The best(y) from the USSR: Zenit Helios 40-2

Лучший объектив есть. The best vintage lens there is. Pure and simple. At least from Russia, where normally little stable quality can be expected when it comes to lenses or cameras. That said, the Helios 44-2 is at the top of my list of favorite vintage lenses. ‘Best’ not expressed in performance, sharpness, contrast or other technical aspects. But best and unsurpassed in charm and breathtaking Bokeh, bokeh…and bokeh.

‘Swirley bokeh’ has become the trademark of the famous Zenit Helios lenses, without the Russians willingly having their hand in it. It is actually the result of a faulty lens construction that causes the background to rotate under incident light. But instead of an error, this became the success of the well-known 44-2 50 mm lens and also of this 85 mm.

Zenit Helios 40-2
Helios 40-2, a very fast F1.5 lens and ideal for 85 mm portraits.

No, it is not a sharp lens. At full aperture, only the center is sharp and you will have to stop down considerably for landscape photography. But you do have a lot of room for that, because the lens runs from a fast F1.5 up to F22. It is a lens for people who like blurry backgrounds, who want to isolate subjects. It is a lens for romantics, for captivating portraits, for picturesque pictures. That’s where the Helios is at its best. With the right light behind the object, everything will also turn, a unique and beautiful effect if you use it sparingly.

The original warranty that came with the lens in 1975.

The lens is of high quality: 10 blades in the diaphragm, 6 elements in four groups. Lots of glass and together with the full metal housing, the lens weighs no less than 850 grams! The extra tripod connection is therefore not an unnecessary luxury. At the front, the lens has a whopping 67 mm filter size, so a lot of light enters. The lens mount is M42 (original Zenit), but can also be connected to any modern digital (APS-C and Fullframe) camera with adapters.

Zenit Helios 40-2
Not a ballistic missile, but the whole, big and long Helios lens.

The focus is very fine due to the smooth-running and very long focus throw. The lens, like many other Helios lenses, works with a pre-aperture ring. This allows you to predetermine the desired aperture range. See below some pictures I took with this fantastic lens.

The lens is not easy to find on eBay and due to the high demand the Helios 40-2 85mm f/1.5 was updated for modern DSLR mounts and put back into production in Russia. It is available as new lens and it really is a no brainer if you need a fast 85mm lens, love bokeh, vintage color rendering and the best you can get for portrait photography, than this is your lens! It is certainly the Bokeh monster from the seventies and maybe for all time. From Russia with love. Веселиться

Zenit Helios 40-2

3 Replies to “The best(y) from the USSR: Zenit Helios 40-2”

  1. Does the helios 58mm f2 work on APS-C canon eos 550d camera with adapter because if 50mm f1.8 FD mount with adapter, you can only used as a macro lens.

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