Adapting a Soviet Helios Lens to work with a Canon 5D3…
I recently picked up a Soviet Helios 44-2 58mm made in 1977 in order to obtain a more vintage look for film and stills. Sloppily crafted by prisoners with designs taken from a Carl Zeiss factory after WW2, the optics of this lens are every bit as flawed as the ideology from which it was born. And therein lies its charm…an artistic imperfection and character lost in the clinical digital world we now live in. The price of this Cold War relic? £20.
Unfortunately, this copy of a Zeiss Biotar design has been in production for so long, many different variations exist with vastly conflicting reports on whether this model will cause problems when mounted to a full frame Canon camera. Many report that the newer Helios 44M-4 works fine but that other models may make contact with the camera mirror when at infinity focus. In fact, there seems to be quite a bit of fear out there because of the mirror issue. As a novelty lens, I very much had my heart set on the older 44-2 without any fancy coatings in order to maximise flare and light leaks and other vintage looks all too often added in post nowadays. And while not thrilled about putting my 5D3 at risk, I’m always up to a challenge.
Despite identifying the Valdai factory logo before ordering my copy (one rumoured to work fine on the 5D3) I immediately experienced a mirror lock up when firing off a shot at infinity focus. So I set out to modify the lens in order to fully clear the mirror. Check out the captions in the gallery for more on the results.