Continuing the rangefinder equipment reviews following my previous review of the Epson R-D1s, I'll be diving into lenses for the system. The Jupiter-12 is a very peculiar lens, as it is a copy of a 1930's Zeiss lens, the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Biogon for the Zeiss Contax rangefinder camera produced in Jena, Germany. Following WWII, and the division of Germany, Russia received the Zeiss factory located in Jena, resulting in the acquisition of Zeiss camera and lens designs. My copy of the this lens was produced by LZOS in 1973, and was produced for export as shown by the Roman characters as opposed to Cyrillic Script.
The build quality is good. It's an all metal and glass construction with a very smooth focus ring (even though it is quite small!) Here's where it gets interesting. The filter ring is actually how you set the aperture. It can make it a little slow at times having to look at the front of your lens to change the aperture, and sometimes it's easy to forget what aperture you've set. The aperture ring is de-clicked meaning you actually have to look at it when making changes.
The coolest thing about this lens is definitely the massive rear element which sits millimeters away from the shutter. On some cameras, like the Voigtlander Bessas, and some Canon rangefinders, the lens actually makes contact with the shutter and cannot be used without causing serious damage to both the camera and lens! The majority of the optics sit behind the lens mount with only the front 2 elements in front of the lens mount. While this results in stunningly sharp images on film, it has some issues on digital. This design also yields almost zero distortion, which is incredible.
Looking at the image quality of such an old design, it's pretty incredible how well this lens performs. Center performance is very good, and the corners lag behind on digital. This is caused by how close the lens sits to the film plane, and occurs with most rangefinder lenses that recess into the shutter box. On film however, you won't see the magenta casts or corner smearing that can be visible on digital. Here's a bonus though, since the Epson R-D1s is a 1.5x crop, the corner issues aren't as bad as a full frame Leica M9!
Contrast wide open is generally alright. This lens appears to be only single coated, but if it is multi-coated, it is a very early iteration. This results in not as much contrast as modern lenses, and some interesting flare performance. That being said, that is what gives this lens it's unique and vintage look. Colors generally have a neutral and look until it flares, and then things get fun!
How's the bokeh? Well, it's actually quite good. It's a little hard edged, and a little swirly, but it has such a fantastic characteristic. Also, the colors are beautiful. You definitely have to be close to your subject to get bokeh as it's a relatively slow (as compared to a f/1,4 or f/2) wide angle lens, but it's size and weight make up for it. I don't mind carrying it around unlike the Canon 35mm f/1.4 (Which I LOVE, but it's big and heavy!)
In summary, this is an excellent little lens on film, and a great little lens on the right digital body. The price is great as they can be picked up for less than $100 USD, and it's in a way a piece of history representing early pre-war Zeiss designs and the period of time where Germany was divided, and the time period when the USSR existed.
To view other photos from this lens and view photos in high resolution, head over to my Flickr page where I have the photos posted in full resolution, and check out the results for yourself!