A lens – the KMZ Tair-11A 135mm f/2.8

It’s an occasion that does not occur every day, even if it is not the most rare item in photography: I’ve had the chance to hold and use the time of a sunny day this really nice lens, a Tair-11A 135mm f/2.8 from KMZ.


Made in the 1970s, this telephoto lens has a 42mm screw mount. The closest focus distance is 1.2 meters, and the aperture spans from f/2.8 down to f/22.

It is a pretty common focal length, 135mm is ideal for portraits that need to accurately render facial features. The maximum aperture is only high to average grade. The KMZ brand is popular, originating from U.S.S.R., and is known for its popular Zenit reflex cameras range, contemporary to the lens. Nothing amazing at first glance. To perceive the originality of this lens, you will need to look closer.

First, it is a heavy rock solid lens (600g/1.32lbs!). Its interior technology is extremely simple and as least as much less prone to mechanical defects. There is not a single automation: oviously no autofocus, but no automatic aperture control either. We’ll get back to this a bit later.

Then, when looking still closer, inside the beast, we count the aperture blades: one, two, three… nine, ten… fourteen, fifteen… eighteen, nineteen, TWENTY! From one end to the other on the aperture scale, the diaphragm forms a nearly perfect circle. This is the promise for really nice background blur.

We count the aperture blades: one, two, three… nine, ten… fourteen, fifteen… eighteen, nineteen, TWENTY!

Lacking automatic aperture control, the feature that maintains the widest aperture during composition and closes the diaphragm a fraction of a second during the shot, the Tair-11A offers manual aperture preset instead. One has to select the aperture using a first ring before composing the picture. Then only does the photograph set focus and composition. Then again, before shooting, he has to close the diaphragm using a second ring that stops at the aperture selected earlier. Then only: click, clack, and start again. Tedious!

After some time getting used to it, I managed to correctly handle it coupled to a nearly as robust Pentacon Praktica MTL3, its cousin from the other side of the iron curtain. Here are the results.

The Tair-11A lenses are found on eBay from around €100 to €150. Their sturdiness helps avoiding serious technical issues, and they are quite simple to service.

A big thank you to tatou_de_baudoin for letting me use this lens. Do not hesitate to ask in the comments if you have questions about the Tair-11A, and please share your pictures shot using this lens with me on Instagram. Have fun !

Author: Laurent

In his thirties, film photography amateur, vintage cameras collector, precision DIY hobbyist.

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