Helios 44m: the best cheap lens for beautiful bokeh
You’ve likely seen the beautiful bokeh in photos on Instagram and other photo-sharing sites. Many times the lens that created this bokeh is rare and expensive. But some tremendous affordable lenses, such as the Helios 44M, can also produce this beautiful effect. Helios 44M is an old Soviet-made photographic prime lens with a 58mm focal length and f/2.0 aperture.
What is the bokeh effect: meaning
Bokeh is a Japanese word that means “blur” or “haze” and refers to the aesthetic quality of the out-of-focus area of photography. Also called defocus blur, it can be used to add an artistic touch to an image.
This style is created by using a wide aperture (a small f-stop number) to produce a shallow depth of field and keep your subject in focus while blurring the background.
You can obtain these results with any lens type, but if you wish to achieve truly stunning images, you need to invest in a high-quality lens or get one of these “special” ones. Helios 44m, together with some other vintage lenses (like Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 or old Petzval lenses), suffers from distortions and imperfections that turn out to be pleasant for viewers.
Where to get Helios lens
Because there are no more Helios lenses manufactured anymore, you need to dig on sites like eBay. Due to the commonness of these lenses in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, there is plenty of them available.
You need an adaptor to make them workable on modern DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. These are also cheap because there is no need to transfer information for autofocus: these vintage lenses are all manual. An alternative is to buy a refurbished lens with a Nikon, Canon, Sony, or Pentax mount.
All these options offer beautiful creamy bokeh and a unique look to your images.