Helios-40-2 is the undisputed leader with a huge margin. The Second place holds Jupiter-37A and the third is outrageously sharp, Kaleinar-5N. Therefore, without superfluous words— the Helios-40-2 is ideal for portrait photography.
Weight: about 900g
MDF: 0.8 m
Focal length: 85mm
The diameter of front filter: 67mm
Manufacturer: Krasnogorsk mechanical plant
The limits of aperture: F1.5-F22
Number of diaphragm blades: 10
Optical scheme: 6 elements in 4 groups, the scheme «Biotar»
Resolution size: 36/17 lines/mm (center/edge)
There are some modifications to the lens, especially the differences may relate to the diameter of the filter and minimum focusing distance. Also, there is the earlier «white version» of the lens, which is simply called the Helios-40.
Helios-40 and Helios-40-2 is a modification of Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 1,5/75 lens. Helios has a slightly longer focal length. The optical design is the same — 6 lenses in 4 groups.
Myths about Helios-40(2):
- The first myth is the belief that the Helios-40 was copied from some very ancient and popular lens. People often set the example of Leica Summarex 1,5/85 or cyclop 1.5/85, produced at the Rostov optical-mechanical plant. About Summarex is a real myth. About the Cyclops, quite on the contrary. Cyclops was a copy of Helios-40 without a diaphragm. A lot of pictures on Cyclops can be found here.
- There is an opinion that the aperture of the lens is actually F/1.5 and F/1.3, motivated by the fact that GOST ( state standard) does not have a value of 1.3. Thus, the lens is credited with even greater intensity.
- Anyone can take a gorgeous portrait with Helios 40 (2). This is a misconception. It’s very difficult to work with it. To achieve a good quality image with the correct focus point and the correct composition you will have a good try. This stems from the fact that the Helios-40-2 is sharp at F1.5 only in the center, and the depth of field is very small. People with experience on manual optics can only cope with the Helios-40-2.
- There are a lot of different information and beautiful pictures in the net. The myth is that almost all of the photos are with quite a serious processing. They do not show the real picture of the Helios-40-2. In reality the crude picture with the Helios-40-2 looks not so interesting as after processing. Just keep this in mind, choosing between the Helios and another lens.
The main features of Helios-40-2:
1) The design of the lens Helios-40-2 is almost all made of metal and glass. The lens was produced in Soviet Union and continues to delight with his work. This is a serious indicator of excellent build quality.
2) The lens has a large aperture for this focal length. Maximum aperture is F1.5. It’s only 1.15 times less than the classical value F1.4 for portrait lenses at 85mm focal length. The difference between the F1.5 cheap and 85mm fixes from F1.8 is equal to 1.44 times. The large aperture is great for shooting in dim light. You can shoot with it without fear of blurring.
3) Focal length 85mm on a Canon camera crop 1.6 x gives equivalent focal length of lens 136mm. For cropped Nikon 1.5 x 127.5 mm Helios-40-2 also remains a great portrait device
4) The lens has an extra ring to preset the diaphragm. The ring itself is is located in front of the lens, and the pre-installation ring is in the middle. This is one of the few lenses where it is very convenient to use the preinstallation diaphragm ring. At the same time, the lens has no automatic iris control (not a pusher diaphragm for cameras).
5) The focus ring has a smooth ride. A serious drawback of Helios-40-2 is the fact that the focus ring is set too close to the lens mount of the camera. Twist it is not very convenient. Even worse was the fact that the focus is stopping the clamp socket for a tripod, which is even closer to the lens mount. First, instead of having to traverse the sharpness, the habit of twisting the large ring is getting on your nerves.
6) Helios-40-2 has a tripod socket. This suggests that the lens is really heavy, the clamp is near the attachment to the camera. The clamp can rotate 360 degrees on the lens and fixed by a special lock, which twists and locks the clamp.
7) The lens Helios-40-2 has aperture with 10 petals. The number of petals more than the average, but when it is closed an opening like a «circular saw» is closed. The lenses Tair-11A, Jupiter-37A, Jupiter-11, Jupiter-9 has more number of petals, and they form a fairly smooth hole without nuts and gears, therefore, they are more suitable as portrait lenses on the closed diaphragms. Helios-40-2, saves the fact that the most interesting (from an artistic point of view) picture can be taken at full aperture F1.5.
8) The lens is quite heavy. Amateur light cameras cause a problem with the weight balance. However, weight of both lens and camera allows to avoid blurring when shooting handheld at slow shutter speeds.
9) The lens has an enlightenment. The color of enlightenment is yellow.
How to use Helios-40-2 on modern SLR cameras?
Lens Helios-40-2 on Canon system can be used with adapter M42-Canon EOS. The infinity focus is preserved.
On Nikon system the Helios-40-2 can be used with a lensless adapter CP-42/H. The infinity focus disappears in 1.5-2 metres. To achieve focus at infinity, you should use CP-42/H lens, or just reground the lens under the bayonet F.
For other systems also find their adapters
Buy or not to buy a Helios-40(2)?
If you ask this question, don’t buy. The people for whom it will be really useful, know all about it and can pay a tidy sum. . They a Helios-40-2, I don’t recommend beginners who are looking for whale lens addition. The best option of using the lens is on full frame. Full frame is not cheap, people who are shooting at it are experienced enough to pull out of Helios-40-2 what they need.
Vitali: Finally we see a sensible review without fanatically stunning photos and I love them. THANK you!!
Kiprida: Yes, this lens is gorgeous! You have to make it part of our collection!!!!
Boris: This lens has a very «glamorous» image, something resembling optics «pieces of wood». I saw his original(silver) version in 1981. I have this lens for «Zenit-3M» while shooting in the studio, we got completely unexpected «picture» with reduced contrast and extremely plastic, alive, as brush-written, image.
Aleks: It goes with digital SLR cameras perfectly!