It has been a while since I went downtown to the botanical gardens to shoot flowers. A few friends of mine and I decided it was time for a little photo walk, good conversation, and a yummy lunch. We went down there early to take advantage of the morning light and were lucky to keep a bit of cloud cover for most of the time we were shooting. Nothing worse than being outside, with harsh light, sweating your pants off trying to get a good photo!

I like to travel light when I’m out – so I decided to take only one lens. I think by choosing just one lens to photograph with for the entire day – you force yourself to get more creative and push what you thought that lens could do. You concentrate and focus better. You learn what your lens can and cannot do. You are not spending all your time trying to come up with a better photo with a different lens but instead trying to come up with the best photo with what you have.

This trip I chose the Helios 44-2 lens. This lens is rather cool and has a bit of a cult following. It is a 1960’s Russian portrait lens for old film cameras. It is known for its unique blur and in some cases how it swirls the background. This lens has a somewhat infamous history to it also as it is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Biotar 58mm. At the end of WW II, the Russians occupied Germany. A few guys snuck into the Zeiss factory and stole their Biotar formula – which is what creates the swirly bokeh. The Helios 44-2 has become one of the most mass produced lenses and can be gotten for reasonably cheap. I only paid $50 for mine off of eBay.

This lens has an M42 mount – so you would need to get a converter for your modern camera to mount it. I got the M42 to EOS converter for my canon camera off of Amazon for about $12. This is an entirely manual lens – meaning you will be focusing and setting your aperture manually. I know that sounds scary, there is a small learning curve, but the more you practice with a manual lens, the easier it gets.

***The only oddball thing I have discovered about this lens is that when you try to focus to infinity for a fully in-focus photo far back – the lens retracts past the mount into the camera slightly – causing it to run into the mirror of your camera and error. You will want to use this lens focused slightly out to prevent that. Shooting up close on things – you wouldn’t run into that issue. I did not run into that issue on any of the photos you see here – I just happened to try to get a photo of the garden house and focused to infinity and noticed the error it caused in preventing the mirror from flipping. This happens on Nikon and Canon – so I’m sure this is a problem across the board.

All of these photos are ones I took with this lens. I love the beautiful painterly blur this lens creates and in some cases the pretty soft swirl in the background.

*These were processed with the Euphoria Preset collection – preset 3.

39 Comments

  1. Wendy May

    What an absolutely beautiful post. You rocked this lens.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Thank you! Truly might be one of my favorite lenses now. Wish I had explored it years ago! 🙂

      Reply
      • Wendy May

        Ordered it after reading this post. You are seriously bad for my bank account, lol

        Reply
        • Denise Love

          At least the things I am most excited about are relatively cheap… 😀

          Reply
          • Wendy May

            Tee hee….just as well for me too

  2. Jenny Lens

    SO inspiring. Thanks Denise. I am so gonna get this lens.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      This is a fun lens! I love it 🙂

      Reply
  3. Karen

    I really think I have to get this lens, the cost is so reasonable. I will have to figure out how to use it on my Nikon but the blur is to die for. Thanks for an inspiring post Denise.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Oh yes – I really love using this lens. I was up at the old car junkyard this past weekend using it up there and go so many amazing photos – completely different than what my other lenses offer. You just need the Nikon adaptor off of Amazon and you’ll be good to go!

      Reply
      • Linda B

        Denise, I’d love to see some of your junkyard images with this lens. My dad owned a junkyard so its in my blood. I never miss an opportunity to go photograph something old and rusting!

        Reply
        • Denise Love

          I just did a field trip to Old Car City for the Macro workshop and was using this lens – on the hood ornaments – they turned out so good! I posted a couple of them on the Tiny Details workshop page! 🙂

          Reply
  4. Julie Boyle

    I don’t have my Canon or Lensbaby gear anymore but have a EOS to Fuji adaptor for some of my Canon lenses. Do you think I would be able to use the Helios lens in this situation? Would I still have to purchase the M42 to EOS adaptor and if so would this be feasible? I have purchased the 80ml Fuji lens for macro work – should I just stick to this? Many thanks.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      You just want to get the adapter for the m42 to your current camera.

      Reply
  5. Linda B

    Someone already said you were bad for her bank account, well guess what? Mine too! I just ordered this lens and the M42 adapter and now excitedly waiting for their arrival.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Lol! At least the things I really love aren’t too expensive. Hope you have fun with this lens!! 🙂

      Reply
  6. sandy souza

    Denise, After seeing your wonderful Helios photos plus reading reviews I purchased the Helios 44-2. Struggling to learn to use it. Shots look lovely in my view finder but the actual photo is completely washed out. This was in the shade at mid day. A few I shot in the evening were better. What tips would you have for me please in using this lens. I would so appreciate any insight you could send my way. Sandy Souza

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Definitely just takes practice. If your shots are washed out – you may be overexposing. Try changing your exposure compensation a stop or two down and expose for the highlights – so you aren’t exposing too bright.

      Reply
  7. Patricia Kay Beaumont

    Absolutely gorgeous images with the Helios Denise…you have mastered it….Haven’t had mine long and still practicing with it….it’s frustrating and fun not the easiest of the three vintage lenses I have …but I will persevere…as you say it’s just lots of practice…wish I had got into vintage lenses years ago…I have joined a group on Facebook called Weird and Vintage lenses and am in awe of the photographs produced and it’s helping me to decide which one to buy next…my wish list is growing rapidly…have just looked through your photos again to tell which is my favorite…but i love them all…Absolutely Beautiful…..

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Thank you! It is definitely one of my favorite of the vintage lenses. I too wish I had picked up using the vintage lenses sooner – but then I think back and remember that I actually found the manual sweet spot lensbabies a bit frustrating for quite a long time and used the excuse that I couldn’t find the focus because my eyes played tricks on me. So I don’t really think I was ready for them til now. Keep on practicing with it and it gets easier! 🙂

      Reply
  8. froleprotrem

    Enjoyed studying this, very good stuff, thanks.

    Reply
  9. Karen White

    As I said in another comment, I really hanker after a Helios, I’ve seen many gorgeous photos taken with one and yours in this post are fabulous! May I ask what EOS stands for in the adapter you mention? I’ve seen this adapter on Amazon but it doesn’t mention EOS though it does include my camera (Nikon D7000) in the list – I don’t want to buy the wrong thing.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      I don’t shoot Nikon – so, unfortunately, I cannot guide you on the correct adaptor for that.

      Reply
  10. Karen White

    Another question about the Helios – what is the closest focusing distance? I see from the photos that you are fairly close but could you get even closer?

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      You can get closer with extension tubes – it is not a macro lens normally – so it doesn’t focus too close like a macro lens might.

      Reply
  11. Melinda

    This is a topic that’s near to my heart… Take care!

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you!

      Reply
  12. Dotty

    Very nice post. I absolutely love this website.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  13. Jennifer Rutledge

    Oh, dear! Texture club member, student of your online classes, Lensbaby collector, and now waiting for my first Helios to be delivered. ;D

    I just coated a piece of foam core with spackle this morning, and am waiting for it to dry.

    Thank you for the inspiration <3 <3 <3

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Sounds like you are having TONS of fun!! 🙂

      Reply
  14. Krista Queeney

    Hi Denise,

    After reading your post and seeing your beautiful images I got myself a Helios 44-2 for my Nikon full frame camera. I am loving it and have barely taken it off. I love the unique look it gives my images. I happened to have it on my camera when trying to take a picture of a distant tree though and notice it does not focus well even with a small aperture on distant objects. Do you also find this? Also, do you have more than one of these lenses? I’m wondering if they are all a bit different.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you are enjoying the lens! The Helios is one of my favorite. I think they will all be slightly different if you got another one since I’ve read in the past that the build quality wasn’t always consistent. I don’t take photos of distant objects very often as I prefer studio and close up photography – so I can’t say that I’ve noticed whether it focuses well into the distance. These vintage lenses all have their quirks – which is why I like them so much I think.

      Reply
      • Krista Queeney

        Thank you Denise!

        Reply
  15. MaryAnne Koch

    Hi Denise,

    I am in the process of finding a Helios 44-2 lens for Nikon full frame. I would appreciate it if you could give me some
    tips on what to look for and what to avoid in this lens. There are so many different variations of this lens, the manufacturer
    being one of them. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      When I look at the vintage lenses, I look for no dust in the lens, no scratches on the glass, and no dents on the outside listed in the description. I look for good condition overall. And I look for a seller with good ratings. After that – If I find one that looks good – I go for it. I have had good luck with that. They are old lenses – so as long as it focuses – you would probably be ok.

      Reply
  16. Rita Smith

    What should my aperture be with this lens on micro 4 third body to achieve this flower photos? Thank you

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      I like to shoot around an f4 mostly when I shoot. Definitely experiment with your apertures to see what you like!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *