Leica Valdai 1984 Black Jupiter-3 "adaptation" and test.

This is the 9th Valdai Jupiter-3 that I've shot with, and I've bought even more "new-old'stock" optical cells. I bought this one off of Ebay, the seller used it on a mirrorless camera. Lens as described, positive feedback left for the seller. No surprises to me, this is somewhere around 200 J-3's that I've handled.

Good news, the lens is in mint condition, has never been opened, and the glass looks good.

Bad news:
1) The optics module was glued into place. NEVER force one out, the guide pins will snap. I learned that from someone else.
2) The actual focus was off by 2 meters at 5 meters when using the RF for focus. You cannot use the distance scale, either. You can use a mirrorless camera.
3) The lens does not focus to infinity, the helical is not deep enough in the helical to focus to infinity.
4) Distance scale is way off, 5m test target comes at almost 7m. This is a function of the helical not being screwed far enough into the mount.


A quick fix to the focus: SEVEN Layers of Copper tape on the RF Cam to correct the back-focus, at least I could see the lens was worth saving.
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So the glass looks good, but it needs to be shimmed and the module will not come out.

Step one: take the lens apart with the glass in place. Get it down to the inner helical, you can get a good grip without breaking the guide pins trying to get the module out.

And also you can remove the metal filings that the guy who made the lens left in it when he drilled the taps for the set screws. After all, he does not have to use it.


Glad I made scribe marks before removing the guide pins and taking the helical apart. Looks like the guy that made the lens goofed once.

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Worst case- and this lens needed it, once the glass is out soak the inner helical with the stuck fixture in alcohol- hopefully works, or acetone (nail polish remover). This one needed acetone. I use a ceramic dish placed into an airtight freezer bag. The worst I've seen- one week. Worse than Winnie the Pooh after eating Hunny at Rabbit's house.

At this point, I used a rubber mouse pad to free the optics module. Firm grip on the inner helical, pressed the front of the lens against a second rubber pad, and turned. The glue gave, optics module unscrewed.

I'll be posting more as the project is completed. Tomorrow: reposition the newly lubed helical in the mount so that I will focus to infinity and the distance scale is within reason. After that, shim the optics and re-index the aperture.

Then we'll have a test of a 1950 KMZ J-3, 1956 KMZ J-3, 1963 ZOMZ J-3, and the Valdai. All have been CLA'd and shimmed for optimal focus close-up and wide-open.

My money is on the 1950 KMZ J-3, but this Valdai is the best that I've seen.

Valdai loses.... I have a spare KMZ module that would look good in black...
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So this took about 6 hours to do. Basically, reposition the helical in the mount, remove all glass to flood clean the aperture blades, shim the optics module in the focus unit which required an extra 0.5mm added to the shim, re-index the focus ring and aperture ring to all line-up again and have the actual focus, RF, and distance scale agree with each other.

The helical had to be screwed deeper into the lens mount, about 1/6 of a turn.


New holes tapped out after starting holes using a triple-zero tap and finishing with a thicker one.

This means having to re-index the focus ring. Line up with infinity and tape into place. Again- start holes using a triple-zero, then remove the ring and finish the job with the thicker drill bit. I always use a hand drill.

I ended up taking the helical apart again to make sure no filings were in it.
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Oil on the aperture blades comes from grease under the aperture cone used to give some tension on the aperture ring.

It runs, and gets on the blades. I remove the aperture ring, remove all the glass from the fixture, flood clean the blades, and use vacuum pump grease to replace the old stuff.

Remove the rear retaining ring, held in with two retaining screws.

Glass is held in by retaining rings, use a spanner. Carefully drop the glass into lens cleaning paper or cloth.

I use Ronsonol lighter fluid to flood clean the mechanism. After fully dry, put the glass back into place.

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Put the aperture ring and retaining ring back into place, you are ready to shim the lens. Instructions for this are posted here:

For a 5m test target, using a TTL viewer, this J-3 had to be set to 3m. The lens was badly back-focusing, much more than most. Most J-3's that I've seen benefit from the shim being made thicker by ~0.1mm. This is the difference in back-focus between a 51.6mm lens and a 52.4mm lens. THIS Valdai J-3 required an extra 0.48mm shim to be added. Not the worst that I've seen, but WAY off on anything but a mirrorless camera.


Last step is to re-index the aperture ring to line-up with the indicator. Remove the old screws, two came out on his one. The third was broken and had to be drilled out. Pain. Tape the aperture ring in place, mark the position, start the tap and then finish with a thicker one. Put in the set screws, so that they are flush with the ring. Screw the module back in and the lens is ready for a test run. Which will be tomorrow. But the quick and dirty test at 1m and 5m with a room lamp: this Valdai looks pretty good, and the focus is now butter smooth.

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The Sun popped out for a little bit, enough to test the Valdai Jupiter-3 on the M9.


It's pretty, and is the best Valdai glass that I've shot with. Some were so bad that I just parted out the front elements to replace those on KMZ and ZOMZ lenses. One of those- the optical fixture was not cut correctly and the middle triplet was lop-sided. Bad for corner-to-corner sharpness.

After- 1m, wide-open at F1.5

This one is a keeper.
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Older still, a 1983 Valdai Jupiter-3 on the Canon 7. I could never get this one right, swapped out the entire optics module for the person that sent it to me. I suspect the fixture was bad, and the glass was misaligned in it. I used he front element as a replacement for a KMZ with a badly scratched front element.
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Wide open at F1.5, last at F4. This lens retains focus almost to infinity at F1.5, F2 "nails it" for infinity. That means to focal length is on the lower-end of the 52.4mm +/- 1% spec in the data sheets. This one will be my last-of-the-line for Russian Jupiter-3. SO, 1949 ZK, 1950 J-3 German glass, 1956 KMZ Russian glass, 1975 ZOMZ, and Valdai all rebuilt and to the Leica standard. I have a number of ZOMZ lenses shimmed for Contax and Nikon.
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So what are the best Jupiter-3s? Almost all of the ones that I've seen need a CLA and it's not hard to do. But takes time, this one was 6 hours- not counting time time required to soak in solvent to get the optics module out of the focus mount. An extreme, because the helical had to be repositioned and the blades needed to be flood cleaned. There is deviation from lens-to-lens. Overall: I have the best luck with the 1950s KMZ J-3's from 1953 through to 1956. 1950 was start of production, and problems encountered included the focal length be so far off that the lens was unusable. I have transferred the the glass from an early KMZ to a different fixture to make it work, and changed the focal length on a second one. The ZOMZ lenses: avoid 1956 and 1957, more deviation than most.

And the Valdai lenses: this is the first sharp one out of 9 used that was as good as a nice ZOMZ or KMZ. And a lot of work was required to make it usable. Avoid them unless you can test it on your camera and return it if bad.
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Top Veteran
Wonderful post Brian. I have been tempted recently to buy a Jupiter lens from Ebay because I am intrigue about them and they are cheap. But after reading this post, as wonderful a lens as they are when they are finally working right, I am now not sure. I don't think I can take apart the lens as skillfully as you do. Well, let's put it this way, I can probably take the lens apart, but not put it back. I usually ends up with spare parts when I am done.
Thankyou for the kind words. As a kid I spent a lot of time taking toys apart. My teenage years, could put them back together.

35 years ago a Physicist that I worked explained the law of "Conservation of Inconvenience". The Jupiter-3 fits into the "Low-Price", "High Performance", needs a lot of work to get it there.

M. Valdemar

Top Veteran
New York City
What is your guess about why the Valdai lenses were so bad? Late Soviet Union negligence and apathy in the factory? Just nobody cared and no quality control? Or was the system just so flawed at that point that they could not produce a well-made lens?
The Helios-103 was produced at the same time, and the Menopta branded export version- even later.

I have a couple of other ex-USSR lenses of about the same time that are good.

So- I cannot state that everything out of the USSR was mediocre to miserable at the time, but will state that the Valdai made Jupiter-3's are awful.
It must have been poor management and quality control at that plant, was an exasperation of the problems being faced by the USSR.
As Romeo Void says, "Never say Never"...
But be sure to have test and return privilege.

I've not photographed all the lenses that have been taken apart on my desk- but I have taken test pictures with most of them. Doing CLA's on them gave a source of a large enough samples to generate some lasting opinions. It took 1~2 years for KMZ and ZOMZ to hit their stride. The early KMZ lenses are all over the place mechanically. Same with the 56~57 ZOMZ, I've seen a lot of deviation. The Valdai J-3: I've shot with 14 of them, including this one. I parted out several to repair other lenses.

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