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Ksenia Lutsenko Photography

  /  Featured   /  Helios 58mm portrait tips
Dark-haired girl in red dress

I took the pictures from this shoot with Helios 44-2 58mm F/2 and, thus, I decided to share my photo experience with it for those ones who are into analog photography. If that’s the case, this lens might be a good catch, cause it gives that film look and additional volume to the photos. Besides, it’s a high-aperture, reliable, Soviet lens for a very cheap price, and it can give good results if you use it carefully, and also have patience with it 🙂

Things to keep in mind before buying Helios 44-2 58mm F/2:

  • It is completely manual. There is no autofocus. You have to manually sharpen and adjust the aperture.
  • Colour rendering problem. The final picture could get yellowish or greenish, and it needs some colour adjustment in post-production. In the end you can get a really nice film look though. 
  • There are occasional chromatic aberrations and some vignetting around the edges.
  • Side and back lighting could cause sunbeams appear in the frame. Therefore, shooting illuminated portraits could be a problem. Perhaps, a hood will help, but I’ve never tried using it on this lens.
  • Bokeh. On Helios 44-2 58mm F/2 the bokeh is slightly twisted, which is interesting enough. Some people like it this way, and some people don’t. Helios 40-2 f1.5 85 mm certainly spins the background better, but it could be 15 times more expensive if it’s a used lens, and if you fancy buying a new one, it will come even at a much higher price.

Why is it worth buying then?

  • Swirly bokeh and film touch it gives to the photos.
  • Price. It’s a great portrait lens for under 50$. These lenses were standard lenses for Soviet Zenit SLR cameras. That is why they are so cheap, since they exist in multiple versions. However, they have a number of drawbacks, which makes it unreasonable to buy this optics for a lot of money. It’s really good for amateur photographers, not willing to spend too much money on their first portrait lens. 
  • Quality, durability and reliability. It’s made of metal and glass, and nothing more. No wonder these lenses have survived to our time and are still working well.
  • And the main thing is that it teaches you how to take pictures. Well, what else but a manual focus lens will teach you how to photograph? You start to think more. Why the picture turned out not the way you expected it to be. You become more experienced. You will find out how to work with the aperture, what ISO stands for, etc.

Just a few tips on how to take the best from Helios 44-2 58mm F/2:

  • It’s better to get a simple adaptor without an electronic chip confirming autofocus. Autofocus confirmation often lies, but you don’t notice it when shooting through a viewfinder. Unfortunately, electronics doesn’t help with Helios 44-2! You’d have to do it manually.
  • How to better focus then? In my experience, the best way is via Live View Mode, because it gives the best result in the majority of cases. I use the focus on the display on a maximum zoom – thus, I first build the composition, and then zoom the image on the display to clearly see if the needed subject is focused or not.
  • You need to have a stable position when shooting with this lens. To avoid trembling hands, you can use a tripod or special hand strap for the camera, which helps to stabilise the camera and avoid camera shake with hand-held photos.

In the end, it’s worth saying that Helios 44-2 58mm is probably the cheapest F/2 lens even with all its drawbacks, which could be compensated in Photoshop later on. This lens is not worth a lot of money, and it’s easy to find it on ebay for under 50$. You may buy it with the expectation that it will be a lens for testing. You will understand for yourself whether you enjoy shooting with manual vintage lens, and whether it is worth considering it for the future or not. I personally gave up on it in the end, since I need something more reliable for professional footage, but I think it’s still a great bargain for amateur photographers and analog photography lovers.

m: Anna B.

“Maybe all we were meant to be are vague memories and short summers of disillusioned times”


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