Vintage Photography with the Helios 44 lens

Locked down and fuelled by a craving for creativity, I’ve delved into the realm of photography to break free from the monotony of pandemic life. Last month, I took a dip into the mesmerising world of lensball photography. Now, my lens of choice for this month’s experiment is the intriguing Soviet-made Helios 44-2, a 58mm F2 lens that belies its name.

Scouring the depths of eBay, I snagged this gem for a mere £38. What drew me in were the online examples showcasing a delightful swirly bokeh, especially when shot with a wide aperture. Little did I know that my journey with this lens would involve a few unexpected twists.

Achieving this mesmerising swirl isn’t an automatic guarantee—it demands getting the distance and focus just right. The out-of-focus area dances with a captivating whirl when you nail it.

Of course, this magical effect won’t manifest in every image. It’s an art of finesse and precision.

However, there’s a catch. If you’re shooting on an APS-C camera, you won’t experience the full extent of the swirly enchantment. It’s a delicate dance that requires the right combination of elements.

Sample images at bottom of article

Vintage Photography. The Helios 44-2 58mm is one of the most mass-produced lenses ever made and can be acquired relatively cheaply. The Helios 44 is basically a copy of the Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm f/2. The results can be very soft when using this lens, but the Bokeh is terrific. 

Helios 44-2 58mm lens

In my eagerness, I hastily grabbed an m42 to z adapter, only to find out it was meant for microscopes—quite a disappointing revelation. Despite its low cost, it felt like a regrettable splurge. Undeterred, I sought a solution to make my Helios 44-2 dance with my Nikon Z 6.

Enter the FTZ adapter paired with an M42 to F adapter. The latter, equipped with a glass element, proved to be the key. It allowed the Helios to achieve that coveted focus to infinity, unveiling a world of possibilities. However, my quest for the perfect adapter didn’t end there. A serendipitous discovery led me to the K&F Concept Lens Mount Adapter, specially crafted for the M42 Mount Lens to Nikon Z Mount, ensuring seamless infinity focus.

An M42 lens to Z Mount adapter

Sure, the Helios 44-2 won’t deliver tack-sharp images like its modern counterparts, but that’s not why you’d choose it. If you’re on a journey to infuse your photos with vintage vibes, the Helios might just be your ideal starting point. Take a stroll through the gallery below, and you’ll find that all the captivating shots were captured using the Helios 44-2 mounted on a Nikon Z6. Embrace the allure of vintage experimentation!

Discovering the Enchanting World of Helios 44-2: A 58mm F2 Lens Exploration