Above you can see some test footage which I shot with a Helios 44-2 58mm f/2
lens. In my opinion this vintage Russian lens is very special. It has a very nice look to it and when shooting into the sun it creates very interesting flares that add a lot of character to the footage. It’s not suitable for every scenario, but I think it definitely adds a very cool oldschool film look the footage shot with it. I personally really like the result I was able to achieve with this lens and it’s not just about the flares. The lens is really sharp and close focusing ability makes it a really good lens for close-ups (see 0:49 of the video). The colors are really good too and the maximum aperture of f/2 is great for low light shots. One of the nicest things about this lens though is the fluid aperture adjustment. This not something that is usually found in photo lenses. It lets you adjust the aperture in a smooth way, so you can easily fine-tune your aperture while recording without a sudden change of brightness. This feature was very handy when I was filming the BMX riders coming into the bright daylight and back under the roof where it was much darker. I was able to adjust the aperture very easily and smoothly without it being obvious in the shot. This a feature that is usually reserved to Cine lenses, so it is so nice to see it in this budget lens. The focus ring on my copy is really smooth and has long through, which meant I was able make really smooth, subtle focusing adjustments, which is what you would usually want from a lens used for video.
A lot of modern auto-focusing lenses have a very short through, which helps the autofocus motors achieve the focus quicker for photography needs, however for video this is actually a big downside, so good old manual lenses are so much better for manual focusing. They also have hard stops, which are important if you use a follow focus and focusing marks. Again, some modern lenses, Canon EF in particular don’t have any hard stops.
I keep telling people that the reason why modern lenses are so much more expensive that the old glass is not only because they have great optics, but also because they have great, fast auto focusing motors, which obviously makes a massive impact on the price. After all, these are photography lenses made for modern sophisticate cameras with fancy auto focusing systems. I said it before and I’ll say it again: if you are only doing video work with you DSLR then there is really no need to buy modern Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, etc glass. You can get so much more for your money if you invest into manual lenses and they don’t have to be as cheap as this Helios. Even very popular manual Nikon and Zeiss lenses will cost so much less that a modern equivalent which will not necessarily be better for video work.
If you are on a tight budget though, I highly recommend this Helios 44-2 58mm
lens. It is a great mid/close up lens and it is so cheap that anyone can afford it.
I have 2 of them and I will be giving away one shortly. Stay tune for more details.