Helios 40-2

Finally! I’ve got a lens I dreamed about for quite some time. It’s Helios 40-2 1.5/85 (Гелиос 40-2). Completely new one. You can love it or hate, but no one stays calm. It’s freaking heavy, just metal and glass, it’s very soft on the edges wide open, it’s bokeh is awesome, and so on and so forth. I’m not going to dive into details about technical aspects of the image. Most of what you can read on the internet about the lens is true, but don’t trust opinions.

The lens was developed in the 60s, and produced from 70s till early 90s. In 2012, the factory started manufacturing it again, and now you can find it in the shops. In Russia a new Helios 40-2 costs around 270 EUR, used one can be found for 120-200 EUR. In Europe on eBay price usually starts from 300 EUR, regardless if it’s used, new, produced recently or half a century ago. So my idea was that, even if I don’t like the lens, I can always sell it with a minimum loss. But I liked!

Portrait on Helios 40-2
Famous swirly bokeh

Probably the only application of this lens is portraiture. At  least the rest are not very common. Focus ring is quite stiff, depth of field is very narrow, so your model has to stay quite. But the results are amazing! Completely blurred background with a nice swirly bokeh, and the main object stands out like it is alive.

Despite of its drawbacks and imperfection, the lens has own niche. Interesting image, low price, ability to mount it to most of the modern cameras and not bad liquidity on the second-hand market, all this makes this lens attractive for enthusiasts like me, but I doubt that professionals can be interested in it.

Examples of photos and bokeh at f1.5 and f4:

And some more photos:

P.S. While looking for the lens, I read many reviews about it. Many people complained about the quality, some about bubbles in the glass, some about dirt inside the lens and on the aperture blades. Unfortunately, the factory, that produces it, still doesn’t pay enough attention to such things, manual says it is normal, and that’s in the XXI century. Luckily, I had opportunity to choose between three copies, two had bubbles, only one was clean. So be careful buying Helios.

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