I’d never heard of Jackar before seeing the name on some list of manufacturers of Micro Four Thirds lenses. I rarely see this 34mm lens mentioned on forums or blogs, but the photos I take with it are interesting enough that it seems worth the trouble to do a real world style review on it. After using it for a few months, I’ve found it to be an artistic oddball good for breaking up my usual photographic routine. Priced and purchased for around $175, I have no regrets.
It’s a quirky piece of optics. I want to put down some pros and cons, but these two lists would be almost interchangeable. For a solid metal build it’s fairly light. Stepless aperture ring and focus ring are both firm and smooth. The focus markings on the ring seem to be approximate, not exact, so they are pretty useless. When shooting wide open, the DOF is so narrow and center weighted that I need to focus by eye with the view finder anyway….assuming I have time to do that. Annoyingly, it’s possible to focus past the infinity mark.
What I find to be the most fun aspects of this lens might be undesirable to others. It has chunky, psychedelic bokeh that sometimes looks to be swirling and other times looks like it’s melting. Wide open, all parts of the frame but the very center blend into the bokeh for a very surreal effect. The photos below are of the same scene, shot with the Jackar 34 and Oly 45, both wide open at 1.8 and at, or near, the closest focal distance.
This shot, below, really illustrates how crazy the bokeh can get at 1.8.
I’m not sure how many elements and coatings are involved with this lens, but it must be minimal. It is in no way a sharp lens like we’re used to with the Panny 20mm or Oly 45mm. But the way it handles blown out areas of the frame, the inherent overall softness, and the fuzzy corners (at any aperature) give the images a warm analog feel. It reminds me of the lenses I used on the old wind-up Bolex 16mm movie cameras. More than any lens I’ve shot with, I’m able to process the images from the Jackar 34mm to have a unique, old school look. Most of the shots used for this review have DxO film filters applied to them. There’s a lot of processing applications and film filters out there, which is wonderful. I haven’t tried them all but I really like DxO’s software and filters (more than the Nik Collection). DxO does not have presets for the Jackar lens.
If I had only a couple of M43 lenses, the Jackar 34mm would not be one of them. But I have a handful of M43 lenses, I got a little bored with them, and found this character of a lens. It’s fun to shoot with, but it also makes me appreciate the precision that goes into the nicer M43 lenses. Below are some of my favorite shots I’ve taken with it so far. I’m looking forward to using it for video and with this new generation of cameras that have focus peaking.