Lens Review: Tair-11A 135mm f2.8

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Lens Review: Tair-11A 135mm f2.8

The 135mm f2.8 Tair-11A is a medium telephoto lens which was made in the Soviet Union for about 40 years, until the late 1980s. It mainly uses the M42 mount, but early models were also built in the M39 mount. The lens has the typical Soviet preset aperture control, which might be somewhat difficult to use.

As we like to mention classes when talking about the Soviet lenses, the Tair-11A is the shortest lens from the Tair class in the M42 mount. Other related lenses are the 300mm f4.5 Tair-3 and the Tair-3 Phs or Photo-sniper.

The Tair-11A looks very much like the 200mm f5.6 Telemar-22A.

The Tair-11A is a fast lens, ideally used for landscape and portrait photography. It can also be used to photograph sporting events, especially when the subject isn’t too far away. To describe this lens in two words we’d say: very sharp. Wide open or stepped down, the Tair-11A is a remarkably sharp lens. The lens offers very lively and vivid colors, powerful contrast and the well known and much appreciated “Soviet bokeh”.

The build quality is very robust, metal and glass only, and the lens has a very nice feeling to it. It’s a well crafted lens. Early versions (possibly only in the M39 mount) were made of bright chrome. Later models are black with green markings.

The Tair-11A is definitely one of the best 135mm lenses ever made. Despite being a Soviet lens, the Tair-11A isn’t a cheap lens. The price can easily mount to around 200€ for one. Being old, one must be on the lookout for fungus or other problems that come with age.

The minimum focusing distance is 1.2m, which is great because most of the 135mm lenses have a  1.5m minimum focusing distance. From this point of view, the only vintage lens that ‘beats’ the Tair-11A is the CZJ Sonnar, which has a minimum focusing distance of 1m. It uses a 55mm filter and it weighs about 620g.

At first, the 135mm f2.8 Tair-11A was single-coated. Later models are probably multi-coated, judging from the violet color of the front element. The lens comes in a hard leather or plastic case for storage and it also has some color filters. The Tair-11A has its own integrated hood.

This lens has the logo of the KMZ plant and it seems that the Tair, unlike other Soviet made lenses, was produced in only one place.