FAQ - Lenses

Which are the best lenses for a Kiev?
The answer to this question is very dependent on who you ask. But here are the most commonly heard suggestions as to the "better" lenses that you can attach to a Kiev in order of their focal length:

Arsat 30mm F3.5: This is a full frame fisheye lens with a huge, bulbous front element. It can be a heck of a lot of fun to use and is a real bargain at about $200 for a brand new lens. It is a sharp lens capable of fine results when used smartly.

Flektogon 50mm F4: This is a Carl Zeiss Jena lens made for the Pentacon Six camera, but it will attach to a Kiev 60, the Kiev 88CM, and some versions of the Kiev 88 which have modified, Pentacon-style lens mounts. Many people say that this is a great lens with excellent contrast and sharpness, especially in its later multi-coated form.

Arsat/Volna 80mm F2.8: This is the normal lens that comes attached to a Kiev 60 or Kiev 88. It is a fine performer and can produce excellent results. (Except for the known problem of light entering through the depth of field preview lever when the lens is focused closer than about 0.9 meters. This problem can be solved by simply covering the lever with a piece of black tape.)

Vega 120mm F2.8: This compact 120mm lens is almost the same size as the 80mm normal lens and is said to be a good performer.

Sonnar 180mm F2.8: This is another Carl Zeiss Jena lens made for the Pentacon Six camera. It is a big and heavy lens, but produces excellent, sharp pictures. It will mount on the Kiev 60 and modified Kiev 88 and 88CM's.

Other lenses that are worth a thought include:

Vega 90mm F2.8: This lens was standard on the Salyut C and Kiev 6C cameras which predated the Kiev 88 and 60 models. The Vega 90mm is said to be another excellent lens that will give oustanding results. It has no depth of field preview lever to leak light (which is a problem with the newer 80mm normal lens).

Kaleinar 150mm F2.8: While many would say that the Sonnar 180mm is better, the Kaleinar is still a fine lens and it is more compact than the Sonnar. However, it does not focus as closely and is often said to be not as sharp. Still, it's a nice portrait lens.

Jupiter 250mm F3.5: Big and heavy, but capable of good results. Doesn't focus very close.

Sonnar 300mm F4: Another monster of a lens but capable of producing excellent pictures.

Are Carl Zeiss Jena lenses better than Ukrainian lenses?
Depends on who you ask... but many people will tell you that, yes, they are better.

The two sets that get compared the most are the CZJ Flektogon 50mm F4 versus the Mir-26 45mm F3.5 and the CZJ Sonnar 180mm F2.8 versus the Kaleinar 150mm F2.8.

Flektogon versus Mir: Most people will probably tell you that the Flektogon is better. Still, there are those who prefer the Mir, claiming that the Flektogon is overrated. The Flektogon is generally believed to be sharper. But, while the Mir is often cast as the dog of the Kiev lens line, it will still produce "decent" results, especially when stopped down to F8 or F11. On Rick Denney's site, you will find a nice comparison between the Flektogon and the Mir. Basically, he found that while the Flektogon has much higher center resolution, the Mir gives a more even performance across the whole negative.

An old Mir will go for about $100 on eBay. An old "zebra" model Flektogon will fetch about $150. A brand new, but not multicoated Mir will sell for about $200. A late model (but used) multi-coated Flektogon often goes for about $250 on eBay. The Mir takes easier to find 82mm filters. The Flektogon takes 86mm filters which are hard to come by. It can be hard to find a lens shade for either lens.

Sonnar versus Kaleinar: Here again, most people say that the Sonnar is the better of the two. The Sonnar is said to be sharper with better contrast especially in its later multi-coated form. The Kaleinar is often said to be not as sharp especially at the edges of the frame and does not focus as closely as the Sonnar.

A used Kaleinar can be had for about $120 on eBay. An old "zebra" model Sonnar often sells for about $150. A brand new, but again not multi-coated Kaleinar sells for about $240 while a late model (again used) mutli-coated Sonnar will usually sell for about $250 to $300 on eBay. The Kaleinar uses 82mm filters and comes with no factory lens hood. The Sonnar takes larger 86mm filters and usually comes with a factory hood. Also, the Sonnar has a tripod mounting collar (with a VERY small footprint offering questionable stability) with a 3/8" thread.

If economics are not the deciding factor, you might be better served with the CZJ lenses. The fit and finish of the Zeiss lenses is almost always better than that of the Kiev lenses, and they will probably also hold their value better than the Ukrainian lenses in the long run.

Final note: The jury is still out on the Biometar 80mm versus the Arsat 80mm and the Biometar 120mm versus the Vega 120mm lenses.

Are the non-multi-coated lenses bad?
Lens coating is meant to improve color rendition, sharpness, contrast, and transmission. In general, a coated lens will give noticeably better results than an uncoated lens, and a multi-coated lens will give slightly better results than a single-coated lens. The difference will probably be most noticeable when using color reversal film (slide film). Differences in coating will not be as noticeable when using color negative film (because the printer affects the final outcome much more than the lens' coating) and black and white photography.

Lens coatings can also help to reduce flare, which is non-image forming light hitting the film. A good multi-coated lens will generally be more flare resistant than a single-coated or uncoated lens. But proper use of a lens shade or lens shading technique will go a long way to even the playing field between coated versus multi-coated in terms of flare.

And, in general, coating differences will play a larger role in wide-angle lenses than they will in telephoto lenses.

So where does that leave us, the buyers? Basically, if you can afford it, try to get multi-coated lenses. But that doesn't mean we should automatically turn our backs on all non-multi-coated lenses. Some lenses are just not available in multi-coated versions or we might not always be able to afford the more expensive glass. A photographer can still get good results with careful use of single-coated or even uncoated lenses.

Do the lenses have flare problems?
Just about any lens will produce flare under certain conditions. While many lenses for the Kiev are multi-coated (which can help to reduce flare), there are still many which are not.

But more importantly than lens coatings, and true of any lens regardless of manufacturer, properly shading a lens will go a long way to reduce flare problems.

Last note. Flare is not always a bad thing. It is possible to use lens flare creatively to produce moody or more artistic and nostalgic results.

Can I use Kiev lenses on other cameras?
Yes you can.

There are adapters to mount Kiev and Pentacon 6 lenses on a variety of other camera bodies including the Mamiya 645 series, Contax 645, Pentax 645, Nikon, Canon, Minolta, M42. These adapters can be found quite often on eBay for about $25 to $35.

A few considerations exist, though:
When using an adapter you will lose aperture automation meaning that you will usually have to open up the lens' aperture for focusing and composition, and stop down the aperture manually before firing the shutter.

If you plan from the beginning to use Kiev lenses on another camera, it would be best to choose the Kiev 60 mount rather than the Kiev 88 mount. The Kiev 88 uses a screw mount and the adapters do not lock the lens in place -- it is therefore possible to actually unscrew the lens from the adapter while you are trying to focus it. The Kiev 60 and Pentacon lenses use a bayonet/breech lock system and the lenses will not rotate out of the adapter.

One final consideration if you plan to use Kiev or Pentacon lenses on a 35mm camera. Most medium format lenses do not have as high a resolving power as 35mm lenses because they don't have to -- the film will not be enlarged as much as 35mm will. Therefore, Kiev, Pentacon, and other medium format lenses as well, *may* be a little disappointing when used on 35mm cameras.


Last update: June 13, 2002
Copyright © 2001 & 2002