Helios 44M-4 58mm f/2 lens is probably one of the most mass-produced camera lenses in the world. I was lucky enough to find the M42 screw-mount version of this Helios lens in a nearby camera store. Using an ‘M42 to EF’ adapter I was able to use this 58mm f/2 lens on my Canon APS-C camera body.
After using this manual lens for more than 3 months now, I envy its build quality. The Helios 58mm f/2 lens is built like a tank and you can literally smash an onion with it. But that is not the reason I bought this lens. Its swirly bokeh effect is the only reason I have been scouting this lens for the past few months.
This lens has always been famous for the swirly bokeh effect that it produces as you move towards the edges of the image. So if you position your subject at the center, the lens produces what is also known as a ‘Cat Eye’ Bokeh effect. I hope the photos shown will help you understand this better.
This is not one of those sharp lenses you would get nowadays, but it is not that bad either. Being an f/2 manual lens and at 58mm on an APS-C sensor, means that you will have to be patient while focusing. The depth of field is narrow, but once you have the subject in focus, you get magical photos. The swirly bokeh if used properly, can completely transform the look of your images.
The highlights are a bit on a higher side, but again it has its own charm if it suits your taste of photography. I had to boost the contrast and saturation during the editing process to suit my style of photos.
However, if you are buying this lens, it has to be for its swirly bokeh superpower and not to achieve the sharpest or punchy images. Thanks to Photoshop and Lightroom, we can later adjust the sliders as per the need.
Thanks to mirrorless camera technology, using the ‘focus assist’ feature, I can easily focus on a manual focus lens. Trust me – it saves a lot of time. And if you are short tempered, then you must make use of this feature if possible. The photos that you see in this article are all clicked using a Canon M50 mirrorless camera. Thank god, someone invented this technology.
As you must be aware that the aperture value of the manual focus lenses is adjusted using the physical ring on the lens. One of the few issues I had with this lens was the ring being too smooth. The slightest touch on the ring can make it rotate to a different aperture value. During this shoot, I was unaware of the fact that my aperture value had moved from f/2 to f/4, and I shot around 20 images until I realized.
As a digital photographer, being able to capture such dreamy images with a $30 lens is in itself unbelievable. The Helios 58mm f/2 lens was ideally mass produced for Zenit cameras, but the fact that you can still use it on a modern digital camera is amazing. I am very impressed with the results and the bokeh effect this lens allowed me to capture at f/2. Though this lens is not easily available online, you can check a few websites to find one in used mint condition.