Review: Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0

Introduction

Sony A7s with Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 and VM-E close focus adapter (Helicoid)
Sony A7s with Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 and VM-E close focus adapter (Helicoid)

The Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 is actually a copy of the Zeiss Sonnar 85mm 2.0 and was produced in the UDSSR after WWII. This is my favourite among the Jupiter lenses tested so far, read on to find out why!

Sample Images

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica close focus flower tulip
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | full resolution
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount landscape water waterfall long exposure nd filter
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/11 | full resolution

Specifications / Version History

The outer apperance of the lens has changed over time and regarding the optics early versions may actually use Zeiss glass produced in Germany and some later ones may have different coatings as well. So in case you are curious, take a look at the page sovietcams.com, for additional coverage.

I am reviewing a quite early lens from 1958 here (the first two digits of the serial number are the production year, 58 in this case) which has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 58.0 mm
    • Field of view: 29° (diagonally)
    • Length:  76.0 mm
    • Weight: 318 g
    • Filter Diameter: 49  mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 15 (rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 7/3
    • Close Focusing Distance: 1.1 m (with Helicoid ~0.7 m)
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:11.3 (with Helicoid 1:7.3)
    • Mount: M39 (aka LTM or Zorki)

A Jupiter-9 in good condition usually starts selling for $145 at ebay.com (affiliate link). In Germany buying one in A-condition will set you back at least 115€. I got mine at ebay.de (affiliate link).

Handling / Build Quality

Sony A7s with Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 and VM-E close focus adapter (Helicoid)
Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0

There is quite some sample variation with these lenses. This one had an easy to operate aperture ring but a very stiff focusing ring.  You can either try fixing this yourself with the help of some tutorials or videos on the internet or bring it to a repair shop instead.  The best idea is of course to buy your lens from a trusted seller. I can recommened this ebay shop (affiliate link) as I have bought lenses there myself.
Turning the focusing ring from infinity to 1.0 m takes about 120°, turning the aperture ring from f/2.0 to f/22 takes about 80°. The aperture ring has no click stops. I prefer click stops but in case you consider filming with this lens you may prefer it the way it is. There is no official hood I know of. Using filters is not a problem as the filter ring doesn’t rotate.
This lens is made from aluminium which contributes to the low weight but is also very good at attracting scratches. Newer versions are still made from aluminum but painted black and don’t attract scratches as much to my experience.

Vignetting and colorcast

vignetting jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 zorki fed m39 rangefinder

Taking the physical dimensions into account vignetting is suprisingly low at only 1.6 EV wide open and rarely noticeable further stopped down.

Sharpness

infinity
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica sunstars sharpness close coma resolution contrast
Wide open the lens is somewhat soft and not really contrasty in general. This can be favorable for portraits, for landscape and architecture, not so much. The center looks pretty good af f/2.8, the midframe at f/5.6 and the corners quite ok at f/11.

close focus
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica sunstars sharpness close
For these shots I was using the VM-E helicoid adapter at maximum extension (around 4 mm), so keep in mind you are looking at 100% crops of photos taken at the extended(!) minimum focus distance. The lens was never intended to be used at these distances and does not incorporate a floating elements design either, still the performance wide open isn’t all that bad. Stop down to f/2.8 and things look very good here.

Flare resistance

jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 flare lens resistance sony a7s a7
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/11

The flare resistance is certainly nothing to write home about and the lens certainly shows it’s age here. You get ghosts, other artifacts and much lower contrast.

jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 flare lens resistance sony a7s a7
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/11

Coma

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica sunstars sharpness close coma

Wide open the performance isn’t great here, stopping down to f/4.0 helps a lot. So stop down to at least f/4.0 when shooting city scapes or similar subjects.

Distortion

Distorion characteristics of Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0
Distorion characteristics of Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0

There is very minor pincushion Distortion which I don’t consider an issue.

Bokeh

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | full resolution

Certainly one of the strong points of the lens, in case you like Sonnar bokeh. The edges get blurred quite a lot as can be seen in the example above. There are no onion rings, hardly any outlining and because of the 15 rounded aperture blades highlights stay nearly perfectly round on stopping down.
Interestingly mechanical vignetting is not really an issue, because of the small dimensions of the lens this really suprised me.

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | full resolution


Bokeh, crop of upper right corner, f2.0 (before) / f4.0 (after)

Sunstars

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica sunstars
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/11 | full resolution

If have written it before, you either have nice highlights on stopping down or nice sunstars and 15 rounded aperture blades lead to pretty bad sunstars:

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica sunstars
100% crop from photo above

Chromatic aberrations

longitudinal

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica loCA close focus
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | 50% crop, minimum focus distance

The loCA correction is pretty good for such a fast yet old lens. In real world shooting I did not even once notice loCA in a bothersome way in any of my pictures. Only with the use of the helicoid adapter (which works as a 4 mm extension tube here) at the extended minimum focus distance loCA start to appear.

lateral

In the corners you can spot some lateral CAs which can be easily corrected in post, as can be seen in the example below (100% crop). This is one of the few lenses where the outlinings are yellow and purple instead of magenta and cyan.


Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/4.0 | CA 100% crop before/after extreme corner

Alternatives

Leica Summicron-M 90mm 2.0 pre-Asph:
This is still my preferred portrait lens when using A7 cameras. Better optics, way better build quality, about six times as expensive.

Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8:
In case money isn’t really an issue and you prefer a native lens with AF and IS this lens might be for you. I haven’t used one myself but Jannik is currently using one and preparing a review.

Legacy SLR 85mm lenses:
85mm has always been a popular focal length so there are many legacy lenses to chose from. You can start having a look at this comparison.

Conclusion

good

  • bokeh
  • size / weight
  • price
  • correction of longitudinal CA
  • distortion
  • vignetting
average

  • correction of lateral CA
  • build quality
  • handling
not good

  • contrast/sharpness
    wide open
  • flare resistance
  • sunstars
  • coma correction
    (below f/4.0)

This lens has become quite the classic and I can definetly understand that. The lens is small, lightweight, affordable, offers great bokeh and stopped down sharpness isn’t bad either. Still I see it more as a special purpose lens for portraiture than a general purpose tele. Sharpness and especially contrast aren’t up to my taste for landscape and architecture, neither are the sunstars.
There are also lenses with better handling, as the aperture ring has no click stops you pretty much have to look at the lens when changing the aperture, which is something I don’t like. There also seems to be quite a bit sample variation. I have had two of these lenses so far, one with wobbly aperture ring and stiff focusing ring, the other one quite ok, so only buy from trusted sellers or be sure to try before buy.

So, who is this lens for? Anyone, who looks for a small yet fast and affordable portrait lens and can live with the so so build quality and handling. One thing is for sure: this is the biggest bang for the buck when it comes to rangefinder portrait lenses.

A Jupiter-9 in good condition usually starts selling for $145 at ebay.com (affiliate link). In Germany buying one in A-condition will set you back at least 115€. I got mine at ebay.de (affiliate link).

Sample Images

jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica stuttgart bokeh
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | full resolution
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | full resolution
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/11 | full resolution
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | full resolution
jupiter 9 85mm 2.0 soviet bokeh portrait sony a7 review e-mount leica
Sony A7s | Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 | f/2.0 | full resolution

 

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

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26 thoughts on “Review: Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0”

  1. Great review! I bought this lens about three weeks ago and have enjoyed the unique and dreamy look that it gives to portraits and other pictures. I’m pretty sure my lens is a later edition that the one you reviewed as it is shorter, wider and matt grey. Though I currently only use cameras with APS-C sized sensors I look forward to trying this lens on a full frame camera body.

  2. Great review! I bought this lens about three weeks ago and have enjoyed the unique and dreamy look that it gives to portraits and other pictures. I’m pretty sure my lens is a later edition that the one you reviewed as it is shorter, wider and matt grey. Though I currently only use cameras with APS-C sized sensors I look forward to trying this lens on a full frame camera body.

    1. They are quite different, yes. I was also taking a closer look at the Contax G 90mm 2.8 which seems to be a great everyday tele lens with rarely any flaws but the noisy AF and the not so great manual focus experience rather let me down.
      Optically the Contax is no doubt the better lens, but you buy the Jupiter for it’s soft rendering wide open which the Contax does not have.
      Luckily they are both decently priced, so you may be able to acquire both 🙂

  3. Nice review, I enjoyed reading it. I was wondering if you had a chance to compare the M39 vs Kiev mount versions of this lens. I have the Kiev version and conventional wisdom on the net suggest Kiev version may have better coating and better performance wide open in regards to resolution and flare.

  4. The Kiev and 39mm thread mount versions of the J-9 have the same optics and barrel; the focus mount and aperture ring are different. You can take the barrel out of a Kiev mount lens and put it into the M39 mount, just switch the aperture ring when you do- different thickness. The KMZ manufactured lenses had better quality control than later made lenses.

  5. Great review! I have got two J9, one black M42 from the 90s and one silver M39 from 1966. The black one is soft at f2 and gets sharper stopped down. The silver one is sharp wide open (on my 12MP Canon 5D) and is nice to focus. In the distance its blurry but in short distance a very good portrait lens. Here are 2 Shots between f2 and f2.8 – not sure.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tmertens/25217697523/
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/tmertens/25749200901/

  6. My Jupiter 9 is 1958 by Litkarino – bought from an Ukranian dealer and goy it fully CLA’d by a Bulgarian Lens repairman

    It is in excellent condition and after reading your comment – had it fitted with a China made Leica M helicoid and a Leica LTM to M adapter

    I use it for indoor close shots and find it quite effective together with my Sony A7II – thanks for sharing your expertise on this legacy glass

  7. My Jupiter 9 is 1958 by Litkarino – bought from an Ukranian dealer and got it fully CLA’d by a Bulgarian Lens repairman

    It is in excellent condition and after reading your comment – had it fitted with a China made Leica M helicoid and a Leica LTM to M adapter

    I use it for indoor close shots and find it quite effective together with my Sony A7II – thanks for sharing your expertise on this legacy glass

  8. I bought a J 9 on ebay with the Kiev mount. It has no aperture ring. Is there any way to mount it on a Sony A 7?

    1. I don’t have first hands experience with the Kiev J9, but Kiev should be the same as M42 so a M42 -> Sony-E adapter should work.
      I am quite puzzled it doesn’t feature an aperture ring though…

      1. How can I determine which mount it is?
        I believe it is an m42, however.
        I have thr Techart Pro Leica M mount lens to Sony e mount camera Auto Focus Adaptor.

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