Jupiter 8: A cheap and lovely character lens for your Leica M or Sony A7 camera

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Jupiter 8: A cheap and lovely character lens for your Leica M or Sony A7 camera

The best $30 I have ever spent? This old, beat up, tiny 50mm f/2 Jupiter 8 Russian lens. Yes, I bought this lens on the cheap locally here in Phx AZ along with a Jupiter 9, which is an 85mm f/2 for $70 or so (though the 9 is a tad off with focusing on my M). I never owned a Jupiter though they have been around forever and what has kept me away from them is the fact that many say they are not very good lenses, will not focus correctly or are just plain cheap in construction. Well, taking all of that in to consideration I decided that $30 would be a no brainer way to test out the Jupiter 8 and I am glad I did as this is truly a “no guilt and no buyers remorse” lens. For $30, it could easily be resold if I did not like it, but again, at this kind of money, this lens will always be in my kit for when I want the character of this lens. I am a huge fan of classic Rangefinder lenses and many of them are better to me than modern-day pricey lenses.

Shot wide open at f/2 on the Sony A7s with the only purpose being to show the Bokeh. This was shot up at some trees and defocused

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I have always seen these lenses for sale on E-Bay for pretty cheap prices but samples online that show the softness, low contrast and strange rendering put me off on the Jupiter 8. While I am looking around for a decent Jupiter 3 now, the 8 has actually surprised me with just how sharp it can be, even at f/2. In addition, it has that classic Zeiss Sonnar rendering that I recognize. I will say though that an article on this very website is what really had me really wanting to give these lenses a shot. You can see that article HERE.

At f/2 focusing correctly on the Leica Monochrom. Yes, this lens focuses great on my MM. Click the image to see just how sharp it is, you may be amazed that a cheap lens such as this one can do this!

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…and it works just as well on the A7s, even for B&W 🙂

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Dreamy, Creamy and Classic

Basically what this lens will deliver is nothing like what a Leica Summicron or Summilux will bring you. I have talked any times about lenses being like the artist’s brush. Choosing a specific lens will help you create the vision you are looking for whether that is in the form of a Leica Noctilux, Canon Dream Lens, or a Zeiss 50 Planar. This Jupiter 8 reminds me most of the Zeiss 50 Sonnar but for 1/30th the price! While not as nice as the Zeiss in build, feel, or IQ, it has something unique about it that I can enjoy from time  to time. IN color on the Sony A7s it is gorgeous (for me) even though the Bokeh is a teeny bit nervous at times. Other times it is silky smooth.

These three test shots were taken to show the rendering and bokeh and color. All on the fantastic A7s. Click them for larger and better viewing experience! 

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Portraits

Some people use this lens for portraits due to its softer look when wide open (when compared to critically sharp lenses like a 50 Summicron or APO or 90 APO) and I tested it and found it to be lovely. The lens does feel cheap in construction but it has lasted this long so I assume to will last me many more years to come. At this price, the Jupiter 8 is a bargain of massive proportions. A fun lens to have around and mess with when you want a classic creamy look.

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So for anyone who wants to try out a new lens but you do not want to put a dent in your wallet, give a Jupiter 8 lens a try. It may surprise you. Many say that when being used on a Leica M that the lens may need shims to get it to focus correctly. My copy did not need this but I guess some do. It is a small, light, oddball lens but it works nicely for some applications. I will be using it again and again, and for Sony A7 shooters, using this lens with the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter, it is lovely and a breeze to focus.

Highly recommended!

Steve

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50 Comments

  1. I have two J8 lenese, my 1958 ‘chrome’ one came on my Zorki 4 camera, from the same year, costing me £30, and I have an all black late model J8 which came on my Zorki 4K and that cost me a huge £6. Great lens.

  2. I have a lens book by Roger Hicks and Frances Shultz. They have something interesting to say about lenses one might think ‘bad’ or poor performing, such as Russian lenses. The point they make is that the faults can be used creatively. Old, cheap zooms, cheap teleconverters , or a combination of the two? They state that a well known London photographer made his name with a Zeiss Sonnar for Hasselblad that looked as if the front element had been cleaned with wire wool!

  3. My experience of the 50mm f2 Jupiter 8 on a 1955 Leica M3 DS is that the results with mono film are far better than with colour. Some colours look a bit washed out, however, with stopping down and exposing for the highlights, mono images have a classic look to them. I managed to find a deep, metal lens hood to keep stray light off the front element and I’m certain this is beneficial.

  4. I picked up another late version J-8 today, modified it for close-focus, RF coupled to 0.65m. It’s not hard, involves removing the infinity stop screw and “misthreading” the helical so the close-focus stop works for both near and far focus. Will be trying it out this weekend.

    • Hi,

      Yes, they are great little lenses when you find a good one. Got my J8 last year in as new condition. It has been on my trusty old M8 almost continuously since. For landscapes and a range of pics. Results never disappoint. Focusing is great and displays no focus shift.

      Phil

  5. Steve,

    If you want a Jupiter 3 I’d recommend you look up Brian Sweeney (the source of the lenses in the article you link to). I bought a Jupiter 3 from him, tuned to focus accurately wide-open on my M Monochrom and must say it is delightful.

    • The Jupiter 3 is, indeed, the star of the bunch. My copy has spot on focus and no noticeable shift (unlike my Zeiss 1.5). The Jupiter 9, however, has the sonnar focus shift in spades. If you don’t have Live View or are shooting film, I’d probably give it a pass.

    • Yes, the Jupiter 12, which is an f2.8/35mm lens. I have two units, one for Leica L39 screw and the other for Kiev, the Russian copy of a Contax II. A warning to Contax IIa/IIIa users: Russian copies of the Contax bayonet mount version Jupiter 12 do NOT fit the German bodies.

      What you need to be aware of is the rear element is exposed and protrudes about 1.25″ and is thus unprotected. Try and ensure the lens comes with its rear keeper as you are unlikely to find one off the shelf. These lenses were designed, physically, for film bodies for which they fit without issues. I use my Leica version on a IIIf, M3 and M6. The surface of the rear lens almost touches the film and so can only be a mm or two from the shutter curtain. Gingerly, I tried using a Leica L to Nex adapter on my A7 and Nex 5N and found it fouled the baffle just in front of the sensor. So I would guess the lens could be incompatible with Leica M digital bodies. So proceed with caution.

      Wide open the lenses are sharp in the centre with good contrast, but the edges only catch up around f5.6 to f8, where performance is optimum. This is, of course, common to most lenses.

    • For TerryB: I have used a 1952 Jupiter-12 in Leica Thread Mount and a late 1980s Jupiter-12 in Leica thread mount on the M8, M9 and M Monochrom without issue. A friend lent me an earlier 1950 J-12, that had problems- the mechanism jammed up on the RF follower of the M8. The 1952 lens and 1950 lens both had Zeiss optics in them, even had Zeiss serial numbers. A well spent $55.

  6. Interesting test. I’ve been tempted many times, but stopped because of the thought that all the good Russian lenses were already snapped up cheap a long time ago and the only ones left on the market had serious problems. Looks like you got a good one. I have to laugh a bit at your comment that it is a “teeny bit nervous at times.” To me it looks nervous all the time. The question is “So What?” Or rather, how does that particular type of bokeh work for a particular kind of shot or purpose. Art, like anything else, is subject to it’s own cycles of fashion. What if nervous bokeh–especially for leaves or say water in the background–suddenly became very popular? You could sell your lens for $700, but wouldn’t. Or would you? Hmmmm.

  7. I own one good copy and together with Color Skopar 35/2,5 SC M39 has been my light travel kit since I bought Nex 6 first and A7R then…great to walk around Rome with this small kit simply in my pockets with no bag…

  8. I started using it on my Panasonic G3 after my faithful Zorki 4 died. Very peculiar lens, and using an EVF no focusing probs as you are already seeing what’s in focus and whatnot…

  9. Just used Jupiter 8 today for the first time in a long time, I got mine for about $40 bucks and it came with a macro extension tube on ebay from the ukraine. No problems with mine first try smooth focus and aperture. I’m doing a senior portrait for my friend’s daughter this weekend I think I’ll break it out and see my results. I also recently picked up an industar 69 28mm half frame lens, it required a minor mod to focus to infinity but on my fuji its a 42mm equiv, it’s pancake sized, the whole set up fits in my blazer pocket, and the lens was 35 bucks shipped also from the ukraine. This is my current everyday/street set up while I save up for a used digital lecia body.

  10. I do have a Jupiter 3 and a Jupiter 8 and these lenses were having a great character on my M8.
    I should try these now on my M240. Focus peaking on the M240 will help especially with the Jupiter 3.
    Here under is one portrait I took with the M8 and the Jupiter 3
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/damien_derouene/7321482784/in/photolist-c9YvKN-bmjiTZ-c9YvFQ-ouwQNc-od2ZDY-buBz1L-od3imQ-bmjfyT-bHwkzV-bmjiGk-bmjfpk-bmjfKi-bmjeZ4-bmjf9K-bmjfkn-bmjiMT-buC5uA-nQcUFB

  11. Only 2 out of 5 J-8 focus correctly, and the newest one is the worst. but when they do they’re amazing! If you can try the lens first before buying, it’s much better than buying over *bay even if it cost more

  12. Very cool!
    I would love to see more reviews like this.
    One thing I would like to see is reviews of very cheap lenses with relatively uncommon focal lengths. (smaller then 28 or larger then 50)

    • There really aren’t any very cheap lenses shorter than 28mm and relatively few longer than 50mm, at least not in this price bracket. If you’re talking very cheap in Leica terms, there are certainly options under $600.

      • “On the A7s the Voigtlander M to E adapter, which I bought from cameraquest.com – on the M, just a cheap screw mount to M adapter ($13)”

        How does that work on the A7s? The Voigtlander M to E adapter is for the M mount to be adapted to the E mount. The Jupiter is a LTM screw mount lens.
        Are you putting on the screw mount adapter, then the M to E adapter?

        Sorry, I’m a bit lost here!

        Huss

        • So you’re using two adapters to be able to use the Jupiter lens on the a7S? What screw mount adapter are you using? After seeing your results, I might just have to pick up a Jupiter 8 for my a7S!

          • The screw mount adapter is paper thin. You do not even realize there is an adapter on the lens, just looks like a naturally made M mount lens. The adapter that you notice is the Leica M to E mount, which I use the Voigtlander close focus adapter, which is the best I have used.

          • But to use it on an M or an A7s you need to make the lens an M mount 1st, then use an M to E mount adapter. This is a preferred way if you are using other M mount lenses as you only need one adapter. The Screw Mount to M adapter is not even visible when on the lens..as in, no one would know it is an adapted lens.

          • Steve, yes, agreed, if one has other M mount lenses and for which one will already have the M to E adapter. The Jupiter 8 will then require the L to M adapter. Ryan didn’t say, but if he isn’t using other M lenses, then only the L39 to Nex adapter is needed.

          • Thanks for all the input! I don’t currently own any M mount lenses, so I guess I’ll be going with the L39-NEX adapter. That seems to be the best option.

  13. Hi Steve
    I have the Jupiter 3 and love it as a poirtrait lens. It is not that sharp but great for people. I had to return the first lens I bought on ebay because it ws soft on one side but the one I have now is in very good shape.
    I use it on a Fuji camera. The lens is a better fit for a full frame lens like the Sony because of the low resolution.

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