Helios 44-2 (Russian: Ге́лиос) was a brand of camera lenses, made in the USSR. They were usually supplied with Zenit cameras and thus usable with other M42 lens mount cameras such as the Pentax Spotmatic. Some later Helios models were built also for the Pentax K mount. The Helios-44 and Helios-40 are derivatives of the Carl Zeiss Biotar optical formula.
The 44-2 was made in vast numbers, meaning you can find them on eBay for reasonable prices. You’ll need an M42-mount adapter, for your modern camera, to go with it.
Instead of using a front or rear dial on the camera to choose your aperture, you grab a ring on the front of the lens to change it by twisting it to the left or right. The aperture ring on the front of the lens reads 16 on the left, then 11, 8, 5.6, 4, 2.8, and 2 as you turn to the right. Simply twist the dial to change the aperture. The standard challenge with manual focus is trying to eyeball the focus correctly. You might think your subject is in focus but you might be just an inch or two out of focus.
The Helios 44-2 lens is fast with the f/2 aperture, weighs next to nothing, and was incredibly inexpensive at less than $50 including shipping. Even at very small apertures, it tops out at f/16, the lens puts out beautiful images and videos.
This vintage Russian lens is very special. It’s not suitable for every scenario, but I think it definitely adds a very cool film look the footage shot with it. The colors are really good and the maximum aperture of f/2 is great for low light shots. When shooting into the sun though, it creates very interesting flares that add a lot of character to the footage. I like the result I was able to achieve with this lens. The lens is really sharp and close focusing ability makes it a really good lens for close-ups.
One of the nicest things about this lens though is the fluid aperture adjustment. This not something that is usually found in photo lenses. It lets you adjust the aperture in a smooth way, so you can easily fine-tune your aperture while recording without a sudden change of brightness. The fade in black and fade out in this video test were done with the aperture adjustment and without it being obvious. This a feature that is usually reserved to Cine lenses, so it is so nice to see it in this budget lens. The focus ring on my copy is really smooth and has long through, which meant I was able to make really smooth, subtle focusing adjustments, which is what you would usually want from a lens used for video.
A lot of modern auto-focusing lenses have a very short through, which helps the autofocus motors achieve the focus quicker for photography needs, however for video this is actually a big downside, so good old manual lenses are so much better for manual focusing. They also have hard stops, which are important if you use a follow focus and focusing marks. Again, some modern lenses, Canon EF in particular don’t have any hard stops. Check two short tests I made with the Helios 44-2 mounted on Canon 6D camera. If our review and examples were helpful to you, consider subscribing to our YouTube Channel or follow us on other Social media channels. Cheers!
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