Photography with classic lenses: shooting with Helios 44-2

Photography with classic lenses was never something I have previously considered.  However, since starting to shoot with Fuji mirrorless I have read a lot about using adaptors in order to use these older lenses, how cheap old lenses (generally) are, and how the results can be interesting / inspiring / infuriating / something a bit different… so I decided to give it a go.

Luckily, I actually already had a Helios 44-2, 56mm, f2 lens at home on an old Zenit film camera I bought a few years back, purely as an ornament.  So in order to use the lens, all I had to do was buy an M42 to Fuji X adaptor ring. These are easy to find and reasonably cheap on eBay.

 There was a definite blue hue in this shot. Fuji Velvia simulation applied

There was a definite blue hue in this shot. Fuji Velvia simulation applied

Before the adaptor arrived I did a bit of reading online and discovered that the Helios was a very widely produced Russian lens and is probably one of the most popular choices among people starting out with adapted lenses.  It can be bought for around £20 to £30 depending on condition.  My copy is fairly battered, and the lens has a fair bit of surface scratches as well as having dust inside.  It is definitely far from mint condition but there seems to be no effect on the images rendered.

I have to admit I really enjoyed using this lens.  All classic lenses like this must be used in manual focus, so for some people this can take a bit a time to get used too.  However, by turning on focus peaking in your camera you make life so much easier for yourself.  The only awkwardness I experienced was due to lens design: the aperture ring sits too close to the focus ring so it is too easy to move wrong ring.  Also the aperture is fluid so unless I was shooting at f2 or f16 I basically had to rough guess at an aperture setting.

 Back and white has a real vintage look here. Really nice aged tones. Fuji Acros applied

Back and white has a real vintage look here. Really nice aged tones. Fuji Acros applied

Despite these minor issues it was great fun to use and the Helios rendered some rather lovely looking images.  The lens is actually fairly sharp considering its age - definitely not as sharp as modern lenses, but sharp enough.  There is something lovely about the images its renders.  Colours are slightly askew (very blue at times) to what I am used to but look very filmic so I can live with that.  For me though, the black and white images are what make the lens worth having.  These images looked very tonal and flat which resulted in a fantastic starting point for post processing in Lightroom.  The Acros film simulation worked really well here.

So what do you think?  Would you use a classic lens like this or stick to the latest in lenses available.  Can you recommend a lens to try out?  Feel free to comment below.