Vega 28B f2.8 120mm

Vega 28B

click for sample



Compact Arsenal make multicoated portrait lens for the medium format Kiev cameras. Compared to the 120mm Biometar it’s a pancake lens. In fact it’s shorter than the 90mm Vega that came with the Salyut I shoot it on! And even more so compared to the ‘giant’ 150mm Kaleinar. Heavy for its size and well-built, the 28B has a little tighter feel than my other Arsenal make lenses. A peek inside confirmed this, it is of a different internal design than my most of my other russki lenses, more like a ‘regular’ SLR lens. Even the diaphragm closing mechanism is a different spring-loaded gizmo than the goofy and often problematic slotted pin setup you find in the Mir lenses.

An odd thing is that the diaphragm doesn’t close in a symmetrical circle, it consistently seems to close in more of an oval shape. I confirmed this with my friend Ken Smith whose 28B does the same (and whose whisperings resulted in me buying mine). Design or defect? Don’t know. I do know that I opened it up and the blades are positively aligning themselves that way, it’s not slippage or sloppiness.

The sample picture shows better what I could say, which is that like its 90mm sibling, the 120mm Vega has a great look to the images it makes, something about it gives great tonal range to the pictures it takes.


Well, I took off the back to take a better look at the blades, and see if they could be adjusted to make a rounder opening (they couldn’t). I then had some real trouble as I started to clean the glass elements, there seemed to be some oil on the edges of the elements that spread as I tried to clean them and actually coated the elements so that my first pass resulted in a cloudy lens! I was worse off than when I started! That’s never happened before. So I took a deep breath, went back and did a second pass, first cleaning the edges, then the rest of the glass and now it’s all good. Moral: when dealing with glass, leave well enough alone. The coating on these elements seems to resist cleaning, you’re better off just blowing off the dust and calling it good. PS the glass is stacked really tight, as you’d expect it to be in a compact tele lens like this.

Special Notes

I initially had trouble mounting this on my Salyut, it bottomed out before getting to the click-stop. Perhaps chalk that up to tolerance drift between the days of the Salyut and the later days of the Kiev 88. At any rate I found that tightening the three main screws that hold the back of the lens just past what I thought was prudent, helped. In fact, if you want the whole truth, I had to take them out and file the heads down to make them flat as they weren’t properly countersunk. Sheesh.

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