Do you speak Russar+? Optics expert, workshop leader, and photographer Daniel Schaefer definitely does! Read on for his review and to see his expansive views captured by the widest of the Lomography Art Lenses.
There’s a language that has been lost in modern lens design. A character that has been left by the wayside for clinical cleanliness, leaving optics that once dripped with flavor, sterile and under seasoned. It’s rare that a modern production optic can harken back to the energetic dynamism that so many vintage lens collectors crave, but the 20mm f/5.6e Russar+ is one of those rare beasts that still clings to the vibe of its classic design. The Russar+ is a stunningly compact optic.
The silhouette protruding barely more than a body cap and a half from whatever system you choose to anchor it to. This compact nature of course comes from both the more classic deep body design of the lens, placing the bulk of the optics deep within the camera, as well as the f/5.6 full aperture which keeps the glass minimal in such a wide design.I was surprised throughout its use, (as a wide open shooter more often than not myself) that I did not find the narrower Aperture range bothersome almost at all. With a lens as wide as 20mm, motion becomes much more dynamic, and so blur became an element that I was more than confident to include in the images that I would typically shy away from. Additionally this particular lens was shot mostly on my Sony A7s, and this pairing became one of the most potent combos I’ve shot with in a long while.
The high sensitivity sensor making f/5.6 realistic even in dimmer situations. The distortion (or lack thereof) of the lens is well worth mentioning, the hyper linear nature of the design means that there is almost no field curvature whatsoever, making the lenses almost surreal in their linearity. This optic found geometric relationships I never would have imagined shooting it in street and concert contexts.
The classicly influenced glass caught light and flare in stunning ways that even JJ Abrams never could have imagined. At its core, the Russar+ is a lens of extremes. It forces photographers to consider a landscape that may tend a tad wider than they’re used to, forcing a sort of dynamism into their images that other lenses can only hope to emulate when compared to this optic. This lens is an absolute must for any Landscape, Street, or Concert shooters for sure.
The slow and steady composers will be just as rewarded by this optic as the reflexive from-the-hip shooters. The Russar+ speaks in a sharp Cyrillic tongue that keeps edges hard-lined and light soft and melodic. While the language can be strange, specific, and even unintelligible at times, this sort of optic sings when you allow those missed moments of understanding to speak for themselves, letting the lens find the image for you.
Daniel Schaefer is a photographer and writer based wherever his lens and pen are most useful. He is known for his cinematically charged images ranging from delicately lit portraiture, to visceral shots of the lively NYC streets. His writings on photo theory have been met by much community acclaim, with industry standard sites like Petapixel, the Phoblographer, Japan Camera Hunter and Fstoppers publishing his articles. His work and workshops can be found at OutlierImagery.com.