Helios 44-2 is a cheap old lens that's great for getting a retro cinematic look

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That’s a fun path you’re walking, gearwise. I’ve been there and can’t help but approve.

This is my favorite demo of the unique Helios character (44M instead of 44-2, but let’s assume it’s the same thing because it is, roughly).

The excited video description is a nice touch:

This lens must have been designed by a painter. How else to explain the impressionistic swirly bokeh and crazy lens flare not to mention the rich vibrant colors? (…)
If this video doesn’t convince you that old lenses very much have a place in today’s digital age, nothing will.


Colors? What kinds of tubes are you guys running in those cameras? Maybe it’s time for me to upgrade!

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The next one of these is going to be the voigtlander 17.5mm

spoiler: “like all these weirdo ebay specials, but actually a good lens”


I’m looking at the histograms in Aperture, and it looks a bit overexposed… (though totally in keeping with the 70s film look, along with strange white balances.) Is this intentional, or is how the blackmagic records normally, or what?)

Any comment?

I think the reviewer was referring to the contrast of the lens, which is an actual thing that exists. Many of the vintage single-coated lenses produce low-contrast images that look a bit washed out compared to modern optics. Which might be desirable for greater dynamic range or Scarfolk Druid aesthetics, but with less vibrant colors. My Industar-26m (soviet Leica clone) is like that, while the Helios in question (Zeiss clone of a similar vintage) is not.

Some of the clips were overexposed. The given wisdom with the blackmagic and RAW is that you should expose as far as you can get away with and pull it back in post. I don’t know if it’s really the best thing to do, but I think I overdid it on that clip as I had zebras turned off.

I didn’t mess with the white balance, though couldn’t tell you what Resolve does to RAW by default.

I got that - I was joking because my only video camera is a 1970s single-vidicon type, so only monochrome. Very lo-fi analog. Unfortunately my TBC died so I haven’t been able to use it much lately. Just the same, I am interested in these cheap lens options.

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Ah this explains it:


At last, now I understand what I’ve been doing!

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I have a bunch of the old Soviet Zenits and, while the cameras aren’t all that great, the lenses were amazing. Not only is the Helios 44 a wonderful, all-purpose lens, but the Industar 61 is easily the best macros I’ve worked with. You realize this article just bumped the prices on these undervalued gems up several notches…

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Old lenses are fun because of their optical abberations. I have a Helios 44M but also a Super Takumar 55mm f/1.8. It has crazy bokeh fringing and is radioactive due to the thorium doped coating on the back element :blush:

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The blackmagic pocket in particular seemed to add two zeroes to stuff that had been sat in Goodwill for $5 since the eighties.

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Micro Four Thirds as a standard did it, by virtue of smallish sensor and tiny flange distance making it compatible with darn near any lens ever made. When I started working with video using the Panasonic GH1 with a high bitrate hack, and then the hacked GH2 (starting in 2009? ancient history by digital video standards) the cat was already halfway out of the bag, with eBay prices already getting crazy. Blackmagic Design just made it worse with their freakin’ amazing image quality for the price.

Because why not, here’s an example of my GH1-era work. Mostly made with a teeny c-mount 25/1.4 Fujinon and the 50/1.4 from my father’s 70s Pentax ME. I’ve always loved them cheapo weirdo lenses, even for “serious” work.

True! I found that a lot of lenses don’t cover the standard MFT sensor (or even the BlackMagic’s 2.4x crop), though – the super16mm-ish size sensors in the BMPCC and Digital Bolex really seemed to get everyone’s blood flowing for old c-mount cine glass again, at least.

Nice video! I’m having a lot of fun playing with this old+new technology. What slider are you using? I’ve had bad luck with the cheap stuff.

[quote]This lens must have been designed by a painter. How else to explain the
impressionistic swirly bokeh and crazy lens flare not to mention the
rich vibrant colors? (…)[/quote]

“Designed by a painter” is a nice touch given that the general theory, last I heard, is that the swirling bokeh was the result of a mistake in copying the Biotar optical formula.

(I’ll admit that I’ve never used a pre-war Biotar, but friends I have who own them tell me that they are much harder to swirl, and when they do it tends to be far less pronounced.)

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found on the web


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[quote=“jerwin, post:17, topic:59174, full:true”]found on the web


It’s about the same as what I’ve seen from their shots, where compared to the Helios-44-2 the swirl is far less pronounced.

Yeah- It’s the short flange distance that does it.
I’ve been using a BMPCC a bunch, but the vintage stuff is kinda hard there- sure, I can get infinity focus (and that’s great) but having to multiply focal lengths by 2.88 is a bit rough- there just isn’t that much vintage stuff (that’s even remotely affordable) that’s short enough to be terribly useful.
Kinda a drag.
Though: the new full frame Sony’s have a super short flange distance and a big 'ol sensor, so that’s interesting…

Thank you. I was using a big heavy ebay special (chosen by cost and nothing else) which I can’t really recommend for its heft and the fact it’s a “friction” slider. Those never, ever work for smooth consistent-speed shots unless you practice a lot and have the leisure to shoot many times to pick the least wobbly moments in the edit. Shooting at 30p and slowing down to 24p helps a bit.

What I would recommend instead would be a non-horrible-quality bearing slider (with tiny wheels on a track). Probably as small as possible for portability, working on top of a single sturdy tripod without needing extra support, and the classiest non-hollywood-grade slider shots are the super slow ones over a surprisingly small distance anyway.

I’d consider a Kamerar one like this if price is an issue, I’ve found their products very nice for the money. http://kamerar.theshoppad.com/#/product/s-23-video-camera-23-slider-mark-ii

If you’re off the cheap train altogether, something more famous-branded like a Kessler will do no wrong. 3x the cost, maaaaaaybe 2x as nice.

Don’t forget the cost of a smallish tripod head to add to that platform. This disposable-cheap plastic one has served me surprisingly well. As have the compact tripod legs and heads I got made by Sirui, shocking quality for the price.

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