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My experience with a Helios 58mm/f2

Discussion in 'Adapted Lenses' started by Livnius, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    About 2 months ago I first joined this forum as I had just entered the mu43 community after picking up a Panny GF1. I lurked in the background for some time as I researched as to which camera I would get, after much procrastination I decided upon the GF1 and have loved it ever since...the mu43 format is light years ahead of anything I had ever experienced before in the world of P&S cameras.

    I remember asking heaps of questions regarding which camera to get and I would invariably get a whole host of different suggestions, but one thing that did came up with every reply I got was "get the XXXXXX camera...and get some legacy glass" !! Well I did and amongst the very first was the Soviet manufactured Zenit Helios 44-2 58mm/f2. Relatively cheap and easy to find and although it appeared to divide opinion, one thing was for sure....those that like it...REALLY liked it. I really liked the images taken with it I saw on Flickr and thought it would be a great place to start.


    This particular Helios, the 44-2, is m42 mount and has a focal length of 58mm....so 116mm in :43: world with an aperture ranging from f2-f16. With m42-m43 adapter attached it is about the size of the panny 14-45 kit zoom albeit heavier. The fist thing that surprised me was the diaphragm mechanism, it doesn't have the familiar distinct click between defined stops....rather, it is a click free smooth transition all the way between f16 and f2, no mechanical aperture pre-sets means that technically you could stop aperture to 3.45 or 4.112 !!!! I imagine many (if not most) of you guys know exactly what I mean, if not....here is a YouTube link to a short video of another Helios demonstrating in close up exactly what I mean. I found the aperture ring to be incredibly smooth as is the focus ring. The super smooth focus and click-free diaphragm could come in extremely handy when shooting video....especially the click free diaphragm which would allow seamless transition when adjusting for DOF or light.

    [ame="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puHHM7xlPd0&feature=related"]ГЕЛИОС 40-2 - YouTube[/ame]

    It has been a fun first legacy lens to start off with and i must say, I've really enjoyed the unique OOF rendering, the Helios is famous for its crazy swirly bokeh...mine does show some swirl but not as pronounced as some examples that I have seen. But I don't think it's all about the bokeh with this lens, to my eyes anyway....it renders decent colours and is capable of adequate sharpness, bear in mind though that every image here is limited by myself and my abilities, I'm sure that in the hands of a more experienced shooter more of its potential would come to the fore.


    Helios swirly bokeh. I suspect best use is made of the swirl if the subject is framed in the centre and I have noticed that when the background has a consistancy or pattern such as grass, pebbles or a wall....the swirl becomes most apparent. Shot at f2 to test bokeh the cat does lack sharpness but I quite like how B+W conversions work with this lens.

    Closed a little to about f3 and the crazy swirl becomes less apparent but sharpness improves.


    By f4 I think it renders a decent sharpness and nice colours too.

    The nest few shots were taken at a nearby park late one afternoon just before sunset. It was an extremely windy day and finding focus was a nightmare but it was a fun hour. I actually like the imperfections...the crazy bokeh, the flare....but there is some sharpness there too. When i looked at these images when I got home I felt like I was looking through Dads old photo album.




    Stopped down a little and the wind stops for the smallest moment.


    Wide open and the wind picks up again but I kinda like the end result, this photo although imperfect probably best sums up my hour on that hill that afternoon.


    Sunset through the branches of a dead tree. I wish i'd shot this with a little more DOF to define the back-ground branches a little more like the near-ground ones, not that I'm displeased with this either.


    Manual focus is something I'm still learning to become comfortable with and I hope at some point it becomes more instinctive. This little fella sure was busy and didn't stay in 1 spot for longer than a second so I was just happy to have captured this image with fine enough detail of his buzzing wings and legs full of pollen.


    Taken at Kerferd St Pier in Port Melbourne. A wider lens would have been nice composition wise but I think the Helios does OK for sharpness again. Taken at about f4 - f6.



    Late Sunday afternoon downtown Melbourne along the Yarra River. First real warm spring day and people enjoying a drink at the river bar. The dull and dark days of winter are over and that familiar warm spring glow in the afternoons makes for happy days in the beer gardens ahead.


    Hope some of you guys can take something away from little write up....as you can see it's nothing technical...haha...I have a long way to go and much to learn before i can really share anything technical so this was just a newbie sharing his first legacy glass experience and some images taken, thats all. Hope you enjoy.

    Oh....and I'm here to try and learn so please, feel free to contribute and comment. I'm all eyes and ears.
    • Like Like x 4
  2. The 44M always has a unique look. Not very contrasty, but that is ironically one of it's greatest attributes. Nice post and a nice set of images. 9, 10, 12 & 13 were my favourites.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia

    The next lens that I'm going to have keep on my camera for a bit and try out is the Carl Zeiss Jena 35/2.4 'Flektogon' which has a huge reputation for being one of the sharpest and most contrasty normal primes out there.

    I'm excited to try it because not only because of its wider FOV compared to the Helios but because it's also considered to be a great natural macro lens too.

    I don't know if long term I'm going to always have and use manual focus lenses, I may find myself using exclusively modern m43 AF lenses......but old legacy lenses sure are fun and interesting.
  4. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Dublin, IE
    Helios lenses are cheap and plentiful where I live. I even had one when I used Pentax. A good copy of Helios 44 can be very good — sharp and with attractive 'swirling' bokeh. Later multicoated versions even have decent contrast. However, one may need patience to find a good copy because quality control in the Soviet factories was almost nonexistent.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Sure they can be hit and miss, but for around $40 they are a great place to start. For that sort of money you may get a really great lens with lots of interesting character and one which is quite fun to use...just dont get too uccustomed to he aperture ring being on the front of a lens !!

    I will absolutely be keeping mine as I suspect it will make a fine lens for video.
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