Vintage Lens Review - Helios 44m

A Walk in Winter with the Helios 44m

The Helios 44m. Probably the first lens that many people will buy when starting to experiment with vintage lenses. There are 2 main reasons for this...

1. It's Cheap: The 44m lenses were made in such great quantities and of such a tank like build quality that there are many of them still around and in good condition even after decades of use (the lens was produced in various iterations from 1958-1992). Naturally, this means that they can be found at very reasonable prices. 

2. The Bokeh! The Helios is famous for it's swirling bokeh effect. This is most pronounced on a full frame camera or on APSC via a focal reducer adapter. It can be seen on APSC sensor cameras with a standard adapter, it just wont have such a strong effect due to the crop factor.

The lens will most often be found in the m42 mount, although it was also produced in Pentax K mount and m39 too.

My copy is one of the older 44m versions. It's pretty heavy, not hugely sharp wide open and quite prone to flare, though depending on the kind of pictures you want to achieve with the lens you may not consider all of these things a negative. There are various other versions with a different number after the 'm'. The 44m 2 is considered by some to have the strongest swirley bokeh effect. The higher numbers are supposedly sharper wide open, though I haven't yet tried another version.

Below are some pictures of my copy, both on it's own, with adapter attached and a size comparison next to the Fuji 18-55mm...

This was the very first vintage lens I bought, back when I was still shooting on Canon and I still use it often. No, it's not particularly sharp, it's not very contrasty and it's generally just not the most technically high quality lens in an optical sense, but I still love the images I can capture with it, probably even more so now I'm shooting on Fuji. Something about the system just seems so well suited to old glass. Whether you're shooting on mirrorless or with a dslr, I highly recommend giving this lens a try.

Below are some pictures taken on a recent winter walk through Pollok Park in Glasgow. The more distant landscape scenes were all shot at f5.6 and everything else was shot wide open at f2 to maximise the bokeh effect, which is what you'll be likely be doing most of the time too if you decide to pick one up...

If you have any questions or comments, please add them below and I'll do my best to answer them as quickly as possible...

Vintage Lens Review - Zeiss Pancolar 50mm f1.8

Much to Mrs T's dismay, I love camera gear. Especially old lenses. So this is the first of hopefully many reviews that I hope to share with you over the coming months. 

The lenses that I'll be reviewing will be ones that you'll be able to pick up for under £100 as, being a stereotypical cheap Scottish bastard, that's the kind I'll mostly be buying. If you want to see reviews of old 50mm f1.2 lenses that cost upwards of £200, I recommend taking a look at Jonas Rask's site. He has some great reviews and great pictures, whereas I can't promise either. My reviews wont be especially technical. I just hope to give you a good idea of the quality of these lenses and the images you can achieve with them when attached to your modern digital camera (In my case, a Fuji X-T1).

So, to get started finally, the first lens up is the Pancolar 50mm f1.8. 

Here are a few shots of the lens and also what it looks like when attached to an adapter and then when mounted on a Fuji X-T1. I've also shot it together with the Fuji 18-55mm so you can get a good idea of the size as I'm sure that will be a lens that many people looking at this review may own.

As you can see, the lens with adapter attached is close in size to the 18-55mm, though being all metal in construction, it is a little heavier (around 350g compared to the 310g of the kit lens).

My copy has a nice firm aperture ring and a smooth focus ring. With a minimum focus distance of 0.35m, I've found that I can get a good bit closer to a subject than with a lot of other vintage 50s that I've tried so far. I also really like the bokeh that the lens renders, which I find gives a smooth painting style effect that I tend to favour over something like the Helios 44m. 

As I said previously, I'm not going to get technical with focus charts and brick wall shots etc. Instead I'll just share below some of the images I've captured with the lens so far... 

This is probably my favourite of all vintage 50mm lenses that I've used so far. The construction, image quality and bokeh are all very good and it says a lot that it's a lens that I fully intend to keep in my collection.

As I hope to do with all future reviews, I intend to update this as I spend more time with the lens and will add more pictures accordingly. If you have any questions or image requests, please drop me a comment below and I'll do my best to update as soon as possible.