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LENS PORN: Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (Made by Valdai)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)
Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)


If you're having a swirly vision, do you think it's time to go for a checkup? Or is it just the lens...

Have you heard about the Soviet Helios lenses? If not, you might want to check this out because it's a highly sought after cheap lens for its cool swirly bokeh effect.

(...with special emphasis on the 'SOVIET/RUSSIAN' because there is a totally unrelated Japanese Helios brand of lens.)




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Things you need to know about the Helios lenses:

The first thing you need to know about Helios lenses is that they are Soviet lenses. There are the Japanese Helios that have nothing to do with the sought after swirly bokeh madness these Soviet Helioses were sought after.

Helios lenses were made by different factories. You can easily identify from what factory it came from, by the logo on the name ring.

Helios lenses were made of several generations. You can easily identify them with the 44-x code (eg. 44M, 44-2, 44-3, 44-4, 44-5, 44-6, and 44-7).

The earlier versions (first to third generation) were most sought after for the legendary 'swirly bokeh'. However, since they are earlier generation of lenses, they have less resolution and sharpness than the later ones, particularly 44-6 and 44-7.

The 'swirly bokeh' effect, also known as the Petzval effect, is actually a mistake or a defect in design. Now that's a desirable defect!

Helios lenses mostly come in M42 mount, which was pretty common back in the day. There are some that come in Pentax K mount.

These M42 lenses have the same flange distance as Pentax K mount, which is 45.50mm from the film plane/sensor. While it can easily be adapted to Pentax, Canon EOS, Sony Alpha, mirrorless and micro 4/3 cameras without an issue -- for Nikon film/digital SLRs, you need an adapter WITH OPTICAL GLASS (Nikon flange distance = 46.50mm).

The result of using adapters with glass is that it deteriorates image quality when used at wide apertures such as f/2.8 or f/2. It should work fine with f/4, but this defeats the reason you get an f/2 lens, right? The simple solution is to just get an M42 to Nikon adapter WITHOUT GLASS. Then open the rear part of the lens, add a filler between the rear glass so it would get closer to the sensor and therefore, achieve focusing to infinity.


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SPECS

44-2 = second generation

Focal Length: 58mm
(Nikon DX = 87mm)

Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.5 meters

Focus Throw: 270°

Filter Thread Size: 49mm

Aperture Type: 6 blades, preset aperture

Made in Russia

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)
Serial number at the back

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

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Summary

For

Swirly bokeh

Very cheap

It is a portrait lens (87mm) on a Nikon DX camera

My copy came with great sharpness, color saturation and contrast (starting at f/4)

It's a bit dreamy at f/2 but gets sharper at f/2.8

Nice lens for low light photography

Very small and lightweight

Sturdy build made of tough metal

It can easily be adapted to mirrorless, micro 4/3 and most DSLRs (Nikon users need an adapter WITH optical glass, which may degrade image quality)

The preset aperture (or the second de-clicked ring) is nice for use on video shooting

Simple yet beautiful design, I like it!



Neutral

It comes in M42 mount. As a Nikon user, it is a challenge to adapt, but not impossible. It is a test of your problem solving skills.

I like this lens, but it is not a macro lens, obviously. The MFD is 0.5 meters... close, but not close enough for me. Based on my use, macro lenses are more suited for me. This is best as a portrait or general purpose lens on DX.

The extra long focus throw is nice for getting accurate focusing on slow moving studio setup. On fast action scenes, you would definitely miss alot of action.



Against

49mm filter thread. The most common filters that are easily available are 52mm, 62mm and 72mm. 49mm is a bit hard to find.

It is prone to oily aperture blades. My copy had oily aperture blades but it doesn't have any effect on the opening/closing of the blades since it is a preset lens.

My copy came in stiff focus ring and STIFFER aperture ring. I read many reviews complaining about it.

The swirly bokeh is best achieved with full frame cameras. On crop sensor, the effect can still be achieved, but probably not much.

Difficult to service. If your copy has a defect, it's cheaper to get a new one instead. My copy later became a victim of 'stuck aperture at f/2' because the blades just fell off on its own.



Conclusion

On DX (Nikon jargon for crop sensor camera), this lens is equivalent to an 85mm portrait lens. It would be best to use it on full frame to enjoy the swirly bokeh, since using it with DX requires you to step back further to achieve the same 58mm field on full frame, which changes your composition and therefore, losing the swirly effect.

The swirly bokeh may not always show up on my D5200 DX camera, but at f/2 it's great for low light and producing beautiful blurry backgrounds.

It may be a bit soft at f/2 but very sharp from f/4 onward. The image quality was so amazing, I was very confident to replace my old Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 with this lens if only the aperture blades didn't fell apart on its own.

For my shooting style, a macro lens best suits my need, the MFD of 0.5 meters is close but not close enough.



Nice for: Product shots, portrait, landscape, general photography

Not for: Macros, flowers, insects, closeup product shots, sports or fast action


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Samples

Nikon D5200 Settings:
Size - Basic/Small
White Balance - Preset/Custom
Picture Profile - SD (Standard)
HDR/ADL/Noise Reduction/Flash - Off

#NoEdit #SOOC #NoFilter

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)
Finally achieved the swirly bokeh! But not much...

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2 (M42 Modified for Nikon Infinity)


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The Nikon D5200 as my weapon of choice.

Vintage lenses are my poison.

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