A while back I picked up a Helios 44-2 Russian made lens and with an adapter have been using it on my Fuji X-bodies. The Helios 44-2 is one of small group of lenses well known for the rather interesting way it portrays bokeh (the out of focus areas of a photo). In most cases people look for a “buttery smooth” bokeh, but the Helios creates a slightly “swirly” bokeh under the right circumstances due to the curvature of the glass and the overall design of the lens. If the circumstances aren’t right for the “swirl” it still creates a rather painterly looking bokeh. It’s something that while not highly sought after by most photographers it does have a very retro and old school look to it.
A shot on the Fuji X-E2 with the Helios Lens
at this level there isn’t a striking difference – although the Helios lens does have more highlight balls and the background is starting to resemble brush-strokes.
Pulling back just a bit allows the swirl to start to develop, showing strongest in the corners – the upper left really shows the curve of the swirl due to the lighting.
On portraits this can really have a nice effect. I used the lens on a recent portrait shoot of my friend Annie. In this first set of images the image on the left was taken with a Pentax 645N medium format film camera and a Pentax 67 105mm lens. The shot is a touch under exposed, but the background bokeh is nice and smooth. The shot on the right was with the Fuji X-T1 and the Helios lens. Hello swirl.
Here’s a few more shots with the Helios lens
The Helios 44-2 is a 58mm F2 lens, it works on my Fuji’s with the right adapter, but is manual focus – and at least my copy is a tad stiff to focus so it’s not ideal for action shots or anytime I’m rushed. Unfortunately it will not mount on any of my film cameras which is why I’m getting a 1956 Lecia Summarit 50mm F1.5 lens which has a very similar design and bokeh effect. When I get that in I’ll do a side by side test.