August 11, 2019

Vintage Lens Review - Helios 44m


(Disclaimer: Before you comment, I know it's not currently Winter. This review was salvaged from my old website.)

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 and with adapter attached and pictured next to the Fuji 18-55mm for size comparison...

This was the very first vintage lens I bought, back when I was still shooting on a Canon DSLR andd 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...