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Helios (44M-6) 58mm 1:2.0 - NEX-5N

Dioptrick

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Here's my first taste of Russian glass which I bought complete with body 3EHNT (Zenit) ET 5b. This later Helios 58mm f2 lens (model 44M-6) is supposedly the most prominent and all-round best performer compared to it's previous versions, all based on the 6-element 2.0/58mm pre-war Zeiss Biotar design. My copy was probably made around 1991-92 close to the end of its production run. It's a near 90mm medium telephoto film SLR equivalent, when mounted on my NEX-5N.
HeliosNEX5N.jpg


At first I thought the body was plastic because there's not a scratch on it, but on closer inspection it seems to be metal. It's just hardly been used for a 20 year old lens, and possibly why the focusing barrel on this one is also quite stiff. It has a 6 leaf aperture which goes up in half-stop clicks from f2 to f11, then one click from f11 to f16.

It's multi-coating has a blue/magenta tint to it, but only from certain angles. Straight-on the glass appears to be absolutely clear without any hint of surface coating... how bizarre!

Helios01.jpg


The Helios does not have an external aperture "manual-auto switch/lever" so when the aperture ring is rotated, the aperture blades remain wide open. There is a small pin at the back of the lens that needs to be depressed in order for the aperture ring to work at stopping-down the lens (I'm pushing it in with my pinky finger on the pic above). I've read other folks modifying the Helios internally for this very reason but I don't like the idea of messing about with the innards of any lens.

In order to avoid messing with this pin, choose an M42 adaptor that has an internal "flange" (some M42 adapters have them, some don't). This flange will depress the "pin" when the lens is screwed into the adaptor threads.

Helios02.jpg



Some sample shots next...
.
 

Dioptrick

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Swirling Bokeh

At wide open aperture (f2), the Helios has that distinctive "swirling" bokeh that I've seen before in other Russian lens reviews in the internet. It's quite interesting why it does that, the swirl becoming more prominent at it gets closer to the edges. It's as if I had applied a "radial motion-blur" effect in Photoshop onto the background without it affecting the subject. Looking at it closely, it actually isn't swirling at all, but it certainly appears to be that way. Fascinating effect... I never seen any of my previous lenses do that.

Helios07.jpg

Helios 58mm f2, 1/125 sec, ISO 200



This next pic is a similar composition but the camera is much further away from the subject. The bokeh is quite smooth right beside the DOF boundary, but you'll see the same swirl effect beginning to show as the OOF gets further away from it (top left corner).

Helios09.jpg

Helios 58mm f2, 1/3200 sec, ISO 100



I also noticed that the Helios produces a somewhat flat-ish contrast image, for lack of a better description (my Takumar 55mm f1.8 is also like this but not as much). Although both these pics were taken in overcast conditions, the results I got from doing some urban shots in bright sunlight also had this low-contrast feel to it. I don't know what to make of it... I mean, I like it because it captures a lot of shadow detail which is a really good thing to start off with - in post processing. It's obviously better to increase contrast and dump shadow detail if it's not needed - rather than the other way around. But in saying that, I'd say 7 out of 10 images I've taken so far had to be post-processed because of this. Not because the images are poor, but they're not as intense as what I'm used to getting from more modern lenses. It might be a good thing for portraiture come to think of it, but I've not tried it on skin tone yet.
 

Dioptrick

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Post Processed Images

There's very little distortion with the Helios 58mm, but then again most lenses in this focal length seldom suffer from this. If anything just a very very slight pin-cushion which I removed from the last pic because of the tiled wall... I really should not have bothered.

Same with chromatic aberrations, only noticeable when pixel peeping - and very very slight, if any.




Helios08.jpg

Helios 58mm f5.6, 1/1000 sec, ISO 100 (post processed)







Helios03.jpg

Helios 58mm f5.6, 1/200 sec, ISO 100 (post processed)







Helios06.jpg

Helios 58mm f8, 1/60 sec, ISO 200 (post processed)
 

Dioptrick

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Fluro Colours

I went for a short walk and casually took photos of buildings and was quite surprised how well the Helios handled those ones painted with "fluro colours." This is something that I've always had problems with, when taking shots of fluro-coloured items for product catalogues. They always come out muddy or dull. Fluro-oranges come out ok, but it's really hard to capture the 'blaze' effect faithfully on fluro-yellow/greens, blues and pinks.

This pic really impressed me because the Helios retained those difficult fluro hues quite well (or is that because of the NEX sensor??). If you look at the shop glass window, you'll see a reflection of a road repair worker wearing a fluro-orange vest from across the street... still very fluro even though it's a second-hand reflection!

Helios04.jpg

Helios 58mm f5.6, 1/400 sec, ISO 100



Helios05.jpg

Helios 58mm f5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO 100


Hey Phoenix, maybe this lens is radio-active after all, haha!

.
 

Phoenix

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Aug 25, 2011
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859
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Melbourne, Australia
Real Name
Phoenix Gonzales
Lmao!! It probably is! :p based on your test shots this lens seems to cover all bases in areas of sharpness, oof rendition, CA, BT, etc...I especially like the bokeh characteristics of this lens, it's got heaps of character, I for one prefer a lens that's soft but has loads of character on the bokeh rather than a super sharp lens but has flat unappealing bokeh. Imho, one can take a shot of the same subject with different lenses but it's the image that has the most pleasing bokeh and unique oof rendition that will stand out.

Damn you Dioptrick, I'm just getting over my recent spending due to GAS and now you got me wanting for this lens :p
 

Dioptrick

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Joined
Feb 4, 2012
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LOL! Don't you worry about your GAS, Phoenix... these lenses are quite abundant, and you shouldn't have to pay more than 30 bucks for one... well, I wouldn't anyway. :)

The swirl bokeh is a very curious thing though. Pretty as it is, I can imagine it detracting attention from the main subject in certain compositions so I need to be mindful of it when the Helios is mounted.

-

My approach to legacy lenses is more of a "curio knickknack" thing...
I look for nice inexpensive stuff, otherwise I just leave it and wait for something else to come up.
 

Phoenix

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Joined
Aug 25, 2011
Messages
859
Location
Melbourne, Australia
Real Name
Phoenix Gonzales
My approach to legacy lenses is more of a "curio knickknack" thing...
I look for nice inexpensive stuff, otherwise I just leave it and wait for something else to come up.

Likewise, my issue though is what I'm waiting for isn't getting cheaper (actually it's quite the opposite!)
 

serhan

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NYC
I like the colors, vey good compositions also. It is not swirly as the helios 40 but it has size and price advantage also, esp for nex.
 

lapdog99

TalkEmount Veteran
Joined
Sep 3, 2011
Messages
219
Location
Colorado
Another layer of the photography onion has been peeled: swirl bokeh. Very nice.

Note: my forum name lapdog99 comes from car racing days in One Lap of America, not our puppies, however cute they are...
 

David

New to TalkEmount
Joined
Jul 18, 2014
Messages
1
The link of an M42 adaptor that has an internal "flange"

Here's my first taste of Russian glass which I bought complete with body 3EHNT (Zenit) ET 5b. This later Helios 58mm f2 lens (model 44M-6) is supposedly the most prominent and all-round best performer compared to it's previous versions, all based on the 6-element 2.0/58mm pre-war Zeiss Biotar design. My copy was probably made around 1991-92 close to the end of its production run. It's a near 90mm medium telephoto film SLR equivalent, when mounted on my NEX-5N.
HeliosNEX5N.jpg


At first I thought the body was plastic because there's not a scratch on it, but on closer inspection it seems to be metal. It's just hardly been used for a 20 year old lens, and possibly why the focusing barrel on this one is also quite stiff. It has a 6 leaf aperture which goes up in half-stop clicks from f2 to f11, then one click from f11 to f16.

It's multi-coating has a blue/magenta tint to it, but only from certain angles. Straight-on the glass appears to be absolutely clear without any hint of surface coating... how bizarre!

Helios01.jpg


The Helios does not have an external aperture "manual-auto switch/lever" so when the aperture ring is rotated, the aperture blades remain wide open. There is a small pin at the back of the lens that needs to be depressed in order for the aperture ring to work at stopping-down the lens (I'm pushing it in with my pinky finger on the pic above). I've read other folks modifying the Helios internally for this very reason but I don't like the idea of messing about with the innards of any lens.

In order to avoid messing with this pin, choose an M42 adaptor that has an internal "flange" (some M42 adapters have them, some don't). This flange will depress the "pin" when the lens is screwed into the adaptor threads.

Helios02.jpg



Some sample shots next...
.


Dear Dioptrick, good day!

Thank you for your post about Helios 44M.

Could you please send me the link of an M42 adaptor that has an internal "flange" (with help of which I can to avoid messing with this pin).
Maybe on the link from ebay?!

Thank you in advance.
 

Eugg

TalkEmount Rookie
Joined
May 10, 2014
Messages
17
I have a 44-2 version,
I like this lens, it has some unique "character"

surprised about "pin", 44-2 lens without pin

<a href="http://fotki.yandex.ru/users/rocky232/view/810887" target="_blank">
0_c5f87_732e72ff_XL.jpg
"800" height="513" border="0" title="DSC00299-4.jpg[/img]"DSC00299-4.jpg"/></a>

<a href="http://fotki.yandex.ru/users/rocky232/view/802327" target="_blank">
0_c3e17_3cb39cee_XL.jpg
"800" height="532" border="0" title="dp45 (1).jpg[/img]"dp45 (1).jpg"/></a>
 

izzikiorage

TalkEmount Veteran
Joined
Jul 30, 2013
Messages
328
This looks awesome. Did you buy it from helios44-2.com? Trying to figure out if they would be a good place to buy from. Planning to get the lens shipped to India
 

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