As mentioned before, I’m not really an MF (manual focus) kind of guy.
Is it because my eyes aren’t as sharp as they use to be, and I refuse to wear my glasses? NO!
I think it’s probably because I’ve been spoiled by the lightening fast and tack sharp AF of the Nikon D700 and V1 systems… or, at least, ‘that’s my story’, and I’m sticking to it.
But as I await the arrival of more AF lenses for the Sony A7 (the LA-EA4 adapter is on order, and I’ll pick up the 35mm f2.8 soon) I thought ‘what the heck’, I might as well give that ‘grow as a photographer’ thing a try, and move out of my comfort zone with some of the MF lenses I have laying about. After all, that’s one of the big advantages of the Sony A7 – the ability to mount virtually any 3rd party full frame lens.
The Helios 44m-4 is a 58mm f2.0 Russian made lens that can be found cheaply on eBay or in camera store bargain bins. Because the Soviets made 50 trillion of them (estimated) you can easily pick one up for about $40.
It’s a heavy, well constructed lens. It is not sharp. It is however known for its unique bokeh. Well… unique-ish. It’s a knock-off of the Biotar 58mm f2 Carl Zeiss Jena but if you ask anyone who owns one to describe it, you’re sure to hear the words ‘swirly bokeh’.
My copy isn’t great and is a bit dusty, but I thought I’d give the ‘swirl’ a whirl and I took it with me this weekend.
I didn’t encounter any awesome bokehlicious photo ops, but as the Helios was what I’d committed to shoot with, I used it anyways for most shots. I applied a little creative colour in post to the first image below (as I think a little creative colour treatment suits this lens quite well). Again, unfortunately, I had very limited time to shoot this weekend (only about 40 minutes) – ’tis a busy time of year – but I’ll definitely go out again with the Helios and A7 – it’s a great combination that works well together.
Manual focus on the A7 is easy with the large EVF and LCD, and focus peaking is very helpful. Focus magnification works well once you get use to it (by presenting the area selection box first, it’s a little different than some other cameras).
I briefly popped the 28-70mm kit lens on for a couple shots. You could question the value of a 28-70 and the zoom range it provides, opting instead for a 28, 35, or 50mm prime and ‘zooming with your feet’. Normally I’d prefer a prime, but I have found times when the zoom is useful, for example if you’re stuck in a ‘scrum’ of photographers or other people, and unable to move. It’s also nice that this lens is weather sealed and stabilized.
I would have loved to explore inside the building here, but it was time to go and enjoy a visit with friends and family (the real purpose of the visit). Again, some colour added in post to the image below.