An Industar-69 mounted to a Fuji X-Pro3.
Lenses

Industar-69 (on Fujifilm X-Pro3) Review – A Dreamy, Compact Wonder – By Don Goodman Wilson

February 28, 2022

The Industar-69 (Индуста́р-69) is a strange but beguiling beast. Originally designed for the Chaika (Чайка) camera, it wasn’t really meant to be used with other cameras. The original Chaika’s lens wasn’t removable; on later models it was affixed with an M39 thread, apparently with the intent that photographers could mount it on an enlarger for printmaking. This intent might be apocryphal, I can’t properly tell. There’s not a lot of primary sources of information on this lens out there on the interwebs that I can find, only a handful of people repeating the same information.

What makes it strange? First of all, the Chaika was a half-frame camera, so the lens is extremely compact for its focal length and maximum aperture. Second, that M39 thread comes with a non-standard flange distance, sitting 1mm farther from the film plane than lenses meant for Leicas.

What makes it beguiling? Although a half-frame lens is a non-starter for full-frame cameras (unless you really like heavy vignetting), APS-C sensors are only slightly larger than half a 35mm frame. And on APS-C it’s a great normal lens, its focal length working out to a 37,5mm equivalent.

Moreover, it turns out there are relatively easy, reasonably non-destructive fixes to shorten the flange distance to something Leica-compatible. I bought mine off eBay already adjusted, requiring only some light shimming of my lens adapter to calibrate to infinity.

An unmounted Industar-69 lens.

The lens itself.

This lens has a lot to love about it for APS-C shooters (read: Fuji shooters). If like me you dig the Soviet toy-camera feel, you’re gonna love this lens. All of its features make it great for street photography. Let’s dig in!

A technical note for those keeping track: All the images shared here are straight out of camera (SOOC) JPEGs with either the default Provia or Acros photo simulation—the most neutral. In some cases, I might normally process these differently, but I wanted to emphasize the character of the Industar-69 over the processing capabilities of modern Fuji cameras. Check out my Instagram to see some of the edited results.

Handling

It’s tiny, so so tiny. Just look at it! It’s smaller than the M39 adapter it’s attached to. It’s almost smaller than the Fuji rear lens cap on the other side of the adapter. And as you’d guess, it weighs essentially nothing.

Focus ring

Despite the size, the focus ring is easy to find and use, even with very large hands as my own. The focus scale is interesting, because some of the numbers have been replaced with iconographic representations— 0.8, 0.9, 🧑🏼, 1.2, 1.5, 2, 👨‍👧‍👦, 5, 🏡, ∞. Cute. Also surprisingly handy for zone-focusing, which we’ll come to in a moment.

The unusually-labeled focus ring.

Aperture ring

The aperture ring on the other hand is buried in the front face of the lens, and very difficult for my large fingers to grip and turn. You can see it as a textured black ring just around the optics in the images above. Aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/16, and is unclicked. Best to decide ahead of time what aperture you’ll be using for the next little while and just forget about changing it.

Filter ring

Searching the internet reveals the common opinion, without source, is that this lens takes a 22,5mm filter, or maybe a 22mm. I can’t find any definitive evidence, and I don’t have anything at home I can try out. The threads are along the inside of the aperture ring, so if you can find some kind of step-up adapter, you’ll also automatically get a better grip on the aperture ring. My lens did come with a plastic press-on lens cap (inner diameter ~45–46mm), so that’s something.

In use

Unless you can find a filter to screw into the aperture ring, you’re not going to be changing the aperture on the fly. The Industar-69 is more of a set-and-forget. Which honestly is just as well—it’s not like at 28mm the lens offers a very shallow depth of field, even at f/2.8.

Which fact makes this an interesting shooting experience. On one hand, if you set the aperture to f/16, and the focus to somewhere in the middle (I usually go with “👨‍👧‍👦”), you have a modestly wide point-and-shoot lens perfect for street photography. On the other hand, if you set the aperture to f/2.8, the lens provides more nuance (and more vignetting…) for specific subjects.

Image quality

Now, image quality is not this lens’s forte. But that’s not why you buy this lens, is it? As I’ve mentioned in my review of the Industar-50, lens character matters to me. It might not always be desirable, but understanding a particular lens’s character opens possibilities.

All that said, this lens is optimistically described as full of character. This is a lens for people (like me!) who found the Minotar lens in the original Lomo LC-A desirable. It can give toy lens-like rendering, but you can also tame the character by stopping down.

Sharpness

Image of a tree in autumn, with exceptionally soft corner rendering.

Oh, those corners, so soft at f/2.8.

At f/2.8, just forget any notion of corner sharpness. Expect something, um, let’s call it “dreamier”. The center is sharp-ish, but everything glows. For certain kinds of photography, especially in dimmer light, this can work OK. For a landscape shot such as this at mid-day, people will have strong opinions about those corners. At f/5.6 and up, it’s perfectly fine for street photography or related genres where sharpness is not the highest priority.

Lens flares

Strong rainbow flare.

These flares are likely to be divisive.

Yes, you can get this lens to give strong rainbow flares, which are to me not especially pretty. Most of the time, though, you just get a lot of veiling flare, reducing the overall contrast.

Unusual pentagonal lens flare.

But those pentagons though…

That said, with its 5-bladed aperture stopped down a little, and the right conditions, the Industar-69 will happily yield some very cool pentagonal lens flares.

Glow

The Industar-69 offers some heavy and dreamy glow, wherever there’s something brightly lit. It shows up even when stopped-down, though of course to a lesser degree.

Thalys at Amsterdam Centraal, exhibiting heavy glow.

Absolutely unreal levels of glow. Again: This image is unedited in any way whatsoever (except resizing of course).

Distortion and aberration

I can’t see any obvious geometric distortion in my images. Chromatic aberration is likewise essentially non-existent. Yeah, I was surprised too!

Color and vignetting

In general, I find it hard to distinguish the subtle differences in lens rendering—I need a reference. So let’s use my Fujifilm XF 16-80mm lens as a benchmark, not because it’s a great lens, but because I expect it to not have especially strong opinions on color.

A brightly-colored Tokyo skyline rendered in Lego, and captured by the Fujifilm XF 16-80 F4 R OIS WR at f/5.6.

Fujifilm XF 16-80 F4 R OIS WR @ ~28mm, f/5.6 (click to enlarge)

A brightly-colored Tokyo skyline rendered in Lego, and captured by the Industar-69 at f/2.8.

Industar-69 @ f/2.8 (click to enlarge)

A brightly-colored Tokyo skyline rendered in Lego, and captured by the Industar-69 at f/5.6.

Industar-69 @ f/5.6 (click to enlarge)

The colors produced by Fujifilm and the Industar are quite similar: Equally saturated and, and the Industar is marginally warmer. The difference is hardly noticeable to me.

The Industar does have somewhat less contrast, with blacks not as deep and slightly cool.

When pixel-peeping, the highlights and midtones appear slightly warmer, and the shadows slightly cooler than my Fujifilm benchmark lens. Contrast is markedly flatter.

At f/2.8 the lens is noticeably soft, and shows heavy vignetting. This is where the lens is most similar to the plastic Minitar and other “toy” lenses.

Crop on the image captured by the Industar-69 at f/2.8, showing image ghosting.

Look at that ghosting (100% crop)

Curiously, the softness seems to arise from what looks like a double or ghost image. Here’s a very close crop of the above photo showing what I mean. The result is an Orton-effect like rendering that you can see in some of the other photos. As you can see, the image is actually reasonably sharp—but there’s a second image slightly offset from the first! In the right circumstances, this can be a very pleasing effect indeed. It certainly yields a nice glow in high-contrast situations. But you have to want this.

At f/5.6 it’s only a little soft, but let’s be honest you’ll never notice if you use this for street photography. It’s only a problem if you spend a lot of time pixel-peeping, or intend to blow your images up very large. For my purposes, I find this perfectly acceptable. Vignetting is still present, but it’s not serious.

Bokeh

A leaf against a distant background. There are hints of bokeh.

You can induce swirly bokeh, if you try really hard. A little bit.

Bokeh is essentially non-existent, even at f/2.8. Set to f/2.8, and with a close subject and a very distant (and heavily dappled) background, you can achieve some swirly bokeh effects. Otherwise, this is the wrong lens for achieving any kind of subject separation.

Who is this lens for?

OK, so this lens is clearly not of the highest quality. It’s not even second-tier. Probably not third. It has a lot of flaws and troubles. But for me, this is precisely what attracts me to the lens in the first place! You see, I’d rather not use the sharpest lens on the highest-quality 100-megapixel medium-format sensor, then achieve the desired look in post. I prefer to choose my tools to suit my needs. What needs does the Industar-69 serve?

  • It’s so, so small, and weighs nothing.
  • It gives very deep depth of field, and reasonable sharpness across the frame regardless of subject distance, at f/16.
  • It gives images a dreamy Orton-effect like look wide open. Combine with smearing and blur in the corners, the heavy glow, and the lens flaring, the resulting images can be enormously striking.

So, who is this lens for?

  • Street photographers who want a point-and-shoot experience with an APS-C digital body, and are OK with not-perfectly-sharp images.
  • Photographers chasing character and lens flaws, wanting to craft dreamy, unreal, or uncanny images in camera.

More images

Here are more images that capture something of this lens’s emotional range from a recent visit to Lisbon, Portugal.

The previous bull-fighting ring of Campo Pequeno, Lisbon.

A glowy day on the streets of Lisbon.

The Telecabine gondolas by the Tejo river, Lisbon.

Clouds, and Aquarium of Lisbon.

Facade, Oriente Train Station, Lisbon.

Walkway, Oriente Train Station, Lisbon.

Railway truss bridge, from beneath.

Thanks for reading this far! You can find me on Twitter (where I share strong opinions and photos) and Instagram (where I share photos and strong opinions); Or check out my professional portfolio and photography business.

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Bob Janes
    February 28, 2022 at 10:30 am

    I’m not familiar with the Industar-69, but it does sound quite similar to the Industar-50 that came with the Zenit 3m (this also used an m39 thread, but this time with a 45mm-ish registration distance).
    I’ve long been an advocate of the idea that there are no bad lenses, just ‘interesting’ ones. I have found the Industar to be possibly the most frustrating bit of optics though, with stiff, sharp and awkward milled rings that do tend to make it ‘difficult to love..’
    Sounds like you have had a better experience with its half-frame equivalent.

    • Reply
      Don Goodman-Wilson
      February 28, 2022 at 10:36 am

      I have had reasonably good experiences, and perhaps a bit more patience with lenses that really should be serviced. For example, my Jupiter-9’s focus ring is almost too stiff to use, and I’ve set it aside until I can get it serviced.

      I will say that the Industar-69 is quite different in character from the Industar-50, which I’ve previously reviewed on this site—the 50 doesn’t have nearly the character that the 69 does, and 28mm vs 50mm is of course a pretty big difference in field of view. Plus the 69 is much faster at f/2.8 vs the 50’s max aperture of f/3.5.

  • Reply
    David Hume
    February 28, 2022 at 10:48 pm

    Great article thanks, and useful info. The size looks really good on the Fuji; and what I also like is that 28mm is a great focal length for it – plus when you set the OVF frame lines around that they take up a goodly amount of the space in the finder. The Fujinon 27mm f 2.8 is practically glued to the front of my X-Pro 3 these days, but it is so sharp and clinical even wide open that it has me yearning for something MF that is a bit more interesting. Your write up does not leave me wanting this particular lens, but it certainly rekindles the quest for interesting lenses to put on the front of Fujis. Do any other nice 28- 35mm LTMs spring to mind? All the best, David.

    • Reply
      Don Goodman-Wilson
      February 28, 2022 at 11:13 pm

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I’m not especially knowledgeable enough to suggest alternatives that are so compact as the Fujinon or the Industar I’m afraid. There is the Kobalux Wide 28mm f/3.5, but these are quite rare, and maybe too modern for what you are looking for. Curious to hear others’ thoughts on the matter!

      • Reply
        Don Goodman-Wilson
        February 28, 2022 at 11:16 pm

        That said, if compactness is less important, there are several LTM options in that focal range; I’m working up a review of the Kyoei W.Acall 35/3.5 that you might find interesting. I’m certain others here have useful insights too!

    • Reply
      Kodachromeguy
      March 1, 2022 at 3:08 pm

      David, if money is no object (ha ha), the original Leitz Summaron 28mm f/5.6 might work well on APS. Plus, you can use it with your ltm film camera. You could also opt for the new reintroduced M-mount version. The “photographers” on the review sites hate it, which means it must be a pretty good lens for creative users.

      • Reply
        Don Goodman-Wilson
        March 1, 2022 at 3:17 pm

        It looks like TTArtisan has recently released a similar lens (28mm f/5.6) for considerably less.

  • Reply
    Jazz1
    March 1, 2022 at 1:25 am

    What brand is that wood grip? Looks great on the XPro3. Wish these old eyes could manual focus and use the manual lenses!

    • Reply
      Don Goodman-Wilson
      March 1, 2022 at 5:49 am

      Thanks! I’m really pleased with the grip. I bought it off a seller on Etsy (I have no affiliation with them, just a pleased customer).

  • Reply
    Richard
    March 1, 2022 at 8:12 am

    Hi Don,
    Great write up, nice to see another fan of this lens.
    I also have one which I use on my Olympus EPL8. This has the advantage of an M4/3 sensor – so no vignetting!
    There is another feature of the lens which may be of interest. The flange distance modification involves removing the end stops behind the focus ring so that the helicoid can retract further into the lens block. As a bonus it also allows the helicoid to unscrew further out so you can focus down to 10cm/4″. I’ve taken some great close up shots this way.
    Best wishes,
    Richard

    • Reply
      Don Goodman-Wilson
      March 1, 2022 at 11:13 am

      Thanks RIchard!

      That’s interesting to learn that the near focus stop can be removed for a shorter close-focusing distance! Unfortunately, the modification done to my lens is different, they left in the near focus stop, so the overall focusing range on mine is unchanged. Only the flange distance is different. (And the aperture is no longer aligned correctly, new marks had to be added to correct for that.)

  • Reply
    George671
    March 3, 2022 at 4:17 am

    Orion 15.

  • Reply
    Alexey
    March 4, 2022 at 7:52 am

    Thanks for the interesting article. I have several of these Industars. I always considered them only as donors for adapting other lenses (here is an example of adapting Industar 104 from Agat-18 https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzEwKK ). But I kept one Industar-69 intact. Your images have intrigued me. I will definitely make a sortie with this glass on the X-E2 🙂

    • Reply
      Don Goodman-Wilson
      March 4, 2022 at 9:00 am

      How interesting! Could you explain in a little more detail what it is you do? Do you mean that you rehouse other lenses using parts from the Industar-69? Why do you do that? I think there is an interesting story to be told here!

  • Reply
    Alexey
    March 4, 2022 at 1:22 pm

    I take old p&s usually broken ones. I remove the lens block. As a helicoid, I use cases from Industars of different models. Depending on the required distance from the block lenses to the matrix, I use Industar 69 or Industar 50-2. The diaphragms still work. As an adapter for Fuji-X, I use a C-mount adapter with an M42 thread. It turns out a full-fledged lens. I have converted lenses from Nikon AD3 Pikaichi https://flic.kr/s/aHsmLB1ppS , Olympus AFL Picasso, Industar 104 in my collection. I also tried to install a lens block from Olympus MJU-II but had difficulty with aperture. A few more cameras are waiting for rework: Konica c35 with Hexanon 38 / 2.8 and Sigma DP1 16mm.

    • Reply
      Don Goodman-Wilson
      March 4, 2022 at 1:28 pm

      That’s really fascinating. Thanks for sharing! I would absolutely read a longer article on your work (hint hint)

      • Reply
        Alexey
        March 4, 2022 at 4:44 pm

        Thanks Don! I thought 🙂

        • Reply
          Richard
          March 5, 2022 at 2:39 pm

          I second Don’s comments, an article from Alexey would be very interesting.

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