Yes, I’ve let my blogging stagnate for a while. I was shocked to discover that the last time I posted anything was in May of last year. I may not have been blogging but I’ve certainly been busy.
Something I’ve enjoyed in the past is shooting with “vintage” lenses attached to my “modern” camera bodies. Why? All kinds of reasons, the main one being it’s a lot of fun! But there’s also the different look that each lens creates, different renderings of colour, distortion, weird “bokeh” (the out of focus portion of an image). Plus it’s possible to pick up some really very capable old lenses for not very much money at all.
I recently took the plunge and bought a Soviet made Helios 44-M 58mm f2 lens, manufactured in 1978 and snapped up from eBay for around £30 (and that was one of the more expensive ones on offer).
Why was I interested in the Helios? Well, I’ll come clean : it was mainly about the bokeh. These lenses have a reputation for producing a “swirly” effect in the bokeh which certainly can add something of a different look to your photos.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve done this kind of thing before with the Super Takumar lenses which my aunt passed on to me. I loved shooting with them but I did find it rather a hit or miss affair to focus accurately using my DSLR. These lenses were made when it was common to have a split image view finder and hitting focus without that sort of aid is trickier than you might think.
And then I remembered that my Fuji X-Pro1 has “focus peaking” (added in firmware version 3.00 released in July 2013). This feature highlights the area of sharp focus when manually focussing and makes the process much easier.
So I ordered an M42 lens to Fuji X mount adapter for a few quid and this afternoon I got the chance to head out and shoot with the Helios 44M mounted on my X-Pro1 for the first time.
I was very impressed with both the focus peaking feature of the camera and with the performance of the Helios lens. I found that I could quickly and easily place my focus anywhere within my field of view. I’ve become so used to finding an autofocus point somewhere near to where I want my focus to be and then using the “focus and recompose” method – it felt liberating to focus manually, not having to think about autofocus spots at all.
Fair enough I didn’t land any particularly amazing shots today but that would only have been a nice bonus. I was getting used to the lens and getting used to the focus peaking feature. I didn’t really capture much of that “swirly bokeh” but then you need to be shooting a subject at a certain distance and with a certain background which is also a certain distance behind the subject in order to get the most out of that. Plus I was shooting on the X-Pro1 which has a smaller sensor than my EOS 6D so the bokeh effect would be less pronounced anyway.
But you know what? Swirly bokeh or not I really enjoyed shooting with that lens this afternoon. It didn’t come off the camera once (although I did also nab a few shots with my X100T whilst I was enjoying the February sunshine). I can’t really believe that a lens that I paid so little for could produce such excellent results when shot wide open and even before I’ve really got to know the lens well.
I’m really looking forward to the next chance I get to go out and shoot with this combination.