Jupiter 3 on a leica m3
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Jupiter-3 – Sourcing my Perfect Soviet Lens with a bit of Help From Skyllaney – By Sasha Tsyrlin

June 9, 2021

My first memory of a camera goes back to my childhood in USSR and me holding my grandfather’s Zorki or FED (I don’t remember which). I remember looking through a Soviet Universal turret “revolver” viewfinder. I really liked rotating it and seeing different image sizes as the viewfinder changed for the different focal lengths. I really don’t remember what lens my grandfather’s camera had, but I imagine it had to be a Jupiter of sorts.

Fast forward fifty some years later, and I have just returned to the world of analogue photography after an 18-year digital intermission. I have been taking pictures as a location scout/manager in New York for film and TV commercials for over 30 years, first analogue and then digital.

The return to analogue in my personal photography progressed in the last 2 years with a stratospheric speed from an Olympus LT point and shoot from FB marketplace through a return to Ricoh GR and Nikon FM2, with a very quick flirt with Zorki 4K. Finally I stepped up to Leica 3 and a 50mm Summicron.

But yes GAS is real! As an avid reader of this site I came across more than one article about a Soviet Jupiter-3 which brought me back to my Soviet childhood. These articles described its special qualities and unique bokeh. It also mentioned that it is a great portrait lens. In one of the articles I found out about Chris Andreyo from Skyllaney Opto-Mechanics in the UK and his amazing work restoring and calibrating for Leica old Russian Jupiters among other lenses. Chris called them a secret Sonnar. Before I knew it, I was emailing Chris to find out if he had a Jupiter-3 to sell me. Chris said he did not have one at the moment, saying that they are getting more uncommon and expensive to source in Russia in these days. Then the idea was born that as a fluent Russian speaker I could try to source the lens back in Russia myself and then have it mailed over to Chris so he could do his restoration and calibration process to it.

My next step was to reach out to Oleg Khalyavin from okvintagecamera in Russia. Oleg is one of the best resources for vintage Soviet and now Russian analogue cameras. I knew him from before as a source of my Zorki 4. Oleg said that he does not have a Jupiter-3 to sell as they are kind of expensive and rare in these days.

Oleg suggested that I will look on Avito, Russia’s most popular classified site, to source a Jupiter-3 and have it sent to him so he can check it before forwarding the lens to Chris. As it turned out, they knew each other from before. I scoured Avito for Jupiter-3 ads, which were not plentiful. During this time I reached back to Chris and offered to get two more J-3s for him to restore and calibrate on top of the one I was procuring for myself. The plan was for me to get three J-3s from Avito, have them go to Oleg for vetting, and Oleg would send them on to Chris in UK.

During my search time on Avito I got into intense correspondence with a Russian pensioner named Sergey who has been selling vintage Soviet photo equipment through that site. He was selling equipment for his older friends who needed money for medication. To supplement their small pensions they were willing to part with old cameras in their closets. During the course of our texting he sent me a picture of a family birthday party for his older mother, along with many other postings from Russian social media covering politics and other hot subjects.

I ended up getting two 1955 J-3s from him. Another one from a disreputable Russian dealer was sent back by Oleg because its condition was not as it was described in the ad. The final acceptable third one was a 1957 Jupiter-3 which came from a private seller in the city of Saratov and looked brand new, with original Russian plastic case and original sticker. That transaction was unremarkably similar to an Ebay purchase.

Jupiter-3 as first seen on a Russian resale site Avito

Jupiter-3 after it got to Oleg Khalyavin

Finally all three Jupiters-3 were on their way to Skyllaney in the UK!

After Chris’s thorough examination, the 1957 J-3 was deemed to be the best of the litter and became mine after Chis did his thorough work on it. When Chris took it apart, it turned out that one of the aperture leaves had a broken nub and was no longer held correctly.

Chris got the lens in UK and took it apart

Chris showing that that one of the aperture leaves is loose

Chris showing part of the lens before restoration

Chris showing the same part of the lens after restoration

This could have not been noticed by Oleg because you could only see it when the lens was completely taken apart. Fortunately we had 2 other Jupiter-3s to work with. Chris switched sub optics block from one of the other J-3s (that one became spare parts for Chris) and we were good to go!

Chris sent the picture of the lens after full restoration

A few days later I received a package with my 1957 pristine looking Jupiter-3 which happens to be the year I was conceived.

I received the lens with Chris’s calibration certificate

The only right thing to do was to initiate this portrait friendly lens with a photo of my NJ-residing Russian parents on Mother’s Day… And here is a picture taken with the lens, which completed its circle in time and place!

My parents on Mothers Day

Sasha Tsyrlin

Instagram @tsyrlin

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Patrice HENRION
    June 9, 2021 at 6:11 pm

    Belle expérience ! Je fais aussi confiance à Oleg pour l’achat de mes appareils photos soviétiques. Je les achète sur Meshok quand Oleg n’en a pas dans son stock et les lui fait faire un examen complet et le C.L.A. J’ai toujours eu un service impeccable.
    Patrice (Belgium)

  • Reply
    James E Hofweber
    June 9, 2021 at 8:48 pm

    It would be interesting to know the costs involved.

    • Reply
      Sasha Tsyrlin
      June 10, 2021 at 2:15 am

      J-3 in good condition sells for about $150 on Russian site Avito. Oleg charged about 20% handling fee on top. Then postage to UK. Chris can speak better regarding his rates. You can reach out to him directly.Then there was postage to US. At the end of the day I think this was a good deal for me and a virtual adventure during the pandemic!
      I am going to take J3 with me to visit the old country on my next trip to Moscow.
      And I love the lens:))

  • Reply
    Rich
    June 10, 2021 at 1:29 am

    A wonderful story! Thanks for sharing!

    –Rich

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    June 10, 2021 at 5:45 pm

    Interesting process. You were patient to go through these steps. I feel sorry for the old pensioners who need to sell their camera to raise cash for medicines.

    You have piqued my interest in sending Skyllaney a Jupiter-8 that I recently bought from a fellow in Arizona.

  • Reply
    franz
    June 10, 2021 at 9:17 pm

    How does the lens perform wide open at infinity?
    Nice story

    • Reply
      Sasha Tsyrlin
      June 10, 2021 at 9:43 pm

      I don’t think I shot it wide open at infinity:))Was not a need of that. But Chris set it up that it should not be a problem

  • Reply
    bp_reid
    June 11, 2021 at 10:56 am

    This is a nice story, there’s something romantic about using old gear with family attachments, and/or taking images with gear where it comes from. My wife is half German and, a few years back on a trip to Dresden to visit my wife’s aunt, I was able to use an old Exa that was one of her late husband’s cameras. Before she passed away a couple of years later I was given the Exa cameras and a Yashicamat, all of which I still treasure.

    A wee note for Hamish as Editor;

    When a piece about ‘Jupiter 3’ arrives you know it’s a 5cm f/1.5 Sonnar style lens, basic stuff as you’ve written on it before. But, not everyone will know their Mirs from Jupiters never mind which Jupiter is which. I started reading not knowing what a Jupiter 3 is… and finished none the wiser – it’s not in the text. Scrolled back through the images and eventually got it from the repair certificate. Please try to think every reader is a newbie and kindly ask contributors to include basic specs at some point in a piece.

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