This four part mini-series sets out to review my four favorite lenses. All these lenses share a commonality: they are all M42 lenses. I love the M42 standard. Canon and Nikon, and later Pentax are all proprietary; the M42 is not. We begin with the Helios 44-4 M.
There must be hundreds of different Single Lens Reflex (SLR) Cameras available, and whenever you get a new one, it’s tempting to review it. It’s nice to know how light or heavy one is, or what features it has, but the truth is, all that they do is open and close a shutter. The unsung hero of the SLR is the lens on the front — these do the hard work and light leaks aside, these impart the real character into your images. The quality of the glass, the coating, and the age can all make a huge difference to your pictures.
It was first introduced in Zeiss’ Contax S of 1949, this branch of Zeiss also sold lenses as Pentacon, then Praktica. Also, Zenit and Pentax used this mount. This means there are many, many lenses available, and unlike Canon’s and Nikon’s, they are often very cheap.
We Lomographers have a penchant for Russian lenses and cameras, so I’ll start the series with my latest acquisition, and my new best friend: my Helios 44-4M.
Helios-44 is a series of standard lenses for SLR cameras, produced in Soviet Union by KMZ. It is considered to be one of most mass produced lenses ever. The 44-4 M is multicoated.
- Focal Length: 58mm
- Aperture Range: f/2 – f/16
- Angle of View: 40°28
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.5m (you can get really, really close!)
The Helios seems to be a little harder to focus than my other lenses, I cannot think why. It’s bright at f2, so when not stopped down it should be the same.
focused, it can be very, very sharp - one of the reasons I turn to an SLR.
When used aperture wide open, the bokeh is soft, not jarring and can give you some wonderful effects. I can’t wait to try it at night.
I think it lowers the contrast in pictures, softening out the colours and creating a mild dreamlike effect.
To finish, I think I will end up using this lens most for portrait work. Its milder contrast makes for lovely skin tone, its focal length is perfect for narrowing faces a little and taking good close shots without getting in your subject’s face.