Old Russian Lenses – Mir 20 N 20mm f3.5 – Faulty Copy :(

I’ve become a little obsessed with old manual lenses of late, particularly the Russian ones, I have a Helios 44-2 58mm f2 and a Jupiter 11 135mm f4 which I LOVE, they are very sharp, have some amazing bokeh characteristics and are cheap, which means you can experiment with lenses with some personality without spending a fortune.
Would I use them on most commercial jobs? unlikely, but for when you have more time or want to get a bit more “creative” they are wonderful.
I was looking for something wide to compliment the 58mm and the 135mm which lead me to the Mir 20mm f3.5.
There are, it turns out, a number of variations of this lens but I particularly wanted the Russian (as opposed to international) version with Russian script. Why? well, just because.

I came across a Mir 20N with the Russian script in M42 mount (this, it turns out, should have been a red flag – more on that later) on eBay and ordered it. Happy Days!

Russian Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 in M42 mount?
Russian Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 in M42 mount?

I had to wait another week for a different M42 to E mount adapter to arrive as there are 2 kinds, the ones that have a flange inside at the base of the thread to aid in registration and those that don’t (see photo below)
The Mir 20 I had ordered had an aperture lever which prevented it from being used on the adapter I already had.

(left) M42 adapter without flange, (right) M42 adapter with flange
(left) M42 adapter without flange, (right) M42 adapter with flange
What I believe to be a modified Nikon F mount to M42 mount Mir 20N, with aperture lever.
What I believe to be a modified Nikon F mount to M42 mount Mir 20N, with aperture lever.

Initial testing looked good, the crazy flares (God rays anyone?) were there and the lens seemed sharp, but I noticed some problems with the aperture blades not fully opening and realised the copy I had bought was damaged.
If you look closely in the photo below you can see the aperture blade at the top is not in the position it should be and all the aperture blades are not fully retracted at f3.5.

Faulty aperture blades on a Mir 20N 20mm f3.5
Faulty aperture blades on a Mir 20N 20mm f3.5

From what I’ve read HERE (great site if you are interested in old lenses by the way!) and various other places I think the copy I purchased has been modified from Nikon F mount to M42 for some reason (It looks like the Nikon mount version and not the other photos I’ve seen of the M42 mount version) and in the process the aperture mechanism has been damaged.

***UPDATE*** It seems I may be wrong about the modified Nikon F mount thoughts, apparently the 20N was made in very limited quantities in M42 mount. Doesn’t help with my faulty aperture blades though :(

Of course the eBay seller failed to mention any problems……..

Reluctantly I initiated a return on eBay, but not before I’d shot some more tests you can see in the video at the top and the photos in this post.

All images and video Shot on a Sony A7III.

God Rays - Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 - ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019
God Rays – Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 – ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019
It's WIDE :) - Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 - ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019
It’s WIDE :) – Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 – ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019
And it focuses CLOSE - Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 - ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019
And it focuses CLOSE – Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 – ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019
Flattering portraits too - Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 - ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019
Flattering portraits too – Mir 20N 20mm f3.5 – ©Adrian Storey/Uchujin 2019

I really like the lens and will definitely be buying another copy and thanks to the internet will be more careful and buy a MC 20M M42 version next time.

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