Sony Alpha A99 and its new Russian Comerades!

What’s the idea?

Back in my old camera days, when I was travelling a lot, I did deals with medium format cameras as a sidekick to my profession. I moved a big number of KIEV 88 CM cameras. They were an easy profit, bought cheap, easily restored, and neatly sold. Then the digital age happened, and the interest ceased. I still had a Kiev88 CM, with a few 80mm, a 30mm fish eye and a 300mm in stock. I many times thought about throwing them away, but luckily I didn’t.

Today we are in a situation where a distortion is easily removed, by a few steps in Photoshop, and the interest for old lenses made of good glass is starting come back. Let me start out by saying that Russian production quality wasn’t exactly in control. This resulted in lenses ranging from utter junk to pure gems.

This blog post is about such an adventure, getting my old 30, 80 and 300mm Russian primes to work on my Sony Alpha, it might not end up great, but I fail to see how this adventure can go wrong while the prospect is intriguing and it’s cheap like borscht.

There is several kind of Russian bayonets, Salyut-C, M39, M42 and Pentacon Six mount or more commonly abbreviated to P6, or Б in Cyrillic, confusing! a bit, add that most writings is in Cyrillic and Russian and we really need to be careful here, a wrong fit might end up with a damaged mirror J

I hope you will benefit from all this info, as this is my “attempt to clear the FOG”


Making ends meet!

I am sure you by now realize that you are in the realm of full and utter manual photography, but also within range of some pretty nice payable brands and lenses. Pentacon 6 was originally designed by Carl Zeiss Jena, Worth mentioning is the 180 mm Sonnar and 50 mm Flektogon (both Zeiss Jena) among a load of Pentacon Six mount lenses from Carl Zeiss Jena, Meyer-Optik Görlitz/Pentacon, Arsenal, Joseph Schneider Kreuznach and Hartblei, do read more on the Pentacon website.

You may ask yourself why does he skip straight to Pentacon, what happened with Salyut-C, M39 and M42? Pentacon is one of the longest living bayonets in the world. The mount has successfully been produced in over 40 years. Add to this that a there is a ton of adapters to this mount, and among the options an adapter for Sony Alpha AF A-Mount.

I happen to have a load of nice lenses for my Kiev 88. The problem with Kiev 88 is that it has a Salyut-C bayonet (Salut-S = Салют-C), had it only been a Kiev 88 CM, then it would have had a Pentacon mount. The differences between a Salyut-C and Pentacon are minor, and can be migrated with a small locking ring. From there happiness is within reach, and comes in the form of a high quality aluminum adapter from Enjoy Your Camera. The Quenox’s Pentacon Six-Objektiv – Sony/Minolta A-Mount Adapter sells for 42euro + freight. Their site is in German, but if you are not totally hopeless then I am sure you will manage. They offer an instruction video also in German, but fairly understandable.

So what TSLR will your current lenses adapt to? The rule to follow is to see what your body’s flange size is. The flange size is the distance between the mount and the sensor. Essentially if your TSLR body’s flange is longer than that for which the lens is designed for the lens can’t be used. If it is shorter and you can fit an adapter in the gap then the lens will be at the right flange distance to focus so all’s good to go. So we need to pay attention to the distance between the rear lens element and the sensor, but the mount and the mirror have the biggest influence. The mirror can get in the way of the rear element and the mount’s flange distance can stop the rear element from being close enough to the sensor for infinity focus.

From the left to the right, a Kiev 88 lens with Salyut-C, attached with the next ring and we have converted it in to a Pentacon 6. From the Pentacon we are then converting to a Sony Alpha A mount. Easy … almost… good lets see…

Now lets the focus on the glass

What can I say? Ukrainian lenses are cheap. Most are based on old Zeiss designs and, despite creative quality control at the factory, are generally capable of taking very nice pictures. Oh, and did I mention that they are cheap? The down side to this is that Kiev lenses are generally not up to the level of German and Japanese lenses when it comes to fit and finish.

Quite a few of the lenses are not multicoated, and even the ones that are multicoated sometimes have the coating deposited unevenly. Still, taking proper precautions (like using a lens shade!) these Ukrainian hunks of metal and glass can produce excellent and sharp images with beautiful color. And they do pretty well at black and white too!

The going rate for most of these lenses is between less than $200! The 80mm normal lens can be had for about $50. Compared with other medium format lenses, the Kiev lenses are a steal.

A few of the Russians lenses can more than able to hold their own, the 80mm normal lens is a fine performer as is the Vega 120mm lens. Testers claim that you will have more than difficulties spotting any difference in picture quality to the more expensive western counterparts. The highly regarded Ukrainian 30mm fisheye lens will allow you to get shots that users of other systems only dream of. This lens is superb and sells for $200 (or so) lens. To put it in perspective, the 30mm Distagon for a Hasselblad goes for about $5,000. Does the Distagon produce noticeably better photographs? Maaaaaybe. Is it $4,800 better? Hmmm.

There is also a number of Carls Zeiss Lenses from the factory in Jena, East Germany. While many people say that the East German Zeiss later lagged behind its capitalist western counterpart, the Jena factory was capable of making some fine lenses. Zeiss Jena lenses usually have a degree of fit and finish (and name value) that Ukrainian lenses lack. Among their jewels are the Flektogon 50mm F4 and the Sonnar 180mm F2.8.

This article is going to focus on the following lenses

  • 1:3.5/30 mm Arsat fisheye lens (formerly called Zodiak 8)
  • 1:2.8/80 mm Arsat (formerly called Volna)
  • 1:4.5/300 mm Tair-33


Let’s start out with one most interesting glass seems from an astrophotography point of view, the 30mm. The translation from medium format to 35mm affects the result. According to the Pentacon website will the 30mm become 16mm and the f-stop at f/3.5 becomes f/1… did I get your attention? Both featuring a 180° view

To get a good approximation of the relationship between 6×6 and 35mm, take the 6×6 focal length, halve it, and add a bit (about 10% of the resulting number). The longer the focal length, the less significant is the 10%. 

Take, for instance doing a little math on a 50mm MF lens can approximate it to 50mm / 2 * 1.10 = 27.5mm. So a 50mm 6×6 lens is roughly equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm

Can this really be true ?


How did it go


Ordering adapters from the Ukraine website was not as easy as expected. The payment failed, and the “basket” of the website didn’t empty after I successfully managed to place the order and pay. Then it took more than a week before the adapter ring was actually shipped. I had to pull more than once for a tracking code to find my parcel.

The fit of the adapter ring isn’t exactly great; I wouldn’t trust my camera to hang securely on to my lens. There seems to be a slight slack and light being able to pass in at the adapter. It is a shame that the kiev 88 to pentacon adapter isn’t better, because the pentacon to Sony alpha seems to be of a really good build quality.

Right for the beginning is it clear to me that focus to infinity is off, but I will have to see if I can extend the distance between the rare element and my sensor, to gain the same distance between the rare element and the Kiev 88 film.

Looking at the fisheye, it was not as wide as expected, nor is it as light strong as calculated. Looking at the picture quality, then I am still a bit undecided, and will like to shoot more with it before parsing my judgment.

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