Helios 44-2

The latest addition to my lenses is something I've wanted for a while - a Helios 44-2 f2.

It is thought to be one of the most mass produced lenses ever, which is what makes them relatively easy to find... and also cheap! Manufacturing began in 1958 in various factories - the one I have is a 1973 model made by KMZ. Like many Russian lenses, it is a copy of something more expensive, in this case the Zeiss Biotar.

It is a 58mm lens, which makes it 116mm on my Micro Four Thirds Olympus. So, longer than I'd usually use but I'm finding I'm adapting quite well to various focal lengths of the different vintage lenses I'm playing with at the moment.

One of the most well known attributes of this lens is the swirly bokeh. Shot wide open and with a favourable background at the right distance, it has a very unique look. It's pin sharp in the centre and then the swirls get more drastic the further out you go.  I've seen portrait shots with a background of foliage work very well with this. You can see the swirls starting to appear in the shot of the Coke can below.


Having said all that, with a different kind of background the bokeh has no swirls and is ultra creamy!


There were several variations of the Helios made. The 44-2 supposedly makes more swirliness than some of the later models. But it also has a pre-set aperture ring, which is something I've not used before. Basically, there are two aperture rings - the first one has clicked stops on it as usual and you can set that at what you want your smallest f stop to be. So, if you want a range of f2 - f5.6, you set the aperture ring to f5.6. The second aperture ring is then clickless and will allow you to do whatever you want between f2 and f5.6. I thought it would be a bit odd to use but after a while I just forgot about it; although there were some times when I noticed the aperture wasn't where I thought it would be... more practice is needed!

It is also very good for focussing with. Some manual lenses are a bit tricky to get it nailed precisely. But this is very quick in bringing into focus. And it focusses very close too - I can almost shoot macro!


I bought the Helios from Wycameras in Leeds who I highly recommend and was delivered just in time for me to have a week away in Cornwall. So I'll be having a really good chance to put it through its paces.