The Jupiter 21M is the lens that I bought the Fujifilm X-A3 for. Yes, I purchased the camera with this specific lens in mind. I wanted a quality yet inexpensive long telephoto option, and I was hoping that this lens/camera combination would provide me just that. I was excited to put them to use and see what I could capture.
The first Jupiter 21 was introduced in 1959 in the Soviet Union. Over the years some modifications and improvements were made to the lens. The Jupiter 21M, which is one of the latest models, was manufactured beginning in 1973. My copy was made in 1983. I’ve heard that manufacturing of the Jupiter 21M continued well into the 2000’s, but I haven’t been able to verify this.
The Soviet Union acquired Carl Zeiss lens designs (and even some parts) at the end of World War II, and they made some direct copies of Zeiss lenses. The Jupiter 21 isn’t a direct copy of any particular German lens, but a Soviet “original” based on the Zeiss Sonnar design. The 21M model has an automatic aperture option, which allows the aperture to remain wide open for focusing but close down automatically whenever the shutter release is pressed. It’s not a particularly useful feature on the X-A3, but thankfully the lens has a switch to turn it off.
There aren’t many flaws found on the Jupiter 21M, which is an f/4 200mm M42-mount manual-focus telephoto lens (that’s a mouthful). It’s very sharp corner-to-corner. There’s very little vignetting. Bokeh is quite nice. Chromatic aberrations are a small issue but only when wide open. It does have some pronounced hazy lens flare, which could be considered good or bad, depending on one’s tastes. The maximum aperture of f/4 is not particularly large but certainly sufficient. The lens is fantastic from an optical quality point of view.
The one big flaw with the Jupiter 21M is that it’s a tank. It’s big and heavy! It weighs a little over two pounds, so it’s not something you want to walk around with. This is a lens to use for specific photos, and then put away otherwise.
I also have a Kohbeptep K-1 2x teleconverter lens that I sometimes pair with the Jupiter 21M. It turns the 200mm focal length into 400mm. Because of the APS-C crop factor, it’s equivalent to having a 600mm lens on a full-frame camera. The Kohbeptep K-1 is another Soviet product, and it’s actually pretty darn good when using an aperture that is f/8 or smaller. There is a tiny loss in overall sharpness, but not much. When the aperture is wide open there’s noticeable corner softness and chromatic aberrations, but stop down a little and it goes away. The K-1 can be found for pretty cheap, mine came with a camera that was a gift.
I paid less than $100 for my Jupiter 21M lens, and I’ve heard of people finding them for under $50. As with all vintage Russian camera gear, there’s a chance you might get a dud because their quality control was particularly poor. Mine works perfectly fine, and it’s especially nice with my Fujifilm X-A3. I’m very satisfied with it. I look forward to capturing even more images with it.
Example photos, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs:
Jupiter 21M with Kohbeptep K-1 2x teleconverter: