Monday, January 23, 2017

Using A Helios 44-2 Lens On A Fujifilm X-E1 Camera

Fujifilm X-E1 with an 18-55mm lens
I'm a big fan of the Fujifilm X-E1 digital rangefinder-style camera. It looks great, is designed very well and creates excellent pictures. I have very few complaints. I truly enjoy using the camera.

Back in October I put an old Russian Industar 61 lens on the X-E1 using an adapter. It was a fun experiment and the results were somewhat interesting. Ever since then I've wanted to try other vintage glass on this camera.

What I like about putting old lenses on the Fuji camera is that it changes the experience. The camera "transforms" into an old manual film camera (or, at least, a digital facsimile), like what I used for years and years in the film era. Besides that, modern lenses are so well engineered that they lack character--they're too perfect, too clean.

For Christmas my wife got me a Zenit E 35mm SLR from Russia with a Helios 44-2 lens attached to the front. I've shot a couple of rolls of film with that camera, but what I really wanted to do was use the lens on my X-E1. For less than $10 an adapter lets me attach the Heios 44-2 lens (with its M42 lens mount) to my digital camera.
Zenit E SLR with Helios 44-2 lens
The Helios 44-2 lens is a 58mm f/2 prime that is really sharp in the center and slightly soft along the edges. It has 8 blades in 6 elements and can focus as close as 19" away. It's a ripoff of the Carl Zeiss Biotar design, and a flaw of that design is a swirly bokeh (when the conditions are just right).

The lens has an unusual design that gives it two aperture rings--one clicks at each f-stop and the other is smooth. The idea is that you set the f-stop with the ring that clicks, then open up the aperture to focus with the smooth ring (opening up the aperture makes the viewfinder brighter), and finally turn the smooth ring to the f-stop that the clicking ring is set to. It takes a little practice to get used to this.

The results are what I hoped for. The lens has just the right amount of character. It's sharp and seems to pair well with the 16-megapixel X-Trans sensor in the X-E1. The images look beautiful! Perhaps, most importantly, it's simply fun to use. The experience of using the lens on the camera is what I appreciate the most.

If you'd like to add some quality glass for a cheap price that gives your images character, then the Helios 44-2 is one that you should strongly consider. You can pick one up for less than $50 (sometimes much less). If you are not experinced using manual lenses, it'll take a little practice to get used to, but I believe it is worth the extra effort.

Below are photographs I've captured using the Helios 44-2 lens on my Fujifilm X-E1 over the last two weeks. Enjoy!
F Is For Film - South Weber, Utah
35mm Film - South Weber, Utah
Morning Blossom - South Weber, Utah
Stripes On Stripes - South Weber, Utah
Industar 61 Lens on a FED 5c Rangefinder - South Weber, Utah
Wasatch & Sky - South Weber, Utah
Grass In The Snow - South Weber, Utah

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