Gear Test | Industar 69

I have been searching for a 50mm-ish equivalent, pancake lens for the EPLs 1 and 5 for a long time. I love the M4/3rds format, but the lack of affordable 50mm and below equivalent lenses is my one gripe.

While searching, I came across the Industar 69 from the old Chaika II – a Russian half-frame camera made from 1967-72.

The I69 is m39 mount so it means the lens plus adapter has a very small footprint. The only catch is that the Chaika had a very subtly different registration distance to m39, so unless you are lucky you won’t be getting infinity focus straight out of the eastern-bloc-box.

There are two ways to remedy this; modify the adapter or modify the lens. I decided to modify the adapter to keep the lens untouched… then when I had gotten fed up of trying to manually shave off millimetres from the aluminium I modified the lens anyway! Ha. You can see on the shots above where I have filed down the adapter. Unfortunately, I suspect that some of the aluminium dust has entered the adapter thread, because I can’t separate the lens from the adapter now. This means I’m unable to show just how I modified it. There are some great resources out there that describe the options though.

Thanks to its small footprint (and black and silver styling), the I69 looks like it was made for the EPL5. This combo makes it a real pocketable camera, ready to shoot  when you need it.

So how does it perform? Well not bad, depending on what you want to use it for. It is uncoated which means very low contrast. I have tried to stick to black and white to try and help this, and I do boost the contrast up a little in post. Where it does sing – if you are into this look – is when used with Olympus’ “grainy black and white” art filter. All of these beach shots were taken using that filter, which gives them their stark, bleak look. What isn’t so easy is achieving focus, and as the aperture dial is on the front of the lens element – this can also be very tricky to get right!

The location for these shots is Spurn Point, a narrow spit of land that stretches out from the coast in East Yorkshire. Spurn Point has the estuary of the Humber on one side and the sea on the other. It stretches out for 3 miles and is constantly being eroded on one side and re-deposited on the other, and as a result is actually moving westwards.

Don’t be fooled by my bleak pictures though, it’s a beautiful part of the world.

I think the I69 (when used with the Art Filter)  also works really well for street shots, zone-focussing would also remove some of the frustration of using the lens. I’ve not had a lot of chance to shoot the lens on the street properly yet, but hopefully the below shot illustrates what I’m talking about.

Body: Olympus EPL5 | Lens: Industar 69 28mm at f2.8.
Body: Olympus EPL5 | Lens: Industar 69 28mm at f2.8.

If you are prepared for some of the lens’ faults (tough to focus, fiddly aperture ring, low contrast), then I think this is a really nice, vintage pancake lens for 4/3rds. Not only that – but it is dirt cheap! £10 shipped from the former USSR for my copy.

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