JUPITER 37A. It is one of the best (or the best) portrait lens I have tested
During the film era, the 135mm f/2.8 was a must have (like the 50mm f/1.7 was the kit-lens). Some of them are famous and you are certain to have a good lens. But they are kite expensive for manual focus lenses due to the hype on brands like ZEISS, SUPER TAKUMAR (SMC).
There are a lot of other brands, unexpensive 135 but difficult to be sure on the image quality of unknown and poorly used lenses. But they are so cheap, that it could be interesting to purchase and test a few of them.
Other are wellknown good lenses and unexpensives because they are widely available. The PENTACON 135 f/2.8 AUTO is in this case. It was the 135mm I purchased first. It was a good portrait lens but soft wide opened (could be nice for portraiture), producing images with over saturation on green color. In my opinion it is intersting for winter pictures to give more colors to the nature. But overall I was slightly disapointed by this PENTACON because of it 'si poor buit quality despite it is all made of metal. My copy was not a preset model (I prefer preset M42 when they are not sharp wide opened).
So I decided to purchase a JUPITER 37A to compare it with the PENTACON 135. This russian lens is unexpensive. First because it is widely available and certainly because there are plenty of faster (f/2.8 vs f/3.5) lenses available for the same price (or less expensive). The price of this lens is less than 50€.
The JUPITER 37A focal lenght is 135mm. The maximum aperture is f/3.5. I do not know if this optical formula was a copy of pre-war ZEISS one. Mail to me if you know the history.
I received it from Ukraine. The parcel was in so horrible conditions that I was afraid a truck or a train had drive on it ;-) Fortunately, this lens is provided with a very robust (plastic made) box :
Thank to that the lens was in very good condition. The build quality is awesome. It is incredibly robust but not so heavy to carry.
It does not look like a preset lens because it does not have a preset dedicated ring. In fact the aperture ring has 2 functions :
- one classical to set the aperture (it rotate smoothly)
- one to set the not to exceed aperture (preset) by pulling it in direction of the body and turning to the F/stop value not to exceed, then release it.
The focus ring is smooth. The lens hood is made of metal and is screewed on the filter thread.
It is certainly multicoated:
The lens is compact and very nice to use and to handle. Here is a picture of the JUPITER 37A mounted on my SONY Alpha 700:
Concerning the image quality I have been very surprised by this lens. Is is razor sharp even wide opened. The bokeh is very soft and natural, colors are very naturals. The big difference with the JUPITER 9 is that this lens always produce very beautifull and sharp images while the JUPITER 9 can produce in some conditions (too)soft images. So I love this lens for the same reason as the HELIOS 44-2.
I have compared the JUPITER 37A with some of my favorite auto-focus portrait lenses:
- MINOLTA 70-210 AF f/4.0 (THE beercan a legend for MINOLTA users)
- MINOLTA 35-105 AF f/3.5 - 4.5 (beercan generation)
The JUPITER 37A is really better than the 2 zoom at the same aperture (sharper). The colors it produce are slighty natural than MINOLTA colors.
So at the end I realised I won't use no more the PENTACON 135 so I sold I. The JUPITER 37A is still one of my favorite lenses. This lens is completely in this website philosophy (like the HELIOS 44-2) providing awesome image quality for a very low cost.
This match @135mm with the Minolta AF 135 f/2.8, Minolta beercan, Minolta Big Beercan, D kit tele-zoom illustrates that the Jupiter 37A produce outstanding image quality even wide opened. @135, it can beat all the lenses I own.