THE HP5 OF LENSES. (a Jupiter 8 lens review).
There is a certain kind of mystery when winter sweeps over any mountain, town, or city and stakes its claim with the first snowfall, leaving streets lined by trees aglow in their finest new seasonal highlights. Some days in the last month or so have been wonderful to step out into and see the neighborhood almost unrecognizable. The sheer brilliance a few days of snow can impart on a simple neighborhood is unforgettable, well almost. I seem to be amazed almost every year just as much, so either I am forgetting in the process of just trying to survive and move on from the dark, short, dreary days of winter or it is just that spectacular that I can’t seem to recall the year prior because this year must just be that much more magical. Let us stick with the latter. More recently though, it has been raining hard over here in eastern Washington, after about a month or more of that fluffy sky fall and on again, off again, below 0 temperatures. These days of rain continue to melt the many gleaming, dirty-faced glacial piles of compact ice along the roadsides.
Canon P, Jupiter 8, Spokane, wa.
It is strange only because these have been here long enough that they have had time to settle in along the edges of my mind, becoming almost welcomed fixtures…or obstacles, depending on the day, duty or task. This new, wetter guest of winter is also causing what’s left on rooftops, high and low, to slide down and splash mightily wherever these sheets may land. Weather like this, coming in and sticking around leads to days of indoor pictures and lots of TV and reading and writing and much less a feeling to put on the many layers and take the time and careful steps to find the magic out in the glittering numb world. I have still made my way out to do it some, but much less so. In this article I will be showing you some of those images from days that I did make it out with my Canon P, some Ultrafine Extreme 400 black+white film and a lens I have had for some time and have not used much till now, the early silver model Jupiter 8 (red P) 50mm F2 LTM lens.
There are conveniently and surprisingly many reviews and resources online about this lens, they shift and budge all over the place. Some are very much in favor, some much less so, and based on production year and whether it is a black model, a silver model with a focus tab, or a silver model where the lens block and the focus move as one unit, it just may be the best.
So look and you shall find many opinions and almost facts about the many variations and what they can do for you. Even though I write a blog that sometimes has gear reviews, I stand by the old idea that the act of trying something out for yourself and then casting judgment or giving into a full embrace is the way to fully know what it is you would like to know! Because as they say, “The proof is in the pudding” and “You only know, what You know.”
All that being said, my Jupiter lens has, well I assume it has seen better days. The front lens has some heftier cleaning marks; the rear element has a spot of either onset separation or a fungus that does not yet look like fungus; perhaps a juvenile fungus?
It has the common problem of a bent front thread mount, making putting my yellow filter on a lot trickier, but I did it. It has an aluminum body which feels very nice, some say it feels cheap or flimsy, but I disagree. It does lead to the thinner parts, such as the front thread being prone to damage though, so if you have a filter or hood you can attach, that is a great idea, and leaving it on would probably help prevent that. Some of these that you may find online are shined up very nicely, and even now when I see them I am tempted to hit that bid or buy button and wait for the post to come.
My copy is pretty aged, the aluminum holds no shine and it looks like it has seen some shit, maybe it’s on the verge of developing liver spots? The elements are clear between one another and haze and fungus (from what I can tell) are no issue, unlike on my Canon 50mm f1.8. The focus is smooth and easy to manage, the throw is not too big for my style of shooting, and for more spur-of-the-moment quick-focus shots you can always just zone focus. This lens sits nicely on my Canon P and it also sat nicely on my Leica M3 before I buried it in my backyard, SYKE!
Some don’t like this lens on the Canon P and other cameras as well, because the lack of weight leads to the camera body tipping up as you walk, digging into the ribs, or just getting in the way, rather than being comfortable and readily available. With the Canon P, this is true, the body has a major tendency to flip up and bounce there, but it’s not only this lens that causes that to happen, my canon lens also sees the flip. I bet putting a 135mm lens on this bad boy would keep it flush and front forward, but I am not going to be the one to test that. Anyway, that isn’t an issue with the lens(es), they aren’t meant to correct an error in strap lug placement, they are meant to help us gather images and be fun throughout the process. Canon made the mistake of putting the lugs too close to the front of the body and maybe even the angle they are set plays a role in how off the weight distribution is.
Canon P, Jupiter 8, stitched.
This lens is small and capable and of the many budget lenses I have had the privilege of using, it is one of my all-time favorites. The main reason is due to how open it is in how it captures an image. It is a shooter's lens, it isn’t fancy and it isn’t going to get you any pats on the back, but it is so forgiving and it rests almost right in the middle in how it captures contrast, leaving you with a nice flat image to play with. This is going to sound weird (even though it is in the title), and I might get some very disagreeable commenters, but I feel like this is the lens version of Ilford HP5.
It is a perfect canvas for editing in post, or you can slap a little yellow/red/orange filter on it and get it done in camera. I have just been so pleased with how nothing is blown out, nothing is too dark, I just bump contrast a tiny bit and save and wah-lah, it’s just how I saw it! Now using a filter, it is still doing an amazing job, and as I said before, the filter is removing that extra step, no more contrast bumping.
Now that that’s all done and dandy, onto my main issue with this lens, which honestly is not a big thing, it doesn’t have click stops on the aperture ring. Before I say much more about this I just have to clarify that, I bet if I were to open it up and remove the old grease and put some new proper grease, there would be a bit more resistance, which would make for a better feel and I would maybe have no issue with this lens at all.
Canon P, Jupiter 8, stitched.
Until then, this will remain my only issue with it. No click stops means, no certainty. No certainty means, looking a lot, double checking, triple checking. You can’t memorize the clicks between f4 and f16 and find your happy place. It’s all in the hopes that the user can set it, forget it, not bump it or accidentally turn it while going for focus or removing a lens cap. This is a fine lens detail for video or digital, but I don’t do either of those so….here I shall reside. If this lens had click stops, it would be one of my favorite lenses of all time. It's sharp, but not disgustingly so, it’s easy to use and it benefits the shooter in its agreeable image portrayal while still giving the user plenty of room to adjust and explore.
There are so many of these out there and while they are getting a bit more pricey here and there, they are still cheap. My model with the tab is getting a bit harder to find as well, but it's still out there and having a few different options within this model to choose from gives the interested party even more room to play! It’s late now, the cars driving by are hissing home on these wet roads.
I, not so quietly await the day that warmth returns and then decides to stick around in the way it does; bringing with it an almost full days light. Until then though I will make it a point to go out and use this lens in the cold, in winters mostly subdued yet sometimes stabbing light. I’ll let this lens see all the seasons it can and help me to remember them, for these are good days no matter how bizarre and hard things may be, this is something that will help me keep some of the worth keeping.