Using Vintage Russian Lenses for Commercial Work

Using Vintage Russian Lenses for Commercial Work

It’s very nice to see the vintage lenses I constantly talk about being use on serious commercial projects. The video above was shot by a twitter friend of mine, an awesome DP/Photographer & very informative blogger, Adam Roberts. I first met Adam when he won one of my Helios 44-2 lenses I was giving away a year ago. I don’t know if that started his love for vintage glass or not, but he now has a nice little set of Russian lenses. When I first saw the video above I was really impressed my Adam’s effort, but little did I know that he shot the whole thing with his 3 very affordable vintage Russian primes, so when I found out I’ve asked Adam if he could write a little blog post about his experience using these lenses for his professional shoot. He kindly agreed and here is what he has to say:

Back in around June 2012 I was asked to direct and shoot a short brand film for Tullamore Dew called “The Furnace of Resurrection”. The brief from the agency was to create a documentary film following on from the concept of their “virtual furnace” where Facebook users could “burn all that is dishonesty and fake in the world”.

The idea was that all the Facebook submissions were to be burnt in a real furnace to produce charcoal that would then be used to create something “True”.

Sitting with the team behind the idea it was quickly established that they wanted something that felt timeless and authentic rather than feeling punchy and looking like reality TV.

I went away a did some thinking and wrote a treatment for the film. Eventually after a few revisions and budget discussions we had client sign-off and the green light.

One of the key elements in creating the look was the lenses I chose to use. I have a set of vintage Russian stills lenses designed for the M42 mount Zenith cameras. The nice thing about these lenses is that they are not perfect. They have imperfections that are exactly what we were after. Rather than producing images that are super sharp these lenses produce a dreamy “classic” feel, they flare easily and the way they render colour was perfect for the look were were aiming for.Adam's Lenses

We uses 3 lenses during production.

MIR-1 37mm f/2.8

HELIOS-44-2 58mm f/2

Helios 44-2
JUPITER-9 85mm f/2

Jupiter 9

These lenses were used on the Sony NEX-FS100 Super35mm camera with a simple M42 to NEX adaptor. We recorded to an Atomos Ninja 2 in ProRes 422 HQ.


The original plan was to use a technique call “Lens Whacking” (a technique where you shoot with the lens disconnected from the camera) so we could generate additional flares and light leaks. What was I thinking??? We were shooting in the middle of a forrest in March. Tempratures in the Northern Hemisphere had yet to start warming up and even the mud was still frozen. Hand holding a metal lens body in those conditions was almost impossible. So rather than drop the lenses in the freezing mud we worked with the smoke and light coming in through the trees to achieve a lot of the look were were after.

Once the edit was complete the project was then graded using the Film Convert plugin in Final Cut Pro X.



For me the use of Russian vintage glass makes a perfect sense for project Adam was working on. It definitely has more organic, filmic look than ultra sharp and clean modern glass. I’ve said before that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the look of modern glass, but vintage lenses undoubtedly have more character which one of many reasons is why many of us use them including Adam & myself. I myself have 2 out 3 lenses Adam used and Jupiter 9 has been on my wish list for a while. I personally couldn’t recommend them enough. If you haven’t done so, make sure to check out my Helios 44-2 and MIR-1 reviews/tests to see what they are all about.

I would like to thank Adam for his great post which adds yet another, valuable perspective on vintage lenses. Make sure to check out his very informative Blog & follow him on Twitter for his latest updates.


I try my best to make this website a great resource for people interested in vintage lenses for video use, so I hope you’ve enjoyed this & other posts. I sure hope they will help you save some money on your future lens investments too. I’ve joined the ebay affiliate program to help me run this website, fund my tests & lens giveaways, so if you find this content useful and would like to help me produce more similar content, please use the links in this post if you’re planning to buy one of these lenses or bookmark and/or use this link if you want to buy anything else on or this link if you shop on You will not be spending a penny more using these links, while still helping as eBay will pay out a small percentage from any purchase or successful bid, which in turn will support new content on Thank you.


12 Responses to Using Vintage Russian Lenses for Commercial Work

  1. Hi buddy! Great video and great blog. I have the Helios 44-2 and the MIR 37, since i saw and read yours reviews, and are a really incredible lens. I have a cuestion for you, i saw that you use a Follow focus with that lenses, wich ring do you use to adapt the follow focus to that lenses? (maybe it is a stupid cuestion but i’m loosing my mind, with my ring it’s imposible). Thank you very much

  2. Hi, really nice work, I’m looking to buy either the jupiter 3, the Helios 44-2 or the Mir 37mmm to use with the bmpcc, What would you recommend? I just can get one, since prices are going up. Thanks in advance, or maybe the canon 50mm fd?

  3. I recently discovered your site and I’m super amazed by what you can do with these vintage lenses. At the moment I have a Canon 5d mark II and I was wondering if these lenses would be great to use with imy camera? Or what russian lenses do u recommend for a my 5d mark II? Thanks

  4. After reading your article, I have collected 3 Russian lenses. Thanks! Even though my work is not Commercial work, I’ve been enjoying these lenses. I’ve shot with Canon 6d for this family portrait short film:

  5. Hi
    I am looking to buy a MIR-1 37mm f/2.8, HELIOS-44-2 58mm f/2 and a INDUSTAR 69 LENS 2.8/28mm for my Nikon D7100. My question is will they work on my Nikon DSLR with a M39-Nikon and M42-Nikon adapters. Are these adapters called and Fmount, NON-AI or AI. Asking this as i am a bit confused and heard that NON-AI lenses damage the body where as AI lenses dont

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