AI-created image with prompt: A painting in the tradition of soviet realism in which a factory worker is proudly holding a camera.

Introducing the Soviet lens ‘business’

You may or may not like Soviet lenses, but if you’re at all interested in the history and development of the optical/camera industries, then you must feel some interest towards the history of Soviet optics – if for no other reason than because that history is odd and diverges from what you’re likely used to. Moreover, unless you have grown up in a soviet-style state communist system, the logic used by the Soviet lens design and manufacture might very well feel as if it was from mars.

For example, you would be excused if you think that Jupiter, Helios, MIR (and others) are lens brands (nope: in the soviet system there was only one ‘brand’: “Made in USSR”) , or that they were names of factories (again, nope. Then again, considering the names of those factories, that is a blessing).

Instead, the naming logic is more akin to that used by Zeiss (See also: JAPB on Zeiss Naming logic) in that these names indicate the rough design used by the lens in questions: for instance, Jupiters are designs derived from Zeiss’ Sonnar design.

In case you feel that you want to read more, the new JAPB article is for you. It not only aims to give an overview of the key drivers and development of the Soviet photo industry, but also hopes to help readers understand the peculiarities that impinge on the Soviet lenses that we love or hate.

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