The Industar-69

29th August 2018

The Industar-69 is a lens that I have a love hate relationship with. The perfectionist in me dislikes its lack of sharpness and contrast. The photographer in me loves its quirkiness and its lack of sharpness and contrast.

I used this lens, solidly as a street photo lens, for about a fortnight while I was in the process of trading in my Sony A7 mk1 for a mk2. I used my Industar on my Sony A6000 using an adapter specifically designed and 3D printed for it by Rob Kent, (JazzyCamel). Why does the Industar need its own adapter? Because, although it’s an LTM (Leica Thread Mount) 39mm lenses, the lens was designed for the half-frame Chaika camera, which has a shorter flange distance than normal LTM rangefinders; so, to make the lens focus accurately and to infinity, the lens needed an adapter specific to its flange distance. If you’re willing to modify the lens, it’s helicoid can be adjusted so the lens will work with a standard LTM adapter. Rob and I weren’t willing to do this so, Rob designed an E-mount adapter for the Industar that had the correct flange distance. As the lens is very small and light, a 3D printed adapter is more than strong enough to support this lens.

The Industar is a tiny 28mm, f/2.8 lens built using the Tessar lens formula. The Tessar formula is quite simple, its 2 lenses in two groups, one group before the aperture blades and the other behind. When you look at an Industar you’ll find it hard to believe that there are four lenses stuffed in to this little thing. Not only that, but the front element is set well back into the body of the lens, leaving even less room for glass! The aperture ring is on the lens’ front face; it is stepless but it’s fiddly and a little stiff to turn.

As the Industar was designed for a half-frame camera its best suited for APSC sized sensors or smaller. Rob and I tried the Industar on an A7 but it vignetted heavily, so we gave that up as a dead loss and tried it on Sony’s with smaller sensors, my A6000 and Rob’s NEX-6. We didn’t notice any vignetting on these cameras.

To try and account for an APSC sensors crop factor, Rob and I compared the field of view an A6000 paired with an Industar against a Sony A7 paired with a 28mm full frame lens. In a completely unscientific test – i.e. looking through the viewfinder and taking a guess, we reckoned that the Industar was acting like a lens that has a focal length of around the 30-32mm mark. Pretty close to its original spec and ideal for street photography.

Whilst out shooting, I would set this lens to f/8 and zone focussed. At this aperture on an APSC sensor, the depth of field was massive and nearly everything was in focus. And, with the A6000 it was easy to get shots at interesting angles with this combo as it was small, light and very manoeuvrable, that’s the thing I liked most about this lens. As for the quality of images it produces, I’m still not sure.

So, what are the images like from this lens? Well, as I said above, it’s quite a soft lens – it’s never going to win prizes for sharpness; contrast is weak too. But I’ll let you judge for yourself as here are this week’s keepers taken with the Industar-69.

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