5 Frames With Bessa R, Jupiter-8 50mm and VC Color Skopar 35mm – By Eric Rose

Prior to vacation,  as a photographer, what causes you the most stress?  In this world there are a myriad of valid concerns.  For me it’s which camera or cameras to take.


It can take me several weeks to finally make a decision.  Will it be digital or film, maybe both, if both then which cameras?  Maybe I should go light, oh heck I will only go there once, take the good stuff.  And it goes on and on!

After almost three years of forced COVID confinement the shackles were finally removed.  A lifelong friend called me up and invited my wife and I to join them on a trip to Mexico.  We jumped at it.  The siren song of vacation breezes and lapping waves was very loud!

Then the analysis paralysis began.  Which camera or cameras should I take?  Normally I am a very decisive person and when I was shooting commercial photography work the choice of camera gear was dictated by the subject matter for the most part.

After several attempts at packing and unpacking of camera gear I decided to go barebones.  The VC Bessa R, Jupiter-8, f2 50mm, VC Color Skopar f2.5 35mm  and Ernst Leitz Wetzlar f4 90mm Elmar ended up in my carry-on camera backpack.  I also packed several rolls of Agfa APX 100, long expired but refrigerated.

Metered off green palm tree, Bessa Color Skopar 35mm, at f8

What I like about the Bessa R is that it’s light and has a great meter.  Sure I could have taken a Leica M4 or M5 but I wanted light and cheap. Just in case. The Jupiter 50mm lens has intrigued me for some time.  I have used it for video work on a Panasonic GH5 and found it’s personality fits certain scenes. However I have not been overly impressed with it on a digital camera for single image making.  I thought I would give it one more try, this time on film.  The VC 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar is the non pancake version. The reason for taking this particular lens is I will be doing a comparison piece on it.  Its challenger will be the Leica 35mm Summicron.  The Leitz Wetzlar Elmar was chucked in as a “just in case” lens.

Jupiter-8 taken at f5.6, ventilation in a stairwell

We were in Mexico for seven days staying at a very nice all inclusive resort near Tulum.  The fifth day was scheduled to be “picture” day.  A taxi was ordered and off we went to the small town of Tulum.  Our mission was to find a nice locals restaurant, get some walking in and work the Jupiter 50mm lens.  The 35mm and 90mm came along for the ride but were never used.

The skies were clear and the light very contrasty.  I decided not to use any filters on the lens to insure nothing influenced its image making properties.  Some shots were focused and others taken using hyper focal distance.  Almost all the images in Tulum were made at f8.  If you were looking for a bunch of minimal DOF images I’m not the guy to deliver them.  The image of the bikes was made at f4 to slightly throw the background out of focus.  Should I have tried the Jupiter-8 wide open?  Probably, but just didn’t find the right subject matter.

Jupiter-8 taken at f4, under tree shade

Once back at the resort I replaced the Jupiter-8 50mm with the VC 35mm Color Skopar to finish the roll.  Again no filters were used.

Once home I processed the one roll of film I shot in PyroCat-HD 1:1:100 for 18 minutes.  I use PyroCat-HD for 90% of my black and white film developing.  It not only produces outstanding negatives for wet printing but also scans well for digital output.

Jupiter 8 at f8, in the print there is lots of detail in the deep shadows. One of the beauties of using PyroCat-HD. You can retain highlights and still get deep shadows.

The one thing that really frustrated me while using the Jupiter-8 lens was the gymnastics needed to change the aperture ring.  It’s a two hand operation which negates any chance of changing the aperture setting while keeping the camera up to your eye.  That being said the Jupiter-8 lens is very reasonably priced and in many respects shoots well above its price point.

Just for grins I am going to shoot some frames comparing the Jupiter-8 50mm with a Leica 50mm Summicron at all apertures.  Once past f4 I bet no one would be able to tell which lens was which when the images are printed or scanned.  Another blog posting in the making.

Jupiter-8 50mm, BESSA R, PyroCat-HD, APX100, photo by Eric G. Rose
Jupiter 8 at f8, bright noon day sun

I found the Jupiter-8 lens to be a great overall performer.  Minimal internal flare was encountered which allowed me to maintain detail in the shadows.  The PyroCat-HD helped in that regard as well.  Sharpness is on par with my Nikkor 50mm f1.4 AI lens at f8.  The 35mm VC Color Skopar was very sharp and a bit more contrasty than the Jupiter lens. This would be expected due to its more modern design.


Eric Rose


Instagram:  ericrose4x5


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7 thoughts on “5 Frames With Bessa R, Jupiter-8 50mm and VC Color Skopar 35mm – By Eric Rose”

    1. Working on it! Actually going out today to shoot some comparison images. One of the lenses I am using for this next article is a TTArtisans 35mm f2. I buddy of mine put it on his Leica M 10-R and shot a few quick images and he was blown away! He was going directly to our local cameras store to buy one for himself.

    1. Thanks for the question Vlad. I’m not sure which image you are referring too. If it’s the lifeguard’s stand, I pointed the camera first at the lit fronds of the palm tree. As a double check I also metered off the clear north sky. Both of which are pretty close to 18% grey. If it’s the ventilation in the stairwell image I just used the same exposure I was using for being in full sun. I hope this helps.

  1. Craig Schroeder

    Thank you for this, Eric. I share your packing stress! That old Jupiter seems an ideal choice for harsh light conditions. Plenty sharp stopped down a bit and the tones held up so well. I also have settled into a pattern of using PyroCat for most things and also find it solved so much of my scanning issues with b/w films. I’ve too many things accumulated to likely chase down a Jupiter and find my Heliar ƒ3.5’s character gives me a bit of that look (but likely more contrasty than the Jupiter).

    1. I LOVE PyroCat-HD! It makes scanning so easy and a joy to print in the darkroom. I love finding lenses with “personality”. Another tool for the kit.

  2. The Jupiter-8 is a fine lens. The lack of aperture detentes is an annoyance (the older chrome version may have them) but I love its color reproduction on film.

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