In With The Old


Helios 44M 58mm f2 attached to my Fuji X-Pro1.

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.

bradgate 23022016 helios-2

Not going to win any awards for wildlife photography, but not bad from a lens which never expected to be connected to a Fuji X body.

bradgate 23022016 helios-1

Dead tree stump in Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.

bradgate 23022016 helios-8

Stone head to be found by a window at Newtown Linford church, Leicestershire. I was particularly impressed at how accurately I managed to focus this shot when I got home and “saw it big”. I was quite close to the carving and shooting wide open at f2 (as I was for all the photos shown in this post). Focus peaking nailed it on the eye.

bradgate 23022016 helios-7

A lost glove awaiting a reunion with its rightful owner.

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.


13 thoughts on “In With The Old

    • Thank you Sven, good to hear from you. I think I’ll be blogging a bit more frequently in future (!). There’s so much I should have been writing about over the last several months but didn’t.

      • Have been doing the same, should off blogged more but “other things came in between” 🙂 will see if I’ll be more active on my blog during 2016.

      • I’m wondering about starting fresh with a blog dedicated to photography. This place has just been a bit of a mash-up of anything I’m interested in. I’ve got an appropriate domain already registered and I’m thinking of doing a self managed install of WordPress which would allow me more freedom to do things the way I want. The only real down side is the break in continuity but it’s not like this has ever been a heavy traffic blog. So if I’m going to “do it properly” then why not start fresh?

  1. Pingback: In With The Old | SquonkyBlog II

  2. Lomography want more than 400 quid for a lens that gives swirly bokeh! Now you have the adaptor, you’ll be buying more. I recommend the bokehmonster itself, the awesome Pentacon 135mm 2.8…

    • Ah, I’d been looking at the Pentacons, but thanks for the tip off regarding the 135, I’d been looking at the shorter lenses. I’ll go and investigate that 135 2.8 right away. I’m going to have to pace myself even on the vintage lenses though (and I know this Helios is a bargain and something like a Pentacon is likely to demand a higher price). But here’s me being all thrifty on the lenses when I’ve got an X-Pro2 on pre-order… I have to say I’m looking forward to combining some vintage lenses with that Acros film emulation… 🙂

      • But you’d likely never see it again 😉 I’m having a search on eBay right now & I have to say I’m surprised to see that they seem to be going for similar prices to what I paid for the Helios. It’s pencilled in for my next vintage lens splurge and to be honest there’s something to be said for taking my time and not grabbing loads of glass all at once – get to know each lens well before learning the next. But thank you for the offer! 🙂

      • You’ve gone and done it now… And here I am trying to appreciate some of your work from your own blog. Looks like I’ll be busy enjoying that for a while.

    • Wow – that’s quite a deal! And that shot shows off the bokeh potential far better than anything I’ve managed to capture as yet. I’m sure I could have got a better deal than I did, but I’m bad on eBay, the “Buy It Now” always seems to lure me in and I wanted to make sure I got one. I need to be more patient 🙂

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