Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Steve Cushing Impresionist Fine Art Photography

Embracing imperfection, recording emotions, one impression at a time…

KMZ Tair-11 133 f2.8

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Soviet lenses have a strange background in comparison with their German and Japanese counterparts. Some optical designs, such as this lens are almost direct copies of the Biotar and Flektogon series made my Carl Zeiss. However, what makes them stand apart is that even if they are copies they still have a unique image rendering and this lens is no exception. It is a pity that collectors of lenses have preferred the Helios to the MIR as these lenses give the same swirly bokeh but somewhat muted, makes them if anything more useful.

The names of the Soviet lenses often featured cosmic themes rather than optical design think of popular names such as Jupiter, Vega, Helios, Tair. In the Soviet era, everything that is connected with space was a trend. And they called the cosmic names of not only for their lenses, but other items such the tape player "Vega" motorbikes "Jupiter," and so many more products. Soviet lenses can be divided in two ways. Sometimes the name states the optical design (Helios, Industar, etc), The second way to clarify them is the brand of the manufacturer (Arsat, Zenitar, BelOMO).

Krasnogorski Mekhanicheskii Zavod (KMZ) – Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk was founded in 1942 in Krasnogorsk, a western suburb of Moscow on the base of evacuated optical-mechanical plant No.69, in order to produce optical equipment for the Soviet army. In total, in the period 1942-1945, the plant produced more than 400 thousand various devices for the needs of the Soviet army.

In 1946 the KMZ factory began making cameras, starting with the Moskva folding camera and Zorki which was a copy of the Leica II camera. In 1952, was started the production of Zenit cameras, which later became the most popular SLR cameras in the world. At the very start of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, many people worked in factories and research institutes who lived and studied in pre-revolutionary Russia and quality was high, indeed the first models of cameras and lenses produced at the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant were excellent examples of photo equipment. Unfortunately later the quality became more varied due to stagnation in science and technology within the USSR.

As Russian companies developed the Zeiss lenses the Soviet designers had to produce them with lower quality Soviet types of glass and put them into production. This necessitated some design changes as with this lens. Interestingly these changes did not necessarily lead to a poorer image, indeed often the changes improved on the lens design. So developed legendary Soviet lenses. Some optical designs were also invented by Soviet designers. For example Tair, Telear, Kaleinar etc.

This Lens

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I bought this lens after I saw its 20-blade aperture. This 20-blade aperture makes the aperture almost ideally round, which provides a beautiful out-of-focus blur and control of depth of field. The image is quite sharp.

This lens is the 11 not the 11A the letter 'A' in the lens name indicates the ability to use interchangeable shanks. This silver version has a M39 mounting thread and is designed for SLR cameras with a working length of 45,2 mm.

The lens body came in 2 colours: silver like this lens and black. The lens used her has a 00xxxxxx pre-series serial number which is reserved for important members of the communist party and "VIPs" (reserves aux membres du parti communist et haut responsables en pre-serie)

I always look for the lenses with pre-production serial numbers because there's that chance that they might be better than those of mass-production lines. They are generally considered higher quality optics due to the fact that there is stricter quality control (which is disputed among Russian gear), they are produced in lower numbers with greater care, and they are not presented to the general public. A great many members, with multiple copies of the helios 44-2, have invariably found the best to be the one with the 0xxxxx serial number. Whether there is really any difference between which pre-production model is the better has yet to be tested.

In 1958 at the World's Fair in Brussels the Tair-11 was awarded the Grand Prix.

The lens is pre-set, that is, one ring is set to the desired F, then focus wide open, then use the other f ring to stop down to the desired (set) F. You can observe the depth of field also and make any corrections if you want. It is just outstanding.

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Lens in Use

  • High-aperture lens with coated optics.
  • It was intended for shooting distant objects on location, portraits, especially in low light, shooting group scenes, sports moments, etc.
  • Focal length 133 mm (133.2 mm), relative aperture 1: 2.8, field of view 18 °, frame size 24x36 mm, Number of lenses / groups 4/3.
  • Distance from first to last surface: 57.8 mm. Working distance: Tair-11 - 45.2 mm,
  • Connections: lens with camera: M39x1,
  • Year of development: 1950s.
  • Looks and built like an artillery shell


This is my favourite 135mm's which I also tend to use with helicoids as a sort-of macro.
It is sharp yet not harshly sharp.. hard to explain but that's what I like to most about this lens with of course the creamy background and round bokeh even stopped down.

Heavy and thus beautifully balanced this preset lens has a bokeh like none other. Very neutral colours and excellent contrast.. However, it has become the one I use the most of my (now) ten 135mm range lenses. It is just perfect. The quality of the photos is similar to the SMC Takumar 85mm f1.9. The bokeh is just the best I have seen.


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