Can You Use a Helios Lens for Landscape Photography?

I originally heard about the Helios 44-2 lens when my editor said it might be great for the skin. It took four weeks for the arrival and about 12 months before I had the free time to use it for a full day. 

In full transparency, I brought the lens to a variety of photoshoots, but it's not a fast lens, and it would get in the way of productivity every time I took it out. Since I was taking a couple of days in Joshua Tree, I thought it might be the perfect time to try the lens. 

What Is the Helios 44-2 Lens?

I was introduced to the Helios 44-2 as a budget-friendly, Soviet-era lens known for its unique "swirly" bokeh and high-contrast images. I was also told it's great to soften the skin. 

It may not be the best choice for everyone, as it can have some optical flaws, such as soft corners and chromatic aberration. Even when I took the lens all around Joshua Tree, I didn't see a lot of personality. I was looking for the swirly bokeh. Yes, I enjoyed photographing with the lens, and you can see all of the images in the video, but I did find myself asking: "Okay, is that the swirly bokeh?" 

I also noticed that after trying the lens with video, I noticed a lot more of the special Helios personality. While I can see the special bokeh of the Helios lens in my photos, I did expect a bigger effect. 

Helios for Landscape Photography?

The Helios 44-2 lens can be used for landscape photography, but its unique "swirly" bokeh may not be ideal for all landscape compositions. The lens has a relatively fast aperture (f/2), which can be useful in low-light conditions, but its wide aperture also increases the risk of lens flare and may result in reduced sharpness in the corners. You can see some of the lens flares, rather large ones, in the photographs that I show in the video.

When using the lens for landscape photography, I would recommended stopping down the aperture to f/5.6 or f/8 for maximum sharpness and to be mindful of the lens' potential for chromatic aberration and flare. Additionally, using a hood or shading the lens with your hand can help reduce flare. 

Ultimately, whether the Helios 44-2 is suitable for landscape photography will depend on personal style and the intended outcome. Some photographers may appreciate the lens' character and use it to create unique landscapes with a vintage aesthetic, while others may prefer a lens with more modern optics for a cleaner, sharper look.

Walid Azami's picture

Walid Azami is a Photographer/Director and creative consultant from Los Angeles. He got his start working with Madonna + Co by contributing to her many projects. It was then he realized his place in the creative world & began teaching himself photography. He has since shot Kanye, Mariah Carey, Usher, Bernie Sanders, JLO, amongst others

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Sam Sims's picture

I shoot with a 40mm Voigtlander lens (E mount). I love the unique rendering but plenty of people won't get past it's price, it is manual only, suffers form fairly pronounced fringing wide open and isn't tack sharp at f1.2. All depends on what we use lenses for but I do prefer character over clinical. I can easily get past lenses with flaws if the quality of the rendering is to my liking. I also much prefer using manual lenses and zone focusing over letting an autofocus lens do the work for me. Of course I don't end up in any situations where an autofocus lens has a clear advantage over using a manual lens, like a lot of paid work will have.

Walid Azami's picture

Never heard of it, I'll look it up.

Mike Shwarts's picture

"Can You Use a Helios Lens for Landscape Photography?"

All of that (video included) to say "Ultimately, whether the Helios 44-2 is suitable for landscape photography will depend on personal style and the intended outcome." We already knew that. Almost any lens can be used for landscape. Same goes for portraits, sports etc. "Does the lens give you what you what?" is a more to the point question. And I think a better title.

That said, it is a nice video. Better than many lens review videos. Less on the tech, and more entertaining. I did find the graffiti that said "Don't be a d***" amusing since the the person writing that and all the others putting graffiti on the rocks are d****s. Your mileage may vary on that opinion.

Walid Azami's picture

Thank you? lol Happy to entertain you. Not happy to bore you in the article but I'll take whatever win I can.

Sam Sims's picture

I watched the video and there's no spoken words in it so I doubt its intention is to actually answer that question, just a nice video of a photographer and his Helios lens. Of course lens choice and what you intend to shoot with them is completely subjective.

Timothy Gasper's picture

My God you've gotta be kidding. Even my cat knows you can use any, I mean ANY lens for landscape photos. To say it "will depend on personal style and the intended outcome." is completely understood. Are these people writing this nonsense on purpose? Or do they think readers are idiots? I think I'll forgo any reading of further articles. It's a joke.

Walid Azami's picture

You've commented 662 times and this article was enough to push you over the edge? OK.

Timothy Gasper's picture

What's it to you. If it bothers you then don't read it. It's how I feel about it and that's that.

Vígdís Hallþóra's picture

This is not an airport, you don't have to announce your departure.

Timothy Gasper's picture

If it bothers you, don't go to the airport. What's it got to do with you anyway. Unless you WANT to make it your business. How I feel about something is my right. Yours too.
To be more response to the title of this article...the answer is yes.

Vígdís Hallþóra's picture

I feel you are a rude, entitled man, and your work speaks for itself.

As you say, how I feel is my right.

FYI, when you comment in a public domain, you make it everyone else's business, and you really don't have the right to complain when people pull you up on your statements. Yes, you have the right to express your feelings, and people have the right to tell you what they think of your statements.

Given you "think [you'll] forgo any reading of further articles", and Fstoppers is "a joke", maybe it's time to delete your account.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Thank you for your feelings. No, you're right. I was rude. The title just got to me. It's quite obvious that you can use any lens on any camera for any subject. I do apologize. I will be more mindful and respectful in the future.

Justin Sharp's picture

I use a large format camera to shoot landscape photos and often use petzval and other soft focus portrait lenses. I love the soft corners, swirly bokeh, and soft details with landscapes.
Any lens can work for landscapes.