Lens Love #6 – Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5 M42

Lens Love is an occasional series of posts about the vintage lenses I’ve used and loved most.

The dry technical data and 100% corner crops of brick walls can be found elsewhere. What I’m more interested in is what specifically about a lens makes me love using it, and why I believe you should try one too.

You can see all Lens Love posts here.

This time around, the Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5 in M42 mount.

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What I Love 

Probably around 28 of the first 30 lenses I owned were in familiar 50/55/58mm territory.

The time came when I wanted to explore different focal lengths, and I started with the other two most common from the old pre-zoom film days to complement a nifty fifty – a wide 28 or 35mm, plus a tele 135mm.

Turns out that in M42 mount, which I have owned more lenses of than any other mount because of their fantastic 3As – Affordability, Availability and Adaptability – saw an absolutely ocean of 135mm lenses in its glory days.

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Which means for any of us looking for a 135mm M42 lens today, we’re spoilt for choice.

I’ve previously spoken of the rather excellent Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Sonnar, and I also at one point had M42 135s from Cosina and Revuenon, none of which disappointed.

They appeal to me generally for a number of reasons, not least of all that you gain a great deal of lens for your money (in terms of the pure amount of glass and metal), they often tend to be very decent at their widest aperture – or very close to it, and with that focal length you can get much closer than say a 50mm lens at the same focusing distance.

In other words, they give you far more “reach”, handy in all kinds of situations.

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My experience with Former Soviet Union (FSU) lenses previously had been great, mostly in the guise of a number of Helios 44s.

So I started to look around at 135mm FSU lenses in M42 mount.

The name Jupiter kept cropping up, specifically the Jupiter-37A 135/3.5 and Jupiter-11 135/4.

For its speed and seemingly slightly better reviews, I went with the Jupiter-37A.

For a 135mm it’s pretty compact, around 85mm in length and just under 55mm in diameter. At 370g it’s a reasonable weight for a prime lens, and much lighter than some other 135mm lenses, and zooms.

It’s certainly portable enough on one of my Pentax K DSLRs.

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Even better, it’s a preset aperture lens, which I love, especially shooting digital where you can focus wide open then quickly stop down to your required aperture.

Plus it has 12 aperture blades that stop down in an almost perfect circle, meaning you never get that “attack of the hexagons” bokeh you see with most lenses with six blades as soon as you close down past the maximum aperture.

In terms of the images, the Jupiter-37A delivers beautifully, and is more than sharp enough even wide open.

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Any Downsides?

For a vintage 135mm lens, I can’t think of any.

If you want something plastic and light, to shoot in Program or Auto modes, or Auto Focus, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but that completely misses the point of the Jupiter.

If you want old school 135mm action with lovely smooth out of focus areas and infinite control over depth of field with that preset aperture ring, look no further.

The fact I once had five 135mm lenses – including the Zeiss Sonnar and the aforementioned and very capable Cosina and Revuenon models – and the only one I have left is the Jupiter-37A, speaks for itself.

I did, some time later, seek out a Jupiter-11 also. It also performed very well. I sold it on because it was slightly more awkward and ungainly to use than the 37A, and slightly slower at f/4, not f/3.5. But I would recommend the Jupiter-11 also for the images it’s capable of.

Have you tried a Jupiter-37A (or its Jupiter-11 sibling)? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking.

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4 thoughts on “Lens Love #6 – Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5 M42”

  1. This post is prescient, because if the sun ever shines here again I’m going to shoot more with the Takumar on the Canon.
    It’s kind of amusing the number of people who insist you have to have automatic everything to get a good picture. What you really need is a decent lens and a photographer who knows how to use it. If you stick with auto all the time you never actually learn what the setting variations truly mean to the picture.
    I’ve never had a Jupiter lens and only ever shot with one Soviet Zenit which wasn’t impressive back in the film days. Now I can’t see the reasoning behind spending money on a lens you know is soft, which seems to be the point of buying the Helios. Your Jupiter looks the right thing, though I probably won’t go hunting one down when I already have a nice Vivitar manual 135mm M42.

    1. Thanks Marc, yes sometimes it’s easy to control a camera manually yourself and keep it simple. I went out yesterday with the Helios and got some lovely pictures (in my eyes!). It has unique rendering that I know some people don’t like much! But that’s why I do, it can make pictures that no other lenses I have can. Oh and I do like a preset aperture lens – which the Jupiter-37A and Helios 44-2 are.

  2. So far I’ve been able to stay away from the allure of the M42 lenses…
    If my wife saw all my lenses in one place, I’d be in trouble already 🙂 She’s the type of person who doesn’t see why anyone would need more than one camera with a superzoom lens…

    1. Ha yes, I keep my cameras slightly spread out and have a shelf plus three shoeboxes. Out of sight, out of mind!

      I am surprised you’ve never explored M42 though, given your fondness for Pentax. I’m shocked you’ve never had a Takumar!

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