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MC Kaleinar 5N 100mm f2.8

At a glance: Well recognized for its excellent sharpness, superb tonal contrast, and haunting bokeh, this lens delivers beautifully unique images with a quality well suited for portraiture and wedding photography.

  • Excellent sharpness, colors and contrast
  • Virtually no barrel distortion
  • Low chromatic aberration
  • Relatively fast and bright f/2.8 maximum aperture allows for shallow depth of field and for good results in low-light photography
  • Quite sharp at center wide open at f/2.8
  • Excellent image compression for a superb bokeh effect
  • Ideal for weddings, portraits, and other close up work
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The MC Kaleinar 5N 100mm f/2.8 lens is a remarkable piece of optical engineering from well known for its exceptional build quality, distinctive rendering, and sharpness. This lens, part of a prestigious lineage of Soviet lenses, is highly regarded among photographers and collectors for its unique combination of features and performance that stand out even in the modern era of digital photography. The "MC" in its name stands for "Multi-Coated," indicating that the lens elements have been treated with multiple layers of anti-reflective coating to enhance image quality by reducing flare and ghosting. Here's a deep dive into the characteristics, performance, and legacy of the MC Kaleinar 5N 100mm f/2.8 lens.

Historical Context and Design

This soviet era lens was produced in Russia’s legendary Zavod Arsenal factory in Kiev. In point of fact, the Zavod Arsenal is the infamous location that an entire Zeiss factory was relocated to during the time that Russia occupied East Germany after WW2. The Russians literally dismantled the optical plant and spirited it eastwards into Ukraine, where it was reassembled and reopened under a USSR workforce. Many of the first Zeiss clones to leave this factory still bear Zeiss markings as many of the parts that had already been produced in Germany (prior to the plant being captured) were recycled.

The lens's design is robust, featuring a solid metal barrel and a precise mechanical focus system. Its weight and build quality convey a sense of durability and reliability, traits that have contributed to its longevity and continued use decades after its production. The focus ring operates smoothly, allowing for fine manual adjustments, a crucial aspect for achieving sharp focus, especially in portrait work where depth of field is shallow.

Optical Performance

The MC Kaleinar 5N 100mm f/2.8 is lauded for its outstanding optical performance. The lens is capable of producing images with excellent sharpness, even wide open at f/2.8, which is particularly impressive for a vintage lens. Stopping down the aperture enhances this sharpness further, reaching peak performance around f/5.6 to f/8. The bokeh, or the quality of the out-of-focus areas, is another highlight of this lens. It renders backgrounds smoothly, helping to isolate subjects and create a pleasing aesthetic in portraits and macro photography.

Color rendition is another strong point, with the multi-coating on the lens elements ensuring vibrant and contrasty images. The lens shows a commendable resistance to flare, thanks to its coatings, which is an essential factor when shooting in challenging lighting conditions.

Usability and Compatibility

Despite its age, the MC Kaleinar 5N 100mm f/2.8 lens remains highly usable on modern digital cameras, thanks to the proliferation of lens mount adapters. It can be mounted on a wide range of camera systems, including DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, allowing photographers to leverage its unique optical qualities on contemporary digital sensors. However, users should be prepared for a fully manual experience, as the lens does not communicate electronically with the camera body. This manual operation encourages a slower, more deliberate approach to photography, rewarding those who take the time to master manual focusing and exposure control.

Legacy and Appeal

The MC Kaleinar 5N 100mm f/2.8 lens holds a special place in the hearts of vintage lens enthusiasts and photographers looking for distinct optical characteristics that set their images apart. Its combination of sharpness, beautiful bokeh, and solid construction make it a sought-after piece for both practical use and collection. In an era dominated by auto-focus lenses with clinical sharpness, the Kaleinar 5N offers a reminder of the tactile and visual pleasures of photography with manual, character-rich lenses.


The MC Kaleinar 5N 100mm f/2.8 lens is a testament to the craftsmanship and optical expertise of its Soviet manufacturers. Its enduring popularity underscores the lens's remarkable performance and the unique quality of the images it produces. For photographers seeking to explore the creative possibilities of vintage lenses or to capture images with a timeless appeal, the Kaleinar 5N remains an excellent choice. Its legacy continues to inspire and captivate those who appreciate the art and craft of photography, bridging the gap between the past and present.

Kaleinar 5N 100mm f2.8 Sample Images

Images of Kaleinar 5N 100mm f2.8

Technical Specifications

Focal Length (35mm format): 100mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Mount format: Nikon F-Mount (AI)
Format: 35mm Film
Angle of View (35mm format): 29° 24°
Focusing Distance: 0.85m to Inifinity
Elements/Groups: 5 elements in 4 groups
Number of Blades: 6
Focus type: Manual Focus (MF)
Filter size: 52mm
Manufacturer: Zavod Arsenal
Country of Manufacture: Russia (Former USSR)
Weight: 380g
Optical Resolution 50/30 Ipmm (center/edge)


The sample images in this post were captured using a Sony A7r, Mark III

The product images of this lens (below) were captured using a Samsung Galaxy Note 9

Image quality: Excellent
Bokeh: Superb
Build quality: Superb
Micro contrast: Very good
Ergonomics: Fair
Center sharpness (wide open): Excellent
Edge sharpness (wide open): Excellent

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