helios

Helios 44-2 58mm F2 – Vintage Lens Review

Much has been written about the infamous Russian bokeh monster, the Helios 44-2 58mm F2. Why infamous you ask? Well, the Helios is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Biotar 58mm. Back in the end of World War II, the Russians occupied East Germany. A few crafty guys went into the Zeiss factory and stole the Biotar formula.

The Helios 44-2 58mm is one of the most mass produced lenses ever made and can be acquired rather cheaply. It's far from being a perfect lens but wow what bokeh. The Biotar formula creates a swirling bokeh that is just stunning. This is why it's called the “Bokeh Monster“.

EXPOSURE

You really need to stop this lens down a bit. Shooting wide open get you a very dreamy image. Stopping down to f4 or lower sharpens up the lens nicely. It has 8 aperture blades.

CHARACTER

Helios 44-2 58mm is really sought after by the more experimental photographers and cinematographers. The lenses' bokeh is unmatched and has remarkable color retention. I use it on my BMPCC and URSA Mini 4.6k and it looks amazing. It gives your footage an instant vintage look.

The sharper the camera sensor the better this lens performs. It takes the “digital bite” out of the harshest video image. It also creates stunning flares. I also use a Metabones Speedbooster on my BMPCC and it really helps to bring this lens to life. The extra stop does magic on this vintage baby.

MOUNT

The Helios 44-2 58mm was manufactured mostly in an M42 mount to be used with the Zenit camera but it was also made in a Pentax K and M39 mount as well.

FILTER

The Helios 44-2 has a 52mm filter thread. I use an inexpensive step-up ring to get it to my filter size of 77mm.

FOCUS

Minimum Focus Distance is about 20 inches.

PROS:

  • Super small and compact
  • Extremely easy to find
  • Inexpensive
  • Magical Bokeh

CONS:

  • Can't shoot it wide open
  • Has chromatic aberration
  • Heavy for its size but great for cinema use
  • Flare Prone (this could go in the pros column as well)
  • No two lenses are the same

 

Final Thoughts

Because of the lack of “quality control” in the Helios factory you really have no idea what you are getting. If you are serious about adding one of these babies to your collection I would buy 5-10 of them (yes, they are that cheap), test them all, then you can pick the winner and sell the rest. This is how Stanley Kubrick chose his lenses.

I absolutely love this lens and you will get unique and beautiful images out of the Helios 44-2 58mm.  I own the Helios 44M, which is built a bit more solid and weighs more but the optically the same as the 44-2.


Friends of the show Matthew Duclos and Ryan Avery started an amazing new website called LensFinder. Lensfinder.com is an online marketplace for photographers and cinematographers to buy, sell and learn about used, vintage and boutique lenses. We want buying and selling quality glass to be easy and affordable. Great glass helps inspire great images and we look forward to serving this incredible community of creators by offering a place to get the tools for your next great project.

To find more vintage lenses go to Lensfinder.com


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