Todays blogpost is a review of the Helios 44m-4 58mm f/2 lens. The lens was produced in the old Soviet Union by Jupiter among others from 1958 till 1992 and is one of most mass produced lenses in the world! I bought the M42 screwmount version (hence the 44m name), since I have that adapter, but they made it available in many other mounts.
The reason for buying this lens was one thing, and one thing only: The swirley bokeh effect!
The lens has, what is referred to as optical vignetting, meaning that out of focus “bokeh-balls” becomes more elipsoid as you move away from the center of the image. Also referred to, as “Cat-eye” effect, this phenomenon gives a pronounced feeling that the background “swirls” around the center focus subject. What really surprised me though, was all the other scenarios this lens was good for! The 58mm focuslength on a APS-C sensor turns into a 87mm FOV equivalent which makes it a really nice medium tele lens. For the streets I was VERY surprised at how well it is doing. And it does amazing with black and white photography. The lens is built like a tank! Seriously. METAL and GLASS….the USSR-way!! My copy is very smooth in the focus ring, and the aperture ring has nice clicks. A good condition lens.
Because the lens was built in such superfluous numbers they’re CHEAP…. and I mean REALLY cheap! $10 on ebay and you get a good condition lens…. it’s ridiculous, really.
This lens has actually replaced my fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4R as my “stay-on-camera” lens. Which is crazy, since I’m not that good at manual focussing…. but the results from this lens is just damn worth it!
For black and white street photography the lens is really great. It does have a little glow at the highlights in bright sunshine, but that only adds to the charm. The contrast needs to be upped in post-processing, since I find the OOC files to be a little lacking in that area. Micro-contrast on the other hand is great. Files get a real sense of 3D “pop” Quite cool.
The swirley bokeh is not as pronounced on the APS-C sized sensor, since the FOV is cropped, but I assure you it is still there. The maximum effect is when you have a focus subject about 2-3 meters away and the background about 10-15 meters away, so count a factor 1:5 ratio for foreground/background subject distance. The optimal background is sunlit foliage. This is where you get that amazing special “cat-eye” effect.
I only shoot this lens wide open at f/2. Same as with the Fujinon 50mm f/1.4 M42 that I reviewed here you get a little softness which I actually like. Stopped down it is not as sharp as the Takumars or the Fujinons. but for 10 bucks…I’ll manage!
The Bokeh on this lens is amazing. It can get harsh when you want it to (foliage background) but for street use with regular busy backgrounds the bokeh is fantastic.
No need for me to ramble on. This lens is an amzing lens, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an X-series lens system. It’s cheap and gives you amazing results! Below is my typical review shots. Shot in many situations. Mostly street. But for this lens, also alot of nature shots.
All shots below were shot wide open at f/2 mounted on my X-Pro1. For the most sunlit days I mounted a 3-stop ND filter.